African envoys seek solutions to rampant poaching

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, August 17, 2013
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African ambassadors accredited to Kenya began a two-day retreat at the Tsavo National Park in the southwest of Kenya on Friday to assess the impact of poaching in the East African nation.

The retreat, organized by Kenya's Mission to the UN Office at Nairobi (UNON), is intended to increase awareness of poaching and its negative impact on the country and region's prosperity and heritage.

"The retreat is part of a program developed by the African Ambassadors where they travel regularly to different parts of Kenya and contribute to socio-economic projects," said a statement from Kenya's ministry of foreign affairs.

The retreat comes after conservationists have warned that poaching could eliminate elephants in the next 10 years unless measures are undertaken to curb this crisis.

Protecting Kenya's 38,000 elephant herd is both an ecological and economic imperative. Kenya has been identified as one of the leading transit routes for smuggling ivory out of Africa, with several incidents of ivory seizures and recovery of wildlife carcasses in recent days.

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) estimates that more than eight tonnes of raw and worked ivory have been seized since 2009. The demand for ivory in the Far East has attracted criminal cartels to Kenya, who are feeding the insatiable demand.

Conservationists warn that unless the demand is extinguished, poachers will wipe out Africa's elephants.

The retreat whose theme is "Poaching and Prosperity The Challenges and Opportunities of Protecting Elephants and Rhinos" is expected to build synergies among the African representatives for the development of a common African position on poaching, particularly in elephants and rhinos.

"This is intended to help start a process in which African countries collectively increase their engagements with regional and global enforcement agencies in order to enhance the effectiveness of anti-poaching efforts," the statement said.

The ambassadors, who also serve as their countries' Permanent Representatives to UNEP, will be taken through the challenges of poaching faced in Kenya, which are similar to the experiences of other African countries.

Professor Judy Wakhungu, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Water and Natural Resources spoke on the policies and mechanisms the Government has adopted to address the poaching crisis in the country.

Wakhungu said unless the global community takes resolute action to protect elephants they will become extinct in the wild. "This meeting is to discuss collaboration towards addressing escalating security threats to wildlife," she said.

Analysts say united efforts by diplomats and the countries that they represent can lead to more effectively coordinated operations that involve all relevant national and international agencies and institutions, including UNEP and the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (comprising UNODC, CITES/TRAFFIC and Interpol).

A common African position would be instrumental in ensuring the adoption of effective international measures to reduce poaching at upcoming meetings such as the UN General Assembly Special High Level Segment on poaching in wildlife, the Ministerial Summit of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the UNEP Assembly of Heads of State and Government, and meetings of the Convention on Illicit Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES).

In a bid to curb rising cases of poaching in the country, the Kenyan government formed a special inter-agency crack-unit to combat poaching in the country.

The anti-poaching unit named the Elite Inter-Agency Anti- Poaching Unit comprises of security officers from the KWS, the Administration Police (AP) and the General Service Unit (GSU).

The special unit, which shall be under the command of KWS, will undergo a joint training at the KWS Law Enforcement Academy (LEA) at Manyani before deployment to poaching hotspot areas of Narok, Tsavo and Isiolo in eastern Kenya.

Already, the government has established an Inter-Agency Task Force to advice and coordinates wildlife security management interventions across the country.

A total of 190 elephants have been killed so far this year while KWS has lost two rangers in encounters with poachers.

However, plans are underway to recruit an additional 1,000 KWS rangers to overcome these challenges and effectively tackle poaching.

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