Archive for March, 2014

Scapegoat anyone?

Posted: March 31, 2014 in Uncategorized

Elephants running scared, rhinos being ominously felled  in the dead of the night….what can this be termed but a disaster? This year Kenya has officially lost 51 elephants and 19 rhinos – even after the enactment of a wildlife law that promises life imprisonment for those convicted of these heinous crimes leaving many of us befuddled. So many had thought that punitive measures would mark an end or at least a slowing down in the rate of killings, they had pinned their hopes in a justice system where crooks are brought to book and would-be crooks scared off by strong law enforcement. Instead we are seeing an escalation in the number of rhinos killed and a continued onslaught on our now openly petrified elephants.

At this time, Kenya needs a strong unified voice that cuts through the veil of impunity and corruption that seems to block us in every one of our efforts to rise above it. Instead, a war is being fought via the media – one side calling for KWS management to be axed and the KWS responding by saying the situation is not a national disaster and that those terming it as such have ulterior motives. KUAPO’s perspective is simple – it is a national disaster. We have been calling for it to be declared as such since January 22nd, 2013 when we marched in Nairobi, over 300 strong, and demanded then President Mwai Kibaki to declare poaching a national disaster and poachers as economic saboteurs. We followed this up with a petition to now President Uhuru Kenyatta asking the same thing and were informed by State House that the matter was being accorded due attention.

What we ask now is for unity and for positive criticism – let us stop with the distractions. The poachers and their cartels are probably laughing all the way to the bank at this divisiveness between the ranks who are supposed to fight them together. So our appeal is as follows:

To KWS: We are with every one of you who are true,honest and loyal to the cause and we want to help in any way that we can. We recognize the immense odds that you are up against it and we thank you every day for what you do. Please stay strong and keep fighting, we are proud of those that stand up for our wildlife. We also ask that you take strong and stern action against those who are sullying your good name and bring them to account.  Restore the image of KWS as the leading wildlife conservation authority in Africa that is being tarnished both by those who are betraying you from within and without.

To Conservation NGO’s: Let us unite in this fight and provide “positive” criticism. Let us focus on what can be done right instead of trying to point fingers and find a scapegoat. Last year, a lot of blame was being placed on the judiciary and magistrates in law enforcement, this year the blame appears to have shifted to KWS. We are not doing ourselves any favours by playing this blame game. Yes there are issues within the judiciary and within KWS that need to be addressed, let us try and focus on what we can do to help address those issues instead of blaming and demoralising these institutions.

To the Press/Media: We ask that you are prudent and careful in your reporting. We ask that you focus on investigative and thorough journalism as opposed to sensationalism. Your pens are strong weapons, please don’t use them frivolously at the whim of those who want to create divisiveness. Write the stories that need to be told but please do your homework and get the right facts.

Let us all stop looking for scapegoats….and concentrate on what we can all bring to the table to make a difference for our wildlife, for our heritage and for our future generations.

In closing, we ask again, Mr President – please declare Poaching A National Disaster – galvanise all forces against this menace. Help us cut through the corruption and impunity that will allow those honest and hard-working KWS officers and rangers, police, magistrates etc to bring down the cartels that have made Kenya their home. Please, Mr President… 20,000 and more are asking…it’s time for that stern action you promised. If you haven’t signed it yet – please do. If you have, please distribute it we are less than 5,000 shy of our 25,000 mark.

Petition: http://www.change.org/petitions/president-of-kenya-please-declare-poaching-a-national-disaster

It is only through unity that we will be able to emerge from this disaster

KENYANS UNITED AGAINST POACHING

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#MrPresidentStopPoaching

Posted: March 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

It’s the early hours of the morning, and all of a sudden, our phones start beeping – a poaching alert – another rhino felled in the dead of the night, horns taken, ears removed. These alerts have become an almost weekly nightmare that we wake up to …. it has become obvious to all of us that the rhinos in our country are systematically being killed by highly skilled criminal gangs with the right connections to get in and out of parks, reserves and sanctuaries unscathed. It has become patently clear to us all that our national heritage is under attack from forces that are bigger and greater than what any of us can imagine and also that these forces are being protected by corruption and impunity rife within the system. Yet even with this continued and sustained attack on our national heritage – the ultimate authority, our President is deathly silent.

Last year, KUAPO delivered a petition to the President asking him to declare poaching a national disaster and to galvanize all possible resources to bring to a complete halt the poaching of all our wildlife. The response we received was that the matter was being given its due attention. And so we waited with bated breath…some changes did happen. An elite crack team was formed within the KWS, inter-agency collaboration was encouraged, and yes even a new Wildlife Bill with harsher penalties was enacted. Yet the killings still continue – there appears to be no stopping them and the President (apart from his initial inaugural speech) still remains quiet.

Flabbergasted with the lack of critical response, Kenyans have started speaking out in whichever manner that they can.  A campaign was started by some active wildlife enthusiasts on Facebook and Twitter entitled #MrPresidentStopPoaching, encouraging all of us to voice our thoughts and force a reaction from our President – a reaction we all hope will cut through impunity and corruption and bring to justice the few people who are dead set on poaching our wildlife into extinction for a useless trinket or a myth of potency. KUAPO members have also joined this clarion call and reignited the petition we shared last year which now stands close to 17,000 signatures and counting.

In the latest effort by Kenyans, Wildlife Direct and their flagship campaign – “Hands Off Our Elephants” – held a press conference in Nairobi wherein Dr. Richard Leakey appealed to President Uhuru Kenyatta to take bold action. He said the time has come for the President himself to take action to stop this dreadful situation. His suggestion was simple – that the management of KWS needs a desperate overhaul. He said that the ring leaders and poachers are known and that it is now imperative that we cut out impunity and save our wildlife. And only the President can do that – he needs to declare poaching a national disaster in order to be able to take these extra-ordinary actions.  And we totally agree, the President must declare poaching a national disaster – we felt this a year ago and we feel it today – critical action must be taken.

It is, however, unfair to place blame squarely on the shoulders of the Kenya Wildlife Service. For sure they have the most major role to play being the custodians of our wildlife heritage and there are probably elements within the service that are exacerbating the poaching crisis. But rather than blame and criticise, it is time for all of us to stand together and figure out what we can do to right what may be wrong within KWS, what we can do to help. Just as there may be a few rotten apples, there are many more who are risking their lives everyday to protect our national heritage for what could be considered peanuts and terrible conditions.

So we need to look beyond KWS as well – for so many tons of ivory to pass through our borders – there are clearly many other players involved. This where the Presidents intervention is absolutely critical and crucial – extraordinary actions need to be taken across the board – those who are being protected by impunity and corruption need to be outed and punished across the board – whether they are in government, private sector – are nationals or internationals.  Recently, a group called the Ha Ha Birds sent a letter to the President naming some very influential individuals in Kenyan society and at KWS. Part of this letter is shared below:

First person to investigate for allegations made (witnesses will testify if protected … right on!) with no prejudice

Hassan Noor. CEO of Water Towers … sits on KWS Board while in charge of Mau and Water Towers. There is evidence that he is a main exporter of at least tusks, and of financing poaching in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya. Records of poachers killed in the field seem to confirm that a majority are from his clan and from Mandera.

Second person to investigate: with no prejudice

KWS Assistant Director Daniel Onsembe, who is the PA (Personal Advisor to the CEO, based in Nairobi.

Third person to investigate:with no prejudice

Corporal Ogori, a corporal based in Kilgoris who is alleged to be the present link person for poaching and has been coordinating the recent wave of successful poaching in the area.

Fourth person to investigate: with no prejudice

In Nakuru we are looking at a Senior Security Official in charge of the vast Rift Valley. Is this how Rhinos have been successfully killed right inside the park in attacks carried out by the same cartels. Someone knows the security routine to get around it … the rest is threats and transfer to other post to ensure silence.

It is hard for anybody that cares about Kenya and it’s Natural Treasures, as the Ha Ha Birds like to point out … to consciously work and cooperate or liaise with KWS when this is an alleged and provable reality and we support the trapped KWS staff in this situation. The honest staff and Rangers. In this we walk with the honest rangers. It is not enough to be honorary warden or rangers … might as well be boy scouts until maturity catches on. It is disconcerting and demoralizing even for the whole country and those protecting wildlife to realize that it is from the same body responsible for protecting wildlife … we repeat Jomo Kenyatta words, the Natural Treasures of Kenya … to be responsible from within for facilitating poaching elephants and rhinos.”

We don’t know how much of the above is true but the point is there is obviously a pervasive rot in the entire system in Kenya at the moment and it needs to be cleared – Mr President – We humbly ask you to take the right steps to do that. All of us – whether we be ordinary citizens, NGO’s, international friends of Kenya – we ask you again – Declare Poaching A National Disaster and as Wildlife Direct said designate Elephants and Rhinos as National Treasures. Let us give these dirty poachers and criminal traffickers everything we’ve got – because as Dr. Leakey said, we did it in the 80’s, we can do it now. We just need the political will – the people of Kenya are with you.

For all who haven’t signed this petition – keep signing and sharing…one day the President will respond. Let us all bring our voices to bear in whichever way we can.

 

PRESS STATEMENT FROM GLOBAL MARCH FOR LIONS – MOMBASA from KUAPO

Citizens of Kenya ask South Africa to ban lion farming, canned hunting and any form of sustainable use of wildlife. 

Sustainable use = Sustained Abuse

The citizens of South Africa are raising their voices today and the world is joining them. We all want the South African government to ban lion farming, canned hunting and trophy hunting with immediate effect. In 55 cities across the world, from Stockholm to Sao Paolo, from Vancouver to Melbourne, Hong Kong to Cape Town – citizens of the world are roaring for a cause.

Today there are less than 30,000 lions left in the wild – the canned hunting industry is further jeopardizing the survival of these wild lions as they are being caught to be kept on farms and hunted and they are feeding a growing industry for lion bones which is leading to more poaching of lions in the wild. The practice of canned hunting is an abomination, which involves willful acts of cruelty seemingly already banned by the South African government. Today, for lions across Africa, we ask them to enforce this ban and put an end to the cruelty.

In Kenya, we call upon the Government and the Kenya Wildlife Service to recognize the threat to our lion populations locally and to ensure that Kenya does not commit the same mistakes as our fellow brothers in South Africa. Let us pledge today to steer clear of “sustainable use” or “consumptive use” of wildlife and live up to our morals as a nation that does not believe that killing is conservation.

Simply put, lions were never meant to be canned. Let them roam, wild and free. Let all our wildlife, roam wild and free.

We also want to take this opportunity to express our deepest concern at the growing rates of poaching in the country. This year alone we have already lost 15 Rhinos – 13 to poaching incidents and 2 that drowned. With only approximately a 1000 rhinos left in Kenya per the last census in 2009, it will only be a few short years before our rhino population is completely wiped out.  We cannot stand by and let this happen. There is a clear signal that poachers continue to operate with impunity – even with an enactment of harsh laws – it seems that some are beyond the reaches of the long arm of the law and are not deterred by life imprisonment or hefty fines. Lake Nakuru National Park has lost 7 rhinos this year, 50% of those that have been poached in Kenya. We call upon KWS to take harsh and remedial action against any and all individuals involved in the poaching crisis, whether they are civilians or members of the service.  

We fear that the poaching cow has infiltrated the KWS boma and taken up temporary residence. We call upon those honest, hardworking and loyal KWS to evict these infiltrators immediately and bring the institution back to its former glory.    

 

Thank You!

 

Thanks to MEGAPIXELS for the following pictures: 

https://www.facebook.com/mansur.r.kara/media_set?set=a.644450808926050.1073741826.100000834101849&type=1

In the week since we heard what has definitively been the most bizarre announcement of 2014  – that the Honorable Judge Wilson Masalu Musene ordered the release of 832 pieces of raw ivory be returned to the “owner” a Mr Emile Ogane –  a lot has happened, and a lot has not happened!

The lot that has happened includes outcry and international recognition of the issue, a deeper understanding of the court case itself, the reasons that underpinned the ruling by Judge Musene and a whole lot of activity galvanised by local and international conservationists and enforcement bodies.

As we mentioned in our previous blog post, the moment we heard of this decision, together with several partners we started trying to figure out and understand how such a judgement could have been passed. We shared with you the stories that emerged from this research verified and unverified. Today we are able to confirm the following after having personally read the 11 page ruling from the High Court.

CASE FACTS

  1. Mr Emille Ogane claims that he has a license to trade and transport 832 pieces of ivory weight 2.9 tons from the DRC government. He was given the authority to collect this ivory from culled and dead elephants in and around the National Parks of DRC.
  2. Mr Emille Ogane engaged a Kenyan national Mr Owino Odhiambo to transport the ivory from Goma, DRC to Mombasa where Mr Odhiambo’s company Silver Line Shipping would send it onward to China and UAE.
  3. The ruling was made in favour of Mr Emille Ogane because according to the judge and the appellants the URA (respondents in the case) were unable to prove that the consignment had entered Uganda illegally despite it being disguised as coffee and secondly that goods in transit cannot be impounded by the URA or UWA.
  4. The release order is comprehensive in that neither the URA nor any other law enforcement agency in Uganda would be able to re-impound the ivory after its release on any grounds
  5. Neither Mr Owino Odhiambo or Mr Emille Ogane have appeared in court and no one is privy to their whereabouts.
  6. The URA have filed a notice of appeal and also a stay of execution on the above order until the appeal is heard.
  7. The stay of execution has been granted and the ivory will not go anywhere until the appeal is heard.

The most exciting thing of all is the issuance of arrest warrants for Mr Emille Ogane and Mr Owino Odhiambo by Ugandan Police which have also been given to Interpol. These two suspected smugglers are clearly on the run and may lead us to some big fish if they aren’t big fish themselves!

As for what has not happened – well a surprising lack of action from CITES and Government of Kenya.. Why CITES? Well CITES is supposed to issue a permit for any transport of ivory. According to their website, DRC has a ZERO quota for export of ivory so this act is in clear violation of that – unless CITES granted a permit. Could that even be true?

And Government of Kenya – well yes shouldn’t our government be saying something considering that not only is a Kenyan national is involved and named in this illicit consignment but also because this consigment was destined for our borders.

Furthermore, our sources in Uganda are concerned that the appeal may not pass muster and the second judge may throw it out and allow the release of ivory. We are slightly more optimistic than our sources though given Interpol’s current involvement but we cannot rest easy – we must continue to follow this case diligently and stay focused on the optimal outcome – that this ivory be burnt and destroyed before it is ever put in the hands of any other individual. So with that – we encourage you to please sign and share this petition urging the Ugandan Government to burn the ivory instead of returning it to a suspected criminal!

Uganda Please Destroy 3 tons of Blood Ivory – don’t return it

That’s all we have for now folks – but we will continue to bring you all the information we can…so watch this space!