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SOS Rhino : In the News : KWS Rangers Kill Two Suspected Poachers

KWS Rangers Kill Two Suspected Poachers

  January 22, 2005
Posted to the web January 21, 2005

Edward Indakwa And Evelyne Ogutu

Five poachers crossed into Kenya from Tanzania last Monday through the porous border near Lake Jipe. Later that afternoon, however, two of them lay dead at Musoma in the dusty and thorny scrubland of Tsavo West National Park.

Next to them was a battered blue Toyota truck and two bloody eland carcasses. The eland, the biggest antelope in the world, had been shot expertly with what a scene of crime detective believes to be a .404mm-calibre sport gun, the kind used to fell elephants.

Other than crossing illegally into Kenya, the poachers made two other mistakes: first, they chose, for their sortie, the Kanjaro area in Tsavo West, only 20 km from the Kenya Wildlife Service base at Lake Jipe. But their fatal mistake was to open fire when challenged to stop.

The battle must have been short and furious.

"Two middle-aged poachers died on the spot while three made a hasty escape through the scrubland, leaving their battered pick-up truck with its bloody cargo and a shotgun behind," says Peter Leitoro, KWS deputy director in charge of wildlife security Operations.

KWS rangers suffered no casualties but a .404 caliber bullet fired by the poachers tore through their patrol car and smashed part of the engine to pieces. It had to be towed away, he says.

But why would Tanzanian poachers cross the border to shoot wildlife in Kenya?

"Tanzania has stiffer penalties. They actually interpret poaching as an economic crime, and put poachers away for between 15 and 20 years. Here, where poaching is a petty crime, poachers face maybe six months with the option of a fine," he says.

Different policies on hunting between the two countries have not helped matters, either, according to KWS Director Dr Julius Kipng'etich. Tanzania allows hunting, which has been banned in Kenya since 1976.

"Evidently, we need stronger ties. We must harmonise wildlife policies and laws and strengthen cross-border enforcement for efficient wildlife management," said Kipng'etich.

Meanwhile, police in Nyeri are looking for a Kenya Wildlife Service ranger who is suspected to have escaped with gunshot wounds after police gunned down his colleague at Solio ranch.

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