NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 19 – Conservationist have lauded government action in the face of rampant poaching but said a sustained and coordinated approach is require to crush the increasingly sophisticated criminal cartels that threaten the country.
“At the current rate of poaching, it is estimated that Kenya’s elephants will be gone from the wild within 10 years,” said Dr Paula Kahumbu, CEO of WildlifeDirect.
Dr Kahumbu was speaking during First Lady Margaret Kenyatta visit, Tuesday, to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT).
The First Lady went to see baby elephants that have been orphaned as a result of the ongoing slaughter of elephants across Kenya, making her the one of Kenya’s first public figures to take personal interest in the crisis facing Kenya’s elephants.
WildlifeDirect which has played a prominent role in raising awareness about the crisis in Kenya said it and has invited the First Lady to spearhead a national campaign dubbed ‘HANDS OFF OUR ELEPHANTS’ to unite Kenyans of all walks of life and sectors of society to take personal responsibility towards protecting Kenya’s heritage and the country’s economic future.
The First Lady was accompanied by Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, Professor Judi Wakhungu.
Professor Wakhungu reassured the team at DSWT that every effort was being made by the Government to save elephants. “My office is in the final stages of creating a new law that will bring the poaching lords to justice, and crush the criminal cartels”
After feeding several of the hungry babies with bottles of milk, the First Lady heard their personal stories.
“I commend the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust for invested so much in rescuing the baby elephants and for giving them such loving care to ensure that they could be returned to the wild,” said the First Lady.
“There are children in Kenya who have never seen a live elephant, and they may never have a chance to see an elephant if this crisis is not halted,” she added. “We cannot let this happen”.
“Many people do not believe how serious this crisis is this, having the First Lady speaking out about it will ensure that every Kenyan is aware and can support the conservation efforts,” said Dr Kahumbu.
“We are honoured that the First Lady has chosen to put her name on this campaign ‘HANDS OFF OUR ELEPHANTS’ which is a message to all those who threaten our heritage,” she added.
After interacting with the baby elephants for an hour, the First Lady chose one to adopt.
His name is Tundani, a calf, who was estimated to be under a year old, that was found alone along the Tiva River in the Tsavo East National Park last year.
There were no other elephants in the area suggesting that Tundani lost his mother and family as a result of poaching.
Over 55 elephants have been poached in the Tsavo ecosystem since January 2013.”
On adopting Tundani the First Lady was handed a certificate and will receive monthly updates on her elephant and permission to visit him as often as she wants.