, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 19 – Conservationists on Wednesday appealed to President Uhuru Kenyatta to declare elephant and rhino poaching in Kenya a national disaster.
At a news conference in Nairobi, WildlifeDirect Board Member Philip Murgor urged President Kenyatta to take a lead role to stop poaching, since the number of elephants and rhinos being killed continues to increase.
“We have tried everything else… we have tried working with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS); the KWS told us we don’t have enough facilities, help us apply more resources to this war against poaching. The only person who can cut across departments and make it a national or full governmental issue is the President of the Republic,” Murgor urged.
WildlifeDirect Chairman Richard Leakey further urged members of the public to get involved in the campaign against poaching.
According to the conservationist – who is also the founder of WildlifeDirect – poaching poses serious threats to the economy of the country which relies heavily on wildlife for tourism.
“This is a national disaster, whatever you want to call it. That should empower you to take extra ordinary action,” Leakey advocated.
Drawing from his long experience in preserving wildlife in Kenya, Leakey expressed fears that the rate of poaching was alarming and warned that if it continues in the current trend, Kenya risks extinction of rhinos and elephants.
Kenya is well known for the big five; elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards and buffaloes.
According to KWS, this year alone Kenya lost 16 rhinos with 13 of them having died in the hands of poachers. Last year, the country lost 59 others. It is estimated that Kenya’s rhino population stands at only 1,000.
KWS further estimates that there are about 38,000 elephants remaining with already 30 elephants having been poached by the 3rd month of 2014.
The country lost 302 elephants in 2013 alone. READ Uhuru says China to help Kenya combat poaching
However, WildlifeDirect Chief Executive Officer Dr Paula Kahumbu contradicted the KWS statistics saying the number of elephants and rhinos killed is higher than what is being communicated by the government. She said according to statistics done by private conservationists, there are not more than 600 rhinos left in Kenya.
“The number of rhinos killed in 2013 was double what it was in 2012, so we are seeing a doubling everywhere. We are talking about a problem that is escalating out of control. If we don’t tame this problem now, we will lose all of our rhinos,” she said as she cited South Africa which lost 1,000 rhinos in 2013 to poaching.
But even as they discussed the way forward against a war that has been classified as an international dilemma, they raised eyebrows over the slackness of KWS in dealing with poaching.