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SOS Rhino : In the News : Kenyan ranger charged with poaching as rare white rhinos taken to safety

Kenyan ranger charged with poaching as rare white rhinos taken to safety

  Science News

Thursday February 17, 2005

Kenyan police have charged a wildlife ranger with illegally hunting in a game reserve last month, officials said as authorities began the transfer of endangered white rhinos from the facility.

Hassan Diba Konsicha, a ranger with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), pleaded not guilty to the charge in a magistrate's court in the central town of Nyeri on Wednesday, a court official and his lawyer told AFP.

He was denied bail and remanded in custody after denying that he had been involved in any illicit activity when he was detained at the Lewa Ranch in the Solio area near Nyeri on January 18.

Konsicha, who was with an apparent group of poachers, was arrested on the ranch after a firefight with KWS rangers and police, during which another unidentified KWS ranger, also suspected of illegal hunting, was killed.

Lewa Ranch, a private reserve that is home to numerous endangered species and is covered by Kenyan wildlife protection laws, has lost more than 10 rhinos to poachers over the past 19 months.

On Thursday, the KWS said it had started the planned transfer of six white rhinos from the ranch to nearby Meru National Park at the foot of MountKenya, where poachers wiped out the rhino population in the 1980s.

Kenya accounts for 200 of about 11,000 white rhinos in Africa and is hoping the move, funded by the French Development Agency (AFD) will help boost their population in the wild, KWS chief Julius Kipngetich.

The "objective is to increase both black and white rhino numbers to a 2000-strong genetically viable population in the wild," Kipngetich said.

Kenyan authorities said last month they had boosted anti-poaching patrols in the country's main wildlife areas amid an apparent surge in the illegal ivory and rhino horn trade.

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