Zaini Majeed, Republic World | April 12, 2021
Kenya’s elephant population has increased at an annual rate of approximately 2.8 percent over the last three decades, and there has been a 96 percent decline in poaching, Kenya’s Wildlife Research and Training Institute said in a report ‘African elephant Species New Listing to Endangered and Critically Endangered in IUCN Red list’. While more than 386 elephants were lost to poaching in 2013, this figure significantly shrank to just 11 elephants poached in 2020, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) on Sunday said. It further stated that the rise in the endangered elephants’ population was attributed to the Kenyan government’s rigorous anti-poaching and anti-trophy trafficking initiatives to stop the ivory trade in collaboration with international partners.
KWS responded to International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) report that was released in March in which the African Elephant Specialist Group (AfESG) alleged that at least two species, Forest and Savannah elephants, have suffered a “critical decline in population” due to poaching. It continued, poaching remains “ a primary threat to the conservation of the species.” Kenya, in response to the IUCN’s resisting of the endangered and critically endangered elephant species, said that while Kenya “acknowledges” that poaching was the major cause of the decline in the past, increasing human population and the subsequent change in land tenure and land-use systems have led to the constriction of elephant range, loss of dispersal areas and corridors, resulting to heightened interaction between elephants and people, mostly resulting to conflict.”
However, KWS reiterated that the Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC) and loss of elephant corridors and dispersal areas are the main challenges facing elephant conservation and management in Kenya. It then asked AfESG to make necessary corrections on the information released and highlight the country’s efforts to mitigate poaching threats on Kenya’s elephant population. It reminded, that poaching wildlife or smuggling wildlife trophies in Kenya has legal consequences with penalties and jail. KWS said that in the future, IUCN must consult the range States when critical information is being released for public consumption.
Ivory demands fuelling ‘catastrophic declines’
According to the UN, the international demand for ivory has been fuelling catastrophic declines in the elephant populations in Kenya. For over several decades poaching and hunting posed threats to Kenya’s estimated 33,000 elephants scattered throughout the country across officially protected areas, private ranches, and county council territories. Poaching was mainly conducted by armed bandits from Somalia and was prevalent in pastoral areas outside officially protected wildlife areas. Kenya established Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) in 1989 for conserving and managing Kenya’s wildlife. In recent years, however, there has been a shift in the areas targeted by poachers and the weapons used, with snaring and poisoning of elephants in place of firearms, a UN report said. The “concealment techniques” were used by the poachers to traffic wildlife products and engage in the illegal wildlife trade that shrank the African elephant populations in past years.