A new report has shown that Kenya’s wildlife dependent tourism industry is still threatened by illegal poaching activities.
The Kenya Wildlife Services Annual Report shows that more than 1,200 illegally held trophies were recovered last year from poachers.
The trophies recovered include skins, ivory, rhino horns and live animals which had been poached from National parks, reserves and wildlife conservancies.
In the same year, 2,134 suspects were arrested for various wildlife related offences.
According to the report being launched today by the Minister for Forestry and Wildlife Dr Noah Wekesa, three game rangers were killed while three others were seriously injured by armed suspected poachers.
More than 200,000 kilograms of Illegally harvested African sandalwood was recovered last year. The report shows that the problem has shifted to non protected areas following increased surveillance of sandalwood harvesting in protected areas.
During the same period, livestock incursion into some wildlife protected areas was still high despite efforts to drive them out. A total of 397,137 animals were driven out of the restricted areas and 536 herders arrested.
At the same time two Chinese, Shubo Ling and Tao Oil, were charged with being in possession of elephant tusks worth over Sh391,000 without a certificate of ownership from Kenya Wildlife Service.
The two were arrested at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi trying to leave the country with the game trophies. The cases will be heard on May 22, 2008.
The KWS corporate communications manager Mr Paul Udoto said that environmental crimes have been adversely affecting the country since they hurt the tourism industry.
“The cost of these activities are incalculable because the damage they do is very big. It affects the whole tourism industry which accounts for 25 per cent of the Kenyan economy,” said Mr Udoto.
Now the wildlife management body is reaching out to the court system to deal firmly with environmental crimes.
KWS director Dr Julius Kipng’etich has called for stiffer penalties for people caught wildlife carcasses. “Magistrates should bear in mind that forests and wildlife are fragile resources that need stringent protection,” said Dr Kipng’etich.
Conservation efforts have however borne fruit and wildlife numbers are steadily rising.
The number of black rhinos has reached 560 up from 234 a few years ago while the elephant population has recovered from an all time low of 16,000 at the peak of poaching to the current 33,000. The lions are now 2,500.
However, three types of antelopes in the country have become endangered species and their numbers are dwindling due to loss of habitats and poaching.
These include the remaining 120 Sable antelopes in Shimba Hills, 90 Hirola antelopes in Garissa and 34 Roan antelopes in Suba.