Poaching in Kenya, a consumer’s concern

Killing of Kenya’s Elephants and Rhinos for their tusks and horns respectively  is a menace that is not only the government’s concern, conservationist’s  platform of discussion and ivory trafficker’s source of bloody income, but also the consumer’s concern.

On average, an elephant is brutally killed on African soil after every 15 minutes! This reflects the high level of demand for the ivory. The people responsible for this are not only the poachers themselves, but the middlemen trying to  match the greedy needs of the consumers on the other end.

Whenever tight mechanisms are put in place to protect the killings and transit, the  consumers are concerned. Somewhere in China, a father is  concerned about how to get an ivory necklace for his  six-year old daughter on her birthday, his wife on their third anniversary or a ” decoration” to hang on their new bungalow walls, without giving a simple thought to how and where these come from. The daughter grows up knowing that the best gift one can give, is made of ivory.

The result is that our animals are killed, the Kenyan wilderness is emptied, our children have nothing to eat, leave alone that of which to be proud of, given the fact that the Tourism industry in Kenya, puts food on the tables of hundreds of thousands of Kenyans, directly employed.

Ivory consumers all over the world must be made aware of the role they play in this bloody business that is arguably the 2nd illegal, highest income generating activity in the world. Are they aware of the impacts? If they happen to know, do they care?

Recently, the US president, Barack Obama promised Kenyans to ban the ivory trade in states, something that is very promising , with Los Angeles already living to the word. Can other countries do the same?

It’s is urgently vital to start targeting  the consumer’s end as we tighten the bolt on links between those charged with the responsibility of protecting our heritage, and demise of the same.

We all admire the 19th century, when jumbos and rhinos would majestically patrol the Kenyan wilderness, without fear of losing their lives or that of their young ones, to the brutal hand of  fire arms; and if the fear was there, it was not as intense and horrifying.

The country’s Presidents have  tried to send strong messages on poaching, with two of them publicly burning tonnes of the same. Question still remains, is this enough? Is the world learning? Would the world learn more, if the ivory was burnt by the consumers themselves? Yes, the consumers, that father and his six-year old daughter, wife, together with relatives and friends, mobilizing themselves to say NO to ivory and burning whatever that is in their possession publicly!

Save the Rhino has it clear that rhino poaching has reached a crisis point, and if the killing continues at this rate, we could see rhino deaths overtaking births in 2016-2018, meaning rhinos could go extinct in the very near future. This should be a consumer’s concern.

Vietnam as the largest consumer of rhino horn, should be made aware that once the rhinos are no longer there, their “medicine” will also not be there. China as one of the largest consumers of ivory should be aware that the “wealth status symbol” will no longer be there once the elephants are depleted.  A reason to be concerned.

Weak governance, corruption and endemic poverty can never be underestimated when talking of  poaching in the Kenyan wilderness. Our strength however is in the fact that we have one of the best laws on wildlife protection, one of the best forensic laboratories in Africa and actually more experts in the field than most countries.To be specific, Kenya brags of having more experts on elephants than any country in the world! Can these be efficiently tapped, to drive the change we want?

Poaching is not only a Kenyan crisis, it’s actually a global crisis that should be addressed by urgently enhancing local, regional and international cooperation in order to guarantee the security of our wildlife.  This must always end with the consumer.

Let us have the individual consumers in mind, as we intensify the fight against poaching.

Photo courtesy of Rhino Resource Center.

Article by: Lunzalu Kelvin O.

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