Kenya introduces tougher penalties for poachers

May 30, 2013

Elephants are under threat in Kenya (Photo by Brierley)Some time ago, we reported how the battle for wildlife conservation in Kenya is heating up, and we are pleased to say the pressure applied by activists and organizations in Kenya is paying off, as the Kenyan government voted last week to approve higher penalties for poachers.

Fines for wildlife poaching have been increased to a maximum of $120,000, and sentences include up to 15 years in jail. Previously, fines were relatively low and sentences were limited to 2 years, if applied at all. The problem of lax penalties is common across East Africa, and addressing this issue through changes to the wildlife law is a key step in the fight against poaching for many countries. In Uganda, for example, it is not uncommon for a ‘first-offence’ poacher to be let off with a fine of approximately $20.

Rhino in Kenya (Photo by Sweetwaters)The news comes just as the Kenya Wildlife Service are pursuing a gang of rhino poachers who killed four rhinos across the country in the previous week. The Kenyan rhino and elephant population have both suffered in the current poaching crisis, with elephant populations falling from 160,000 in the 1960s to under 40,000 today. So far this year, 117 elephants and 21 rhinos have been slaughtered in Kenya by poachers.

The increased penalties reflect a surge of energy within Kenya to tackle this new scourge on conservation, framing the fight both in terms of protecting the country’s natural heritage and some of its most prized economic assets. Kenya’s elephants and rhinos are one of the main attractions for a thriving wildlife safari industry – tourism in Kenya is the second highest earning sector after agriculture.

Posted by Anne-Marie Weeden

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