Rhino poaching soars in Kenya

March 4, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 4 – Last year marked the highest number of rhinos ever poached in Kenya.

In an exclusive interview with Capital News, KWS senior scientist Benson Okita said that 13 black rhinos and six white rhinos were poached in National Parks and community land across the country.

“This constitutes 2.2 percent of the rhino population. Usually we have levels that we can say is tolerable if we are getting good growths and this in this instance is not the case,” Mr Okita stated.

The scientist explained that most of the Rhino killings were done using homemade guns and poisoned arrows.

He says that most of the killings took place in December last year in Mugie Ranch in Laikipia.

Currently, there are 635 black rhinos and 330 white rhinos in Kenya and most of them live in National parks in a bid to conserve them.

Mr Okita said that rhino poaching is normally done for the wrong reasons and should be stopped.

“The Rhino horn, as much as people use it for medicinal purposes has no medicinal property and this has been proven scientifically,” he explained. “So all these things that people are talking about are all beliefs which eventually affect a species that also has a right to live.”

He said that the number of endangered species have also dipped to dangerously low levels.

The country recently imported four Northern White Rhino species from the Czech Republic in a bid to encourage breeding.

According to Mr Okita, other than ensuring that the species is conserved, this will also paint a positive image of the country internationally.  

Another senior scientist in charge of other species Charles Musyoki stressed the need to resolve human wildlife conflict in a bid to conserve endangered species.

Mr Musyoki said that bomas which protect livestock from carnivorous wildlife should be constructed.

He stated that there is need for a sensitisation exercise to be carried out among livestock owners on the need of wildlife conservation.

“The main problems facing the carnivores revolve around loss of the space. There is one unique one that is related to the hyenas since hyenas are despised by many African communities,” he stated.

“For this reason, they are normally persecuted because of the folk tales surrounding them and this leads to them ending up being disliked.”

Speaking to Capital News, he said that the hunting down of lions has led to the drastic reduction in their numbers.

“Today we are talking about 2,000 lions. In essence we have been losing on average 100 lions per year and what this means is that in the next 20 years we will not have any lions in  the country,” he stated.

Mr Musyoki pointed out that despite their reduced populations however, large carnivores still cause problems for pastoralists and farmers and, for conservation managers.

He explained that predation on livestock by large carnivores is a serious problem because it can have a major impact upon the livelihoods of pastoralists and farmers, and, it also leads to the killing of large carnivores like lions, many of which are species of local or international conservation concern.

“Lions play a critical role in Kenya’s tourism industry for lion presence in an area is considered an indicator of its wild and natural integrity,” he said.

“The lion is thus one of the flagship species of Kenya for research and tourism and indeed one of the Big Five.”

Lions have been moved from at least 30 percent of their historical range in Eastern and Southern Africa and Kenya’s lions are no exception.

Kenya’s national population of lions was estimated at 2,749 in 2002, 2,280 in 2004 and about 2000 in 2008.


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