Kenya arrests 32 suspected poachers, recover ivory pieces
Xinhua | 2012-10-10 15:36:25
By Agencies
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Kenya's authorities have arrested 32 suspected poachers and recovered an M16 rifle with nine rounds of ammunition, six pieces of ivory and 300 kg of assorted bushmeat during the past one week of anti-poaching operations across the country.

A statement from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said on Wednesday that during the operation, three vehicles and two motorbikes were impounded during the operations.

KWS said four armed suspects escaped arrest in an incident in Mbirikani that saw their colleague arrested and a vehicle impounded.

"Another vehicle was impounded in Voi and four suspects arrested on October 6 investigations into these crime incidents are underway," the agency said.

The KWS has expressed fears that the scenes of 1970s and 80s when poaching was a serious menace, and contributed to the depletion of wildlife including elephants, lions and rhinos are back, threatening many years of conservation efforts and animal populations that had started to balloon.

While there are many solutions being implemented to reverse the trend, Kenya wildlife enthusiasts are banking on the passage of the new Wildlife Bill 2011 that is to be presented to parliament soon to get part of the solution.

The law proposes severe punishment for poachers and people-led wildlife conservancy efforts. The proposed Wildlife Bill has recommended severe crime for poachers. Poaching will be like an organised crime under the law.

For example, under the proposed law, offences relating to sport hunting fine not less than $23,500 or imprisonment not less than 7 years while other crimes carry a fine of at least 5, 800 dollars and imprisonment of not less than 2 years.

The fines are severe than the existing average of 200 dollars charged for various wildlife crimes.

The KWS said three suspects were arrested in Isiolo County, an M16 rifle and nine rounds of ammunitions recovered on October 2. "A vehicle the suspects were using was impounded. In the same county at Kula Pesa area, a suspect was arrested and 10 rounds of ammunition recovered," KWS said.

According to KWS, two suspects were arrested in possession of six pieces of ivory on October 4 in Narok, about 100 southwest of Nairobi.

"A motorbike they were using to ferry the illegal cargo was impounded. Elsewhere in Loitokotok, a suspect was arrested with snared 150kg of zebra meat," the statement said.

"Five other suspects, believed to have been on a poaching mission, were arrested in two separate incidents at Mbirikani in Kajiado County and Voi town."

Rampant poaching incidents have also forced KWS to embrace the use of modern technologies under its full modernisation programme to counter the problem and other poaching-related threats.

KWS says it has introduced the Canine Unit with sniffer dogs on a 24-hour basis at the Jomo Kenyatta in Nairobi and Moi International Airport in Mombasa to detect movements of illegal ivory. The unit has since 2009 netted more than eight tonnes of raw and worked ivory.

This, according to the wildlife agency, has effectively led to reduced smuggling of illegal trophies. Plans are at an advanced stage by KWS to also introduce sniffer dogs at the Eldoret International Airport as well as other exit and entry points.

Stiffer penalties related to wildlife crime have been incorporated under the proposed wildlife law to deter poaching- related cases and incidents in Kenya.

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