The seizure last week of elephant tusks in the Al Shabaab controlled area of Somalia has raised concerns the rebel group may be targeting Kenya’s treasured wildlife to raise funds for its war activities.
The director of the Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF) Bonaventure Ebayi, a regional anti-poaching initiative operating from Kenya, confirmed the seizure.
“We were able to use the Kenya security forces and with assistance of security forces from the Somali Transitional Federal Government to recovery the ivory,” Ebayi told Xinhua in an interview in Nairobi on Wednesday.
The ivory is suspected to have come from the Arawale National Reserve, a 533 sq kilometer wildlife sanctuary managed by Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS).
The official said the seizure, the first of its kind in the region, has raised concern of increased poaching in the region, where areas near insurgent activities the most affected by wildlife crime.
“The challenge of poaching and illegal wildlife meat in eastern Africa is made worse by insecure patches especially along the shared borders,” said Ebayi.
Kenya is one of the countries that has seen its elephant population decline sharply due to poaching, which peaked in the mid-80s before a concerted government effort that led to the arrest and prosecution of poachers.
“It is in such areas where lack of state presence, means illicit small arms like guns are available to criminals and can easily be used to kill wildlife.”
In Great Lakes region, rebel groups often attack protected game parks and reserves to kill wildlife for food or trophies.
He said poachers are now using sophisticated technology to avoid detection by game rangers.
“Ivory and rhino horns poachers and traders have become so sophisticated that the pace of training our wildlife rangers in combat, intelligence gathering and analysis and the use of modern equipment must be improved.
“We require improved capacity building in intelligence collection, investigations and making follow-ups to defeat the trade because the consequences on animals, tourism and the environment are too high,” said Ebayi.