Poaching, defined as the illegal capturing or hunting of wild animals, has been around for centuries. It is particularly prominent in Africa due to the large number of endangered animals on the continent.
In 1900, new laws were enforced that forbid most Africans from poaching, unfortunately, it continues to happen to this day. In the turn of the 21st century, poaching rates sharply rose due to the increased demand for ivory, along with extremist groups such as ‘Al-Shabeeb’ using it to fund terrorism.
2013 saw a new ruling under the Wildlife Conservation Act, that stated offenders would now face a fine of $200,000 or a life sentence. Despite the decline in poaching numbers since the ruling, poaching rates still threaten the existence of many African wildlife, according to the African Wildlife Foundation.
In early 2019, it was announced by the cabinet secretary for the Ministry of Tourism, Najib Balala, that Kenyan poachers would now face the death penalty. Speaking on the new ruling, Balala said;
We have in place the Wildlife Conservation Act that was enacted in 2013 and which fetches offenders a life sentence or a fine of U.S. $200,000,” “However, this has not been deterrence enough to curb poaching, hence the proposed stiffer sentence.”
Along with the new ruling to deter poachers, Kenya Wildlife Service are planning to increase the number of wildlife crime prosecutors in the country from just 2 up to 14. This will ensure that criminals are correctly prosecuted for their crimes.
Kenya’s Most Endangered Species
- Black Rhinoceros: One of the most endangered species in Kenya. Their numbers have dropped rapidly over the past few years, with less than 1000 estimated to inhabit Kenya.
- Cheetah: With an approximated Kenyan population of just 700, cheetahs are extremely endangered in the country.
- Giraffe: As of 2018, giraffes in Kenya have been declared as critically endangered. According to the Kenyan Wildlife Service, they have lost 40% of their giraffe population over the past 30 years.
According to a 2018 report by the World Wildlife Fund, a massive 60% of the world’s animal population has been wiped out by humans over the past 40 years!
Dr Max Graham, founder of Space for Giants, had the following to say;
“Not only can Kenya Wildlife Service catch wildlife criminals but now they have the capacity to ensure those criminals are convicted under Kenya’s robust laws’’
“A ranger in the field should not have to experience the frustration of confronting a wildlife criminal they arrested a week earlier walking free again because of an acquittal. This is a critical step up in the battle against the illegal wildlife trade.”
Balala has insisted the law would be fast tracked into legislation and hopes it will be passed. If passed, the new law will pit Kenya against the United Nations, whom are pushing for the worldwide elimination of the death penalty.
It will be interesting to see what the future holds for the state of poaching in Kenya. Many believe the new measures will turn Kenya in to a leader in global conservation, however, for lasting change, the AWF believe;
Across the continent’s diverse wild lands, management authorities need data-driven solutions to enhance anti-poaching capacity to allow remaining priority populations to recover from previous, and current, crises. Meanwhile, community-level interventions must explore different economic opportunities that secure rather than destroy biodiversity as pressure on natural resources grows with increasing development, infrastructure, and urbanization.”
Do you agree that the death penalty should be the consequence of poaching, or do you believe there is a better solution?
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