, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 9 – This year’s World Environment Day largely focused on the illegal trade in wildlife that has highly contributed to the near extinction of elephants, rhinos, and species like lions, wild dogs and hyenas which are fast joining the group as a result of human-wildlife conflict.
Environmental crime dwarfs the illegal trade in small arms which is valued at about $3 billion. It is the world’s fourth-largest criminal enterprise after drug smuggling, counterfeiting and human trafficking.
The amount of money lost due to environmental crime is 10,000 times greater than the amount of money spent by international agencies on combating it – just $20-30 million, according to a rapid response report published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Interpol.
Poaching of elephants and rhinos and illegal wildlife trade is a major problem across much of Africa threatening the very survival of iconic species.
The vice also fuels corruption, insecurity as well as harming the sustainable economic development of local communities but also national economies.
The UNEP report highlights that more than one quarter of the world’s elephant population has been killed in a decade.
The rate at which some of the world’s most vulnerable wildlife like rhinos and elephants are being killed has grown by more than 25 percent every year in the last decade.
Although cases of elephant poaching have significantly reduced in Kenya to 96 in 2015 from 164 in 2014 while that of the rhino reduced to 11 in 2015 compared to 35 in 2014, the use of illegal firearms and up to date equipment by poachers is very much alive.
“It is for this reason that my ministry is working with other government agencies to produce an assessment of the impact of large-scale wildlife trafficking to enable us fully understand what we’re up against,” said Environment Cabinet Secretary Judi Wakhungu, “Our wildlife is a very fragile renewable resource, once it’s gone, it cannot be replenished.”
Among the initiatives put in place by the ministry in partnership with conservationists and other stakeholders is working with communities living areas adjacent to wildlife sanctuaries as well as the local and international community’s who appreciate our biodiversity.
Kenya’s population is currently estimated at 40 million people and is estimated to grow to 70 million by 2030.
This coupled with the projected economic growth of 6 percent per annum is expected to contribute to the decline in our wildlife numbers if measures to protect the same are not urgently put in place and implemented.
Recent estimates suggest that we have lost 50 percent of our wildlife, both in and outside protected areas since 1977.