WildlifeDirect PRESS RELEASE
PARLIAMENT PASSES MOTION TO INCREASE PENALTIES FOR POACHING
For immediate release Nairobi 22 May 2013: Today, Kenyan MPs overwhelmingly approved a motion to increase the number of game rangers and the passing of an emergency amendment to the Wildlife Act that raises penalties for killing wildlife especially elephants and rhinos to up to 15 years in jail and/or a fine of up to Ksh 10 million. This increase of 2,500% on current fines, means that wildlife crimes now have the same status and punishments as the Economic Crimes’ Act, the Organized Crime Act and the Anti-Terrorism Crime Act. It is a spectacular win for Kenya as it restores her capacity to demonstrate leadership in protecting her wildlife and natural resources. The motion was moved by a private member, Hon Chachu Ganya, MP for North Horr and seconded by Hon Toposo (Butere) who noted the economic importance of elephants to the economy of Kenya through tourism, job creation and development.
“Kenya’s elephants declined from 160,000 in 1960s to 16,000 in 1989 due to poaching. Today Kenya is home to only 38,500 elephants and 1,025 rhinos. These animals are a major tourism attraction and anyone who threatens them is committing economic sabotage and should be treated as such.” the MP for North Horr stated in his opening. Raising concerns about the economic implications of poaching, many Members of Parliament suggested that the penalties be extremely punitive and that Kenya has serious talks with China and other Asian market countries.
Seconding the motion, Hon Toboso (Butere) described the current penalties of Ksh 40,000 for ivory seizures worth tens of millions of shillings “embarrassing”. Only one MP opposed the motion citing human elephant conflict as his reason. MP’s expressed great concern for the people who suffer conflict with elephants, and sought solutions especially for rural impoverished communities who live in areas neighbouring protected areas.
Members noted structural problems in KWS and insisted that the parastatal be reviewed and measures put in place to halt corruption. They also encouraged the enlisting of communities to benefit from conservation as well as promised to support the passing of the Wildlife Bill which has been stalled since 2007, not least to address compensation for human-wildlife conflict and benefits sharing.
Parliamentarians appear to be completely aligned to the message that President Kenyatta gave at his inauguration “My fellow Kenyans, poaching and the destruction of our environment has no future in this country.”
And Kenyans from all sectors of society have welcomed the passing of the motion. Speaking for WildlifeDirect, and a coalition of Kenyans called Elephants4Kenya, Dr. Paula Kahumbu who attended the parliamentary session stated “The passing of this bill is a huge victory, it is the strongest message from the Government of Kenya on the commitment to preserve our national heritage. MPs today voted for Kenya to restore her position as a global leader in wildlife conservation.”
Monitoring the motion from Geneva, John Scanlon, Secretary General of global wildlife trade control body CITES said “Treating wildlife crime as a serious crime is key to reversing the current disturbing trends in elephant and rhino poaching and smuggling. Kenya is deeply engaged in the fight against wildlife crime and CITES Parties have encouraged initiatives to strengthen legislation and penalties and moves in this direction are welcomed.”
WildlifeDirect is a Kenyan registered conservation organization that is campaigning to save elephants. Http://wildlifedirect.orgContact information: Paula Kahumbu Phone: 0722 685 106 or email: email@example.com