It’s no secret the illegal pet trade and poaching is a huge problem in Asia and Africa, but perhaps some countries are a little more serious about solving the issue than others. Or at least that’s one takeaway from the news that Kenya is hoping to soon implement the death penalty for those who poach animals from the wild and from sanctuaries, despite the laws protecting them.
The Independent reports that Kenyan tourism and wildlife minister Najib Balala is looking to fast-track the proposed law in order to deter the killing of wild animals like black rhinos, ostriches, hippos, zebra, lions, elephants and more. According to Balala penalty under the current law, which includes a life sentence or a hefty fine, is no longer considered enough of a deterrent. The publication reports that last year alone 69 elephants (from a population of 34,000) and nine rhinos (from a population of fewer than 1,000) were killed.
“We have in place the Wildlife Conservation Act that was enacted in 2013 and which fetches offenders a life sentence or a fine of US$200,000,” Balala said during the official launch of Kenya’s northern white rhino commemorative stamps. Three stamps were released in honour of Sudan, the last remaining male member of his species who died in March from health issues. “However, this has not been deterrence enough to curb poaching, hence the proposed stiffer sentence.”
Overall poaching seems to be down—rhino poaching last year declined by 85 per cent from 2012 (the year before the life sentence penalty came into effect), and elephant poaching fell by 78 per cent during the same period. Still, due to the demand for ivory, elephant populations have declined by nearly half in East Africa over the past 10 years, and on average three rhinos are killed in Africa every day.
“There has been a steady decline in poaching levels since its peak in 2011, and the analysis from 2016 concludes that overall poaching trends have now dropped to pre-2008 levels,” John Scanlon, general secretary of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species told The Guardian. “This shows us what is possible through sustained and collective frontline enforcement and demand reduction efforts, coupled with strong political support.”
So does that make Kenya’s own political move groundbreaking or dangerous?
On one hand, some animal lovers seem to be all for the proposed new law, taking to social media to celebrate the idea. On the other, the law endorses the use of capital punishment, something the United Nations condones in general—no matter what the crime. In fact, the UN General Assembly has called for the phasing out of capital punishment across the globe, saying it has no place in the 21st century.
Meanwhile, some are calling for the punishment to apply only to the leaders of such criminal activities since they benefit the most from selling animal products, while the people who usually carry out the poaching itself often do so because of economic circumstances.
Then there’s the consideration that one of the biggest factors contributing to the decline of many species continues to be a loss of habitat, which is continues to happen with or without poachers.
And so the animals’ plight continues.