It is estimated that since 2011, at least 20,000 elephants are poached across Africa annually and their tusks harvested in the most gruesome way. According to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), 163 elephants and 35 rhinos were poached in various parts of the country in 2014.
The increase of wildlife crime over the last decade has been astounding; resulting in an advanced conscious shift in the discourse between law enforcement and key stakeholders. It is a global realization that sustainable solutions addressing this economically debilitating situation must be achieved.
One of LWF’s mandates focuses on the creation of platforms aimed at bringing together voices that can reach consensus in the action that must be taken to conserve Laikipia’s ecosystem, with the hope that best practices developed will be adopted by stakeholders countrywide. And so on 21st March 2015 LWF held the second judicial dialogue on wildlife crime at the Sweetwaters Camp – Ol Pejeta. The meeting brought together the Judiciary, Police, KWS and various Conservancies to discuss challenges facing the prosecution of wildlife related crimes.
One fundamental point of concern raised during the 21st March discussions was that poachers in Kenya have often been released due to unsatisfactory evidence, mainly attributed to the “sufficient evidence” clause. In a nut shell, poachers must be linked directly to the crime committed even though the system is not well equipped to do so.
There are various factors contributing to wildlife crime such as the poor recording of statements; rising poverty levels of communities residing next to wildlife habitats; the reluctant testimony from eye witnesses and the illegal grazing of animals in protected areas including private ranches.
The collaboration between different agencies namely: KWS, Police Administrations, Private Conservancies and Judiciary will be the fundamental foundation for the formation of strategic solutions aimed at tackling wildlife crime in the country. This, together with clear standard operating procedures for investigating and prosecution of cases of wildlife crimes will be key going forward.
A Wildlife Crime Task Force is now in place that has representatives from all key stakeholders and will be pioneering the following:
- Training and awareness for law enforcement including investigators, prosecutors and security rangers.
- Mapping of wildlife crime cases in Laikipia and its surrounding environs
- Engaging political and administration leaders in fighting wildlife crime.
- Work towards the processing of multiple charges on illegal grazing. Most illegal grazers are charged with trespassing and therefore end up paying a fine of only Kshs 500. Laikipia’s law enforcement has developed a list of offences that can be charged when found grazing illegally and the task force has taken responsibility to push this agenda to ensure that this is implemented. Offences include: being in possession of a firearm, absence of personal ID and trespassing. If found guilty a substantial fine will be enforced.
- Lobby for more wildlife crime prosecutors as there only 3; a dismal figure for the task ahead.
For more information on this dialogue, contact LWF’s Wildlife Conservation Program Officer, Stephen Nyaga on firstname.lastname@example.org