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African countries decry continued illegal poaching

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  Jan Friday, 22 July 2011 22:25

African countries decry continued illegal poaching

    Senegal has only eight remaining elephants, while Nigeria lost its last remaining elephant in 2005, and Liberia’s last mammal died last year

    SPECIAL REPORT BY XINHUA CORRESPONDENT Ronald Njoroge
   

 

Coastweek.com

WEST TSAVO (Xinhua) -- When Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki led regional government representatives in torching 18 million-U.S. dollar worth of ivory on Wednesday in Manyani, he sent strong message to international community that the continued trade in the contraband ivory will lead to the extinction of the African elephant.

    The population of elephant in the continent has continued to dwindle since the peak in the 1970s when the number stood at over 1.3 million.

    Currently the numbers stand at between 400,000 to 600,000.

The continent has over the years carried out measures to curb the vice.

In 1989 Kenya’s then President Daniel Arap Moi torched ivory which marked the beginning of 20-year ban on trade in ivory.

    World famous conservationist Kuki Gallman, who witnessed the event 22 years ago, lamented the continuing illegal trade.

    "In the 21 century, there is no good reason for wearing of ornaments made by ivory. Those who buy the ivory should connect it with the dead carcass of an African elephant," Gallman told Xinhua.

    For as long as people want to buy, then there will be demand for poaching, she added.

    "As conservationist we say ivory should be banned," she said.

The elephant is recognized as a flagship species representing the magnificent diverse wildlife resources in the continent.

The ban was lifted temporarily by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 2009 and it agreed to a one time deal for southern African countries to sell their ivory stocks.

    Zambia and Tanzania have applied to the CITES to be allowed to trade in ivory but their applications have been rejected.

    "If these countries are allowed to trade in ivory, it will signal to the illegal poachers that there is a ready market," Gallman said.

In 1996, four African countries ratified the Lusaka Agreement Task Force meant to exchange and facilitate information among national law enforcement agencies in the continent.

Currently the Republics of Congo, Kenya, Liberia, Uganda, Zambia, Lesotho and Tanzania have fully and formally accepted membership while Ethiopia, South Africa and Swaziland have signed the treaty but are yet to ratify it.

    The Rapporteur of the Governing Council of the Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LAFT) Ephraim Kamunto expressed concern over the plight of the African elephant.

    "The ivory that was burnt in Kenya was seized as a result of cooperation between cross border law enforcement agencies," Kamunto who is also Uganda’s wildlife minister said.

Kenya’s Tourism Minister Najib Balala said demand for elephant’ s tusks has increased over the recent years despite a ban on the trade making the African elephants to come close to extinction.

    "The destruction of the 18 million dollars shows our commitment to fight the vice.

    "Kenya’s tourism is heavily dependant on wildlife. If you kill the elephant, tourism industry will also die, " he told Xinhua at Manyani.

    "Education is key to reducing the demand for this precious ornament.

    "Sources markets need to be made to understand in order to change their mindsets," Balala said.

Kenya’s tourism industry depends on its wildlife resources and beach destinations.

Kamunto blamed the continued poaching on the ready markets for the criminal networks that harvest the merchandise.

    He noted that Senegal has only eight remaining elephants, while Nigeria lost its last remaining elephant in 2005, while Liberia’s last mammal died last year.

In Kenya the elephant population was 16,000 in late 1980s but it has since increased to 37,000 as of now, according to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Director Julius Kipngetich.

    "This number is still a far cry from the numbers during the 1970s when the demand for ivory both as ornaments and medicine was not as high as it is today," Kipngetich said.

As part of government efforts to eliminate exports of this commodity to destination countries, it has deployed canine unit to detect if any ivory is exported via air or ship, he added.

    The number of wardens will also be increased to enhance the authorities’ enforcements to improve surveillance in the animal parks.

    "An additional 490 rangers are set to join the KWS team later this year," Kipngetich said.

    LAFT has also initiated an awards scheme for law enforcement officers who prevent and arrest those involved in the trade.

After the burning of the contraband, five officers one each from the member countries was feted for efforts to save the lives of the elephant.

Kenya has also proposed the establishment of a museum where all ivory confiscated from criminals will be displayed. Proceeds from museum will be used to increase surveillance on the parks and game reserves.

One of the emerging challenges facing conservation efforts for wildlife is the increasing use of advance technology in crime.

    "Aware of this, the government has embarked on a programme to introduce and enhance use of Information Communication Technology as we have fitted select elephants with communication gadgets in order to track their migratory routes via Global Position System (GPS)," Mohammed Wa-Mwachai, Kenya’s permanent secretary in the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife said.

Article at:  http://www.coastweek.com/3429_poaching.htm

 

Last modified on Friday, 22 July 2011 22:28

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