The recent capture or confiscation of ivory at points of entry and exit in various countries across Africa is sounding alarm bells across the wildlife conservation community. The rate with which poaching is threatening to decimate Africa’s last remaining jumbos is, once again, a cause for worry.
Just the other day, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), the Kenya Police and Customs officials nabbed over 340 pieces of illegal ivory weighing about 600 KG destined for Lagos, Nigeria – that is about 173 dead elephants!
In May, a container of ivory originating from Uganda, was intercepted at the seaport of Mombasa. In Tana River, several incidences of shoot-outs between KWS personnel and poachers have been reported, where again ivory was recovered from the fleeing culprits.
Today, on their Twitter page, KWS, posted a message, ‘Elephants are in serious trouble – and more people need to know’ – proof that if something is not done fast, African Elephants may soon join the ranks of several prehistoric animals.
If this were to happen, present generations of animal lovers would only get to see these beautiful creatures in colourful history books or computer animations on programmes such as NatGeo Wild and marvel at a great animal that once was.
But thanks to a new initiative by the KWS, poaching in Kenya may soon be significantly reduced and perhaps even give the African Elephant a chance of survival.
A forensic and genetic laboratory set to be established here in Nairobi will assist in the study of population genetics and strengthen evidence for prosecution in Kenyan courts against poachers. The state-of-the-art lab will be a referral centre for molecular diagnostics of wildlife-related crimes in the region.
According to the World wildlife Fund (WWF), there are between 470,000 and 690,000 African Elephants. This number may have been on an upward move due to great conservation work done by stakeholders but the recent upsurge in poaching, coupled with a rapid loss of habitat, may water down these great strides.
What we are seeing now is worrying and awareness needs to be built, fast. In Kenya the policy framework is very comprehensive on this matter but clearly more has got to be done. This lab will be a step in the right direction but these should be augmented by greater lobbying in international fora.
The forthcoming Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Bangkok, Thailand could be one such avenue where this can be voiced. In the meantime, you and I might need to step up our online campaigns to make the message known and acted upon.