On the 24th of August, after enjoying a period of relative peace, armed poachers struck Rukinga Ranch part of our Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project, slaying a male elephant for its valuable tusks. Within days, our rangers made another gruesome discovery at Amaka Ranch: two more elephants amid rifle cartridges. A short time later, when two additional elephants were killed for their tusks at Washumbu Ranch, the entire camp was left shaken.
Conservationists and Kenyans alike are infuriated by the ruthless massacre of endangered wildlife, such as the estimated 2,500 elephants that call the Kasigau corridor home. Recently, Kenyans participated in a sensitization campaign on twitter and other media outlets urging poachers to keep their “hands off our elephants.” The campaign is the initiative of WildlifeDirect, a charitable organization founded by Dr. Richard Leakey. A politician, paleoanthropologist, and conservationist from Nairobi, Dr. Leakey is the son of prominent archeologists and has spent his whole life crusading for wildlife in Kenya.
Kenyans have shown an immense support for the “Hands Off Our Elephants” campaign, specifically on social media sites, where comments are largely aimed at those governments in Asia where the sale of game trophies is especially thriving. High profile corporate and government officials, including Kenya’s first lady Mrs. Margaret Kenyatta and the executive officer at Kenya Airways, Titus Naikuni, have also shown their support for the campaign.
An active online petition seeks to have President Uhuru Kenyatta amend the Kenyan law to include stiffer penalties for those found committing crimes against wildlife. Until recently, very few of those caught in poaching-related cases were actually imprisoned and fines that were imposed remained at a minimum.
However, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has threatened to impose sanctions on Kenya and other countries in the ‘Gang of Eight’ for failure to adequately protect endangered wildlife. Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania were identified as the source countries for illegal ivory in a one-week conference held in Bangkok in March. The Philippines and Malaysia were named as transit countries for illegal ivory, with China and Thailand specified as main destination countries for these shipments.
If the CITES sanction comes into effect, the three East African countries stand to lose the most as they could be banned from all economic activities related to the trade of wildlife products from the CITES 135,000 list of endangered species.
This is one of many reasons it’s important that poachers, and the countries that house them, are held accountable for their crimes against wildlife before intelligent and majestic animals, such as the elephant, are completely wiped out of the Kasigau Corridor.
Every one of us can do something to ensure that the killing stops and the demand for ivory ends. It all begins with you and I. Pledge to never purchase ornaments made from ivory. In addition to the previously mentioned petition to the Kenyan president, say no to ivory by signing the petition at iworry.org. Sign the petition to stop the demand for ivory at change.org. Raise awareness on the plight of the African elephant. Support wildlife groups who work to protect animals and curb poaching. Help us spread our message.