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SOS Rhino : In the News : Kenya tackles poaching

Kenya tackles poaching

  23/09/2005 09:36  - (SA)

Nairobi - The struggling parks that host Kenya's largest elephant and rhino populations will get trucks, planes and communication equipment and better roads in a $1.25m anti-poaching programme unveiled on Thursday.

"The challenges are huge and they need help," said Elizabeth Wamba of the United States -based International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), which is funding the programme.

The vehicles, communication equipment and road improvements are key elements in anti-poaching operations, as are conservation education programmes that also will be funded in the project for the Tsavo region.

Tsavo - a 21 548 square kilometre ecosystem, slightly smaller than the US state of New Jersey - accounts for 52% of the protected area in this East African nation.

Bare necessities lacking

It lacks vehicles, passable roads, communication equipment, uniforms and staff for operations against poachers seeking rhino horn and elephant tusks to be turned into folk medicine and high-priced ornaments and jewellery, said Wamba.

Some of the poachers cross into Tsavo from Somalia, a lawless country with which it shares a porous border.

Tsavo is divided into Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks.

Tsavo East is the largest of Kenya's 24 national parks. The 57-year old park has 106 rangers to patrol its 11 747 square kilometres. Tsavo West National Park, covering some 9 801 square kilometres, has 196 rangers.

"Bandits, bushmeat hunters and human-wildlife conflict pose a serious threat to biodiversity within this ecosystem. To manage these threats, (Kenya Wildlife Service) needs rangers, fuel, aircraft and field-worthy vehicles for effective patrols and anti-poaching operations," said Daniel Ndonye, chairperson of the service's board of trustees.

Spare no effort

"Let us therefore spare no effort, or resource, to maintain these two areas as a safe sanctuary for our wildlife," Kenyan vice-president Moody Awori said at a news conference launching the project at the Kenya Wildlife Service headquarters in the capital, Nairobi.

IFAW funded a similar S$1.25m programme over the last five years to restore Kenya's Meru National Park.

Poachers and bandits operated freely throughout Kenya in the 1980s, some corrupting poorly paid and equipped rangers and park administrators.

The government abolished the wildlife conservation and management department in 1989 and created the Kenya Wildlife Service as an autonomous organisation that is allowed quicker and more independent decision-making. Poaching has subsided, helped by a 1989 global ban on the ivory trade that has seen prices drop.

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