Conservation stakeholders hammer out priority actions to fight wildlife crime in Kenya

In a significant effort to scale up Kenya's fight against wildlife crime, public- and private-sector partners have joined forces to address dangerously high levels of poaching and trafficking. 

In a two-day workshop, representatives of government, non-governmental organizations and the private sector identified targeted, practical interventions to fortify wildlife laws and policies and enhance a range of community and law-enforcement initiatives. 

The Nairobi workshop was sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Wildlife Trafficking Response, Assessment and Priority Setting (Wildlife TRAPS) Project.  Jointly convened by TRAFFIC and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), the workshop identified a series of national priority actions to combat the illegal killing and trafficking of wildlife in Kenya.

”Kenya welcomes this initiative and working together with all stakeholders to support the Kenya Wildlife Service's efforts to consolidate operational integrity and open new fronts in the battle to end wildlife crime,” said William Kiprono, Acting Director General of KWS, “Kenya's new Wildlife Conservation Act, with greatly increased penalties for offenders, sets the stage for major steps forward.”

Data presented at the workshop by KWS and NGOs pointed to major progress in 2014, showing a significant drop in poaching and trafficking.

The emergence of transnational criminal syndicates has greatly increased the volume of illegally trafficked wildlife products in the region. Since 2009, 60 tonnes of elephant ivory have either transited through or been seized exiting Kenya, according to ivory-seizure data from the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS). Nearly 200 of the country's rhinos were killed for their horns during this same period. Nonetheless, significant progress has been made in recent years to combat poaching in Kenya.Data presented at the workshop by KWS and NGOs, showed a significant drop in poaching and trafficking in 2014.

The workshop highlighted real momentum in the fight against illegal wildlife trade in Kenya. The Northern Rangelands Trust and Save the Elephants both reported a decrease in elephant poaching in central and northern parts, even though the Mara region remains problematic.

The workshop also revealed Kenya's new wildlife law, which is actively supported and monitored by local NGOs, is already showing an increase in successful prosecutions.

In his keynote address, U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec reiterated U.S. Government support for countering wildlife trafficking. “This commitment to protecting not just Kenya’s, or Africa’s, but the world’s wildlife heritage, is coming directly from President Obama himself. The U.S. Government renewed its focus on combatting wildlife trafficking in November 2012 when then Secretary Clinton “Called for Action” against the wildlife trade.  And now, it is a Presidential priority.” In a signal of this commitment, representatives from both USAID and the U.S. Department of the Interior were present throughout the workshop.

Speaking on behalf of the Development Partners’ Group on Wildlife, Juniper Neill, Director of the Environment Office for USAID/Kenya and East Africa, applauded the workshop’s initiative. She encouraged participants to identify priority actions to inform donor support.

“The diversity of topics and information shared in the past two days by participants was a genuine reflection of the passion and commitment shared by everyone in the room,” Wildlife TRAPS Project Leader Nick Ahlers said. “It was particularly great to see attention given to species impacted by the trade other than elephants and rhinos, such as lions, pangolins and cheetah.”

The workshop fostered lively, fruitful discussion among government agencies, donors, and NGOs about priority actions to combat wildlife crime in Kenya. By the end of the workshop, a list of priority actions had been identified, including: carrying out surveys on the biological status of key species such as elephant and rhino; building the capacity of KWS to enforce anti-trafficking laws and prosecute offenders; enhancing local, cross-border, and regional mechanisms for broader cooperation on combatting wildlife crime; and encouraging greater participation by local communities in anti-trafficking efforts.

The key actions and priorities identified by the workshop will be combined into a comprehensive assessment produced by TRAFFIC on the scope and scale of the illegal wildlife trade in Kenya. Representatives from KWS and the Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources participated actively throughout the workshop and affirmed the government’s strong commitment to take on the recommendations of the assessment report.

TRAFFIC, Nick Ahlers | April 28, 2015