Saturday, March 29, 2014

Kenya to Use Drones Against Elephant and Rhino Poachers

Elephants taking a mud bath in Kenya's Tsavo East National Park.

It has recently been reported that the government of Kenya is going to use drones in its battle against elephant and rhino poachers. This plan also comes along the side of tougher penalties, which include longer jail terms and stiffer fines, imposed on perpetrators in an attempt to repress the growing number of well-armed poaching gangs who target the elephants for their tusks and rhinos for their horns. According to Patrick Omondi, wildlife conservation deputy director for the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), the drones will be used in Tsavo National Park which is one of the largest national park in the country. He further added the drones would be imported, but did not give any details of how many would be brought to Kenya or at what cost. Conservationists hope that this new law will avert criminal organizations since Kenya has become a major transport route for ivory bound for Asian markets from central and eastern Africa. KWS acting director general William Kiprono indicated that 51 elephants and 18 rhinos had been killed in Kenya so far this year, compared to 302 elephants and 59 rhinos killed in 2013. That same year, Kenyan officers confiscated 13.5 tonnes of ivory at the port city of Mombasa originating from other countries in the region. At least 249 suspects have been arrested so far and prosecuted for various wildlife crimes. Among them included a Chinese man who was convicted for smuggling ivory and ordered to pay a fine of twenty million shillings or face a seven-year prison sentence.

I very much admire the steps Kenya is taking to help prevent any further losses of its wildlife to poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. The government indicated that these threats not only affect the wildlife, but also the tourism industry which is a major foreign exchange earner in the country. However, there are also other countries in Africa whose wildlife is a major tourist attraction. These include countries in central Africa are also known to house a rich diversity of wildlife that tourists would love to see. Unfortunately, the wildlife in Africa's central region has been hit very hard in recent times due to poaching and the wildlife trade. In some parts, militant groups have resorted to brutally massacring the elephants to finance their bloody civil wars against innocent civilians. This indicates that the national parks in that region are nowhere as safe as the ones in eastern or southern Africa. Furthermore, because wildlife tourism is a major factor to Africa's economy, the ongoing threat of poaching in Africa's central region has dramatically impacted the economy resulting in widespread unemployment and placing more people into poverty. This is why it is extremely crucial to provide substantial help to the countries in central Africa to combat poaching and the militant groups operating in the region, in order to not only save its wildlife but recover its economy as well.

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