NAIROBI, Kenya Feb 10 – “A rhino horn is now worth more than gold and platinum and is more valuable in the black market than diamonds or cocaine,” observes British High Commissioner to Kenya Christian Turner.
The British envoy added that terrorists are likely to engage in poaching as a means of generating revenue to sustain their activities.
“There is a risk that insurgent or terrorist groups could benefit from the illegal wildlife trade hence undermining the rule of law and economies in Africa.”
“So there is a need to bring the leadership at a senior level to deliberate on such risks and ways to avert them,” he said.
Turner also called on the Kenyan government to develop alternative sources of livelihoods for communities that live in areas where the trade is highest.
“There are plenty of substitute livelihoods for communities affected by the illegal smuggling, key being a model Kenyan programme in Northern Kenya.”
“The Northern Rangelands Trust has pioneered communities in the area to treat wildlife as an asset rather than animals that are just a means of destruction,” explained the envoy.
The smugglers are said to take advantage of the poor and harsh conditions experienced by the community and lure them with money to engage in poaching.
The United Kingdom government will on Thursday host a global conference in London on illegal Wildlife Trade to brainstorm on a poaching eradication plan.
A Chinese man who pleaded guilty to trafficking in ivory was last month fined Sh20 million (1.4mn Yuan) by a Nairobi court.
Tang Yong Jian, 40, will serve seven years in prison if he is unable to pay the hefty fine.
While delivering the sentence, Makadara Resident Magistrate William Oketch said that even though Tang pleaded guilty and expressed remorse over the incident, he could not claim ignorance since ivory trade is a major cause of concern globally.
“The second limb of the offence in section 92 deals with endangered or threatened species of which the African elephant is an endangered species as declared in the Sixth Schedule of the Act and the accused is sentenced on count one to a fine of Sh20 million and in default to serve seven years imprisonment,” he ruled.
“Mozambique laws on ivory are weak and the situation is worsened by rampant corruption. The accused cannot honestly claim ignorance since the growth in illegal trade in ivory and the involvement of Chinese citizens is a major concern internationally,” the magistrate observed.
“In late October 2013, customs officers in Xiamen seized a 12 tonne shipment of ivory worth 600mn Yuan, the biggest ivory burst in Chinese history. The accused must therefore have heard about this.”
The Chinese national was arrested while carrying an elephant ivory tusk weighing 3.4 kilogrammes in a suitcase.
At the time, Kenya Wildlife Service deputy spokesman Paul Muya welcomed the ruling saying that it sent a strong message to poachers and those who engage in the illegal trade.
“This conviction is significant because all of us across the world are dedicated and we are dedicating our service to the security of the wildlife species. It is a statement of purpose and intent that we will be out there to combat smuggling of contraband ivory as well as ensuring that poachers will be nabbed,” he stated.
Previously, punishment for the most serious wildlife crimes was capped at a maximum fine of Sh40,000 and a possible jail term of up to 10 years.