- A pre-dawn shoot-out between wildlife rangers and poachers at Kenya’s Tana River District at the weekend has left seven people dead.
During the shoot-out three wildlife rangers and four poachers were killed. The latest figure brought the number of wildlife rangers killed while on duty to 23 since 1990.
It is reported that a gang of poachers en route to Tsavo East National Park started the firing when rangers asked them to stop.
"Our rangers paid the ultimate prize - human life. But their deaths will not be in vain. We remain vigilant and dedicated to our call - to stamp out poaching and preserve Kenya's wildlife heritage," Dickson Lesimirdana, head of Anti-Poaching Operations at Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) said.
Tsavo is Africa’s second largest park that continues to attract poachers has been recognised worldwide for being an important safe haven for elephant populations.
"This tragic event is a prime example of the parallel effects of the rampant illegal international elephant ivory trade, responsible for the killing of an estimated 20,000 elephants annually, on human populations,” James Isiche, the East Africa Regional Director for International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), said. “
The threat is real, both to humans and elephants, and most wildlife authorities in elephant ranges states are forced to grapple with this challenge."
IfAW is currently funding a major Tsavo restoration project.
Rangers and poachers exchanged gun shots at a time when KWS and Kenya’s Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife convened a consultative workshop on African elephant in Nairobi. This was a prelude to the 14th meeting of parties to the Convention on the International Trade on Endangered Species (CITES) in The Hague in 3 June.
Kenya and Mali have submitted a proposal to the CITES for a 20-year moratorium on all ivory. They currently amass the backing of 10 African elephant range, an episode that lends further clout to the proposal. It is argued that enforcement authorities in many elephant range states are unable to sustain the current level of poaching.
"The ivory trade and the violence amongst humans that it perpetuates will continue to flourish if elephants are not protected to the fullest under CITES," IFAW quoted its former Director of Elephant Programme, Michael Wamithi, as saying.
"A ban on all ivory trade is the only way to work towards protecting both elephants and human populations," he said.
Between August 2005 and 2006, more than two dozens of elephant ivory was seize, the highest annual seizure rate recorded since the 1989 CITES ban was enforced.
Besides, it is estimated that nearly 90 percent of contraband slips through undetected.
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