, ISIOLO, Kenya, Jan 15 – Members of the Oldonyiro Community Conservancy in Isiolo County have called on the government to tighten the noose on the illegal lucrative sandalwood business between poachers and underhand police officers in a bid to stump out the trade which they say is destroying the environment.
Speaking to Capital FM News, a source privy to the unholy alliance decried rising cases of collusion between the corrupt police officers who seem to be aiding poachers of the tree which is famed for its oils used in aromatherapy, soaps and cosmetics.
“We are calling on the government to be strict on this trade. Culpable officers should be arrested and charged with aiding the destruction of the environment and breaking the law they are supposed to defend,” he said.
He was speaking against the backdrop of an incident where community members busted a group of poachers who had illegally harvested the tree and were making away with it.
However, mother nature being the guardian she is stopped them in their trucks when the lorry, which was used to carry out the sinful trade, got stuck in the sand.
“What shocked the community was that the poachers were having a police Land Cruiser helping them out of their situation by pulling the lorry,” he said.
The incident which happened on January 7 shocked the community because even after being busted, our sources told us, the officers lied to them that what was carried in the lorry was grass meant for cows.
The vigilant community did not take their word for it and upon examination found a consignment of sandalwood.
“The inconspicuous yellow lorry had ten tonnes of sandalwood,” he said.
The community in a show of defiance against corrupt cops and united against the poaching gang burnt the contraband as they celebrated yet another victory in their quest to protect their resources.
“We want to make it clear that if you do it, we will burn the product,” he said firing another warning that “even the motor vehicle carrying the contraband will not be spared.”
Despite uncooperative police officers, who many conservancy members suspect stood to benefit from a cut of the sandalwood, young warriors, conservancy rangers and unit managers came out in force to ensure the cargo was offloaded.
The contraband, estimated to be worth Sh1 million, was set ablaze by conservancy members who decided to take a stand against the illegal trade of their natural resources.
Also, they burnt the contraband because they have no faith in the local police to strictly enforce the law to keep away the gangs who think they can continue to take advantage of the rural community.
“The community knows what the illegal sandalwood business means for their natural resources,” one of the senior community leaders was quoted while speaking after the incident.
“They know it just benefits big cartels, leaving them with nothing, so now, they are saying a big ‘no’. And they displayed this very strongly.”
Sandalwood is a highly prized tree and this has led to widespread deforestation of the species across Kenya – it is now endangered and protected by law.
But for many sandalwood poachers, it’s a low-risk, high reward game; with corruption and porous national borders providing the conditions for easy business.
The community conservancy has increasingly been made aware of the illegal sandalwood trade and its consequences which includes land degradation, the destruction of wildlife habitat, and insecurity among others.