BY PAUL UDOTO
Kenya, alongside Tanzania and Uganda, will from Monday next week (July 7-11, 2014) be subjects of United Nations discussions in Geneva, Switzerland, over progress made in the fight against elephant poaching and illegal ivory trade within the last one year.
The three are among eight countries in the spotlight at the 65th meeting of the Standing Committee of the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The Standing Committee is the second highest decision-making organ of CITES, and holds meetings to review decisions of the CITES Conference of Parties or its own.
Besides the three East African countries, the other countries of concern included China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam.
All the eight risk unspecified international sanctions after being put on notice by the 16th CITES Conference of Parties in Bangkok, Thailand last year. They were all required to take urgent measures to contain elephant poaching and ivory trafficking within a year.
The eight, which comprise primary source, transit and destination countries of global concern with regard to elephant poaching and illegal ivory trade, submitted their national ivory action plans to the CITES Secretariat within the May 2013 deadline.
The CITES meeting will review the national plans and discuss next steps to stop illegal ivory trade, including whether additional countries should develop similar plans.
The Committee will also consider the roll-out of a wide-range of enforcement related decisions taken by CITES on other species pressured by illegal trade, including rhinos, Asian big cats, rosewood, pangolins, freshwater turtles and tortoises, great apes and snakes as well as a study of the legal and illegal trade in wild cheetahs.
The March 2013 CITES meeting showed that the world was prepared to work together to ensure the survival of the African elephant. The conference delegates spoke with one voice on the need to take decisive actions in stopping the alarming trends in poaching and smuggling.
CITES Parties recognised the need for targeted and time-bound actions to be undertaken along the entire illegal ivory trade chain – from range and transit States to final destination States and markets, and to tackle both supply and demand.
Barely two weeks ahead of the Geneva review meeting, CITES Secretariat released a report showing that over 20,000 African elephants were poached across the continent in 2013. The report notes that overall, poaching numbers were lower in 2013 than in 2012 and 2011.
At the same time, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon capped off a week of high-level U.N. discussions on the environment by symbolically “adopting” a 6-month-old lion cub in Nairobi National Park as a sign of support for efforts against the trafficking of animals around the world. Ban named the cub Tumaini, which means “hope” in Kiswahili, after his “hope that all people around the world will be able to live harmoniously with nature.”
Kenya has made considerable progress since last year and among key measures the Kenya delegation will table at the Geneva meeting is the passing of a new more stringent wildlife law and enforcement mechanisms. The government has also established an anti-poaching crack unit comprising Administration Police, General Service Unit and Kenya wildlife Service.
The Director of Public Prosecutions has set up a fully-fledged Wildlife Crimes Prosecution Unit to provide prosecutorial services for wildlife-related offences.