This statement focuses on the current status of wildlife, wildlife security, and government support and interventions as well as stakeholders contributions.
God has granted Kenya abundant natural resources, both flora and fauna. We pride ourselves of an elephant population of over 30,000, the fourth largest in the world and a rhino population of 1,041 individuals as at end of 2013, the third largest in the world.
KWS has been given the mandate to provide conservation stewardship by the people of Kenya to conserve and protect this heritage on their behalf. We continue to discharge this duty with humility and dedication despite a myriad of challenges that range from impacts of climate change, growing human population; conflicting land use practises; human-wildlife conflict; invasive species, insufficient human and technological capacity, poaching and wildlife trophy trafficking.
Our most important duty is to secure wildlife and their habitat comprising of landscape and protected areas system. In this regard, we are working hard to fight wildlife security challenges relating to poaching and smuggling illegal ivory through our ports of entry and exits.
We are alive to the fact that wildlife, particularly rhinos and elephants, are increasingly becoming vulnerable because of high demand for their horns and ivory respectively. Poaching for this prized wildlife has become more organised, sophisticated and international in nature and is occurring across their ranges including in those areas that were hitherto considered safe havens.
Furthermore, poachers not only use sophisticated weaponry, they are now using silent poaching methods that are difficult for rangers on patrol to detect. In parks such as Lake Nakuru, rising water levels have shrunken grazing land for rhinos forcing them to move to park periphery, thus an easy target for poachers. That, compounded with the fact that Lake Nakuru is located in a cosmopolitan setting, have not helped matters with poachers sneaking into the park, hitting rhinos and disappearing into the town undetected. Eighteen rhinos and 51 elephants have been lost to poachers this year. Last year, we lost a total of 59 and 302 rhinos and elephants respectively compared to 30 rhinos and 384 elephants in 2012.
In respect to smuggling of wildlife products using Kenya’s ports our law enforcement officers in collaboration with other agencies seized 13.5 tonnes of contraband ivory at the port of Mombasa last year. Majority of smuggled contraband ivory had entered Kenya from neighbouring countries. There has been a decline in the desire by smugglers to use Kenyan ports to smuggle contraband ivory since we heightened surveillance there and with the enactment of a more punitive new wildlife law.
We also appreciate the fact that Kenya’s air and sea ports are the most vibrant in the region and therefore a favorite for smugglers to and from African countries. Indeed, investigations into most of the ivory seized at our ports are said to have originated from other countries in the region and were on transit. Since the beginning of this year, KWS law enforcement officers have arrested a total of 249 suspects who have since been prosecuted for various wildlife offences. We have also recovered 21 rifles and 79 ammunitions targeted at wildlife.
We attribute the problem of poaching in Kenya and the rest of African range states to growing demand and high prices being offered for rhino horn and elephant ivory in the Far-East countries as ready market continue to spur illegal sale of ivory and rhino horn.
The Government has placed wildlife security on top of its agenda by including KWS in the National Security Advisory Council. This is also shown by its Rapid Results Initiative which cuts across all national security and law enforcement agencies including the National Police Service, National Intelligence Service, Kenya Revenue Authority, Kenya Airports Authority, and Kenya Ports Authority.
To restructure State Corporations, H. E President Uhuru Kenyatta appointed a Task Force on Parastatal reforms whose recommendations are being implemented. Through this process, the wildlife sector will benefit greatly by having more resources channeled to address the challenges. In addition, the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Water and Natural Resources last year established an Inter-Agency Elite Anti-Poaching Unit currently deployed in poaching hotspots.
The Cabinet Secretary also appointed a Task Force on wildlife security to identify the gaps specific to the sector. KWS has provided all the necessary information to this Task Force and we call upon the public to offer any valuable information to the Task Force.
We also acknowledge various interventions by the Government in the execution of our mandate. Of particular importance is the enactment of new Wildlife Act, 2013 that has given Kenya the toughest wildlife law in Africa. Our resolve has been and remains, that we shall not condone any further economic saboteurs to visit death on our wildlife.
We have also enhanced collaboration with other law enforcement agencies in the country, in the region and internationally to ensure a more robust intelligence gathering. The collaboration includes follow-ups on suspected poaching gangs, surveillance in all port of entry and exits and overt operations in wildlife areas.
We are currently more engaged with the Judiciary and the Office of Director of Public Prosecution in view of securing convictions for arrested perpetrators of wildlife crimes. The multifaceted nature of this approach is geared toward more robust approach to eliminating poaching and trafficking in wildlife products.
We have also enhanced partnership with communities living in wildlife-inhabited areas to enable us foil numerous poaching incidents at the planning stage. Communities remain a key pillar to wildlife conservation and its protection for posterity. We cherish their support and partnership this far.
A wildlife forensic and molecular laboratory is set to be commissioned in May 2014 to boost ou prosecution. This lab is intended to serve both East and Central Africa region in the fight against wildlife trafficking.
Finally I want to appeal to all Kenya’s to support our efforts by reporting any suspected criminals by calling our toll free numbers 0800 5970000800 597000 or 0800 22155660800 2215566. I also want to appeal to our development partners to help in the fight by channeling their resources to KWS to help us modernize our force and build capacity of our staff. We would welcome any positive criticism that will help us end the killing and wildlife trafficking.