Kenya is known to be the natural habitat of plenty of iconic animals such as cheetahs, elephants, leopards, and giraffes. And a lot of these beautiful creatures are actually the targets of dastardly poachers. It is actually illegal to kill these endangered animals in Kenya. In fact, the Wildlife Conservation Act of 2013 carries a life sentence or fine of $200,000 for convicted offenders.

However, much to the dismay of many, these strict penalties have not been enough to really curb the crime of poaching.

That is why now, Kenya will enforce a death penalty for violators.

According to the reports of One Green Planet,

“Najib Balala, the tourism and wildlife minister of Kenya, recently announced that those who take the lives of innocent animals through poaching will soon face the death penalty in the African country. While this proposal hasn’t been officially enacted into law yet, Balala told China’s Xinhua news agency that wildlife poaching is on a fast track to becoming a capital offense.

While this measure may seem extreme, it is a last resort attempt to deter people from slaughtering Kenya’s rapidly decreasing wildlife population.

Balala reportedly said, “We have in place the Wildlife Conservation Act that was enacted in 2013 and which fetches offenders a life sentence or a fine of U.S. $200,000. However, this has not been deterrence enough to curb poaching, hence the proposed stiffer sentence.”

It is true that a lot of animals are in danger at the hands of these vile poachers. However, statistics have also shown that poaching has been on the decline lately because of the increased efforts made towards conservation and wildlife law enforcement.

The amount of black rhinos in Kenya at the moment is below 1,000. The elephant population has been hovering just around the 34,000 range. Back in 2017, poachers were caught to have killed 9 rhinos and 69 elephants. And while these might not seem like a lot, it has drastically canceled out the growth rate of these specific species.

Based on an article by the Independent,

“The move could put Kenya in conflict with the UN, which opposes the death penalty for all crimes worldwide.

UN General Assembly resolutions have called for a phasing-out of capital punishment, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights advocates its universal abolition.

Kenya’s tourism chiefs say poaching has been on a downward trend largely thanks to enhanced wildlife law-enforcement efforts and investment in conservation.

“These efforts led to an 85 percent reduction in rhino poaching and a 78 percent reduction in elephant poaching, respectively, in 2017 compared to when poaching was at its peak in 2013 and 2012 respectively,” the ministry said.

Nevertheless, earlier this month two black rhinos and a calf were poached at Meru national park.”

Poachers mostly target the ivory tusks of elephants which are considered to be highly valuable in the Far East. The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) actually reports that up to 70% of illegally obtained ivory usually ends up in China. It’s in China wherein this ivory can be sold for up to $1,000 a pound. The Chinese government has banned the official selling of this material but the black markets still persist.

And on the other hand, the horns of rhinos are also believed to be highly effective in the treatment of various conditions such as cancer, fever, impotence, and other such medical ailments. These rhino horns are valued more than gold as they are selling for around $30,000 a pound.

The AWF cautions that “at current poaching rates, elephants, rhinos and other iconic African wildlife may be gone within our lifetime.” AWF also states that poachers in Africa “use high-powered technology and weaponry to track and kill many animals at once without being detected.”

It’s because of this that the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) actually intends to increase the number of wildlife crime prosecutors so as to further their efforts in conservation and wildlife protection. This measure is brought about as a result of a collaboration between Kenya’s national prosecution service and Space for Giants, a conservation organization.

According to Max Graham, a representative from Space for Giants, “Not only can KWS catch wildlife criminals but now they have the capacity to ensure those criminals are convicted under Kenya’s robust laws. A ranger in the field should not have to experience the frustration of confronting a wildlife criminal they arrested a week earlier walking free again because of an acquittal. This is a critical step up in the battle against the illegal wildlife trade.”

Some rangers in Kenya have even incorporated the use of infrared and thermal cameras to improve their security measures in spotting potential poachers and protecting the endangered animals.

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