The illegal wildlife trade featured strongly at this year’s World Environment Day celebrations in Naivasha held at the Elsamere Field Training Centre in Naivasha on June 10, 2016.
Speakers took to the podium to decry trade in trophies and game meat, saying that this was harming biodiversity and costing the economy a lot of money. The theme for this year’s event was “Fight against the Illegal Trade in Wildlife.”
Caroline from the Kenya Birds of Prey Trust called on communities to protect birds of prey such as owls, raptors and vultures as they performed unique ecological functions such as pest and disease control.
For example, vultures eat animal carcasses thereby limiting the chance of diseases jumping from the dead animal to human beings and other living animals. Raptors and owls eat small rodents which might become a pest if their population is not controlled. She added that most African cultures detested owls and vultures as they symbolized death.
Susan Jepkemoi of the Elsamere Field Training Centre noted that poaching had dramatically reduced elephant and rhino population in Kenya and other parts of the world. In Kenya, efforts were being made to protect the black rhino, which is an endangered species, she said.
“At least five species have been rendered extinct due to human poaching. Three rhinos are poached everyday while 38,000 freshwater turtles are traded annually. Up to 30% of Asian elephants have to be held in captivity to protect them from poachers. Our biodiversity is under threat,” she said.
Noting that illegal trade in wildlife was big business globally earning up to $20 billion every year, Susan decried the fact that 1000 rangers have been killed by poachers over the last decade in what is shaping up to be a battle between the criminals and law enforcement agencies for the lucrative trade.
Hundreds of schoolchildren from different schools attended the event, which was graced by different organizations including Imarisha Naivasha, KenGen, Elsamere, Kenya Wildlife Service and Nature Kenya. Pauline Okonde from KWS was the chief guest.
Pauline reaffirmed KWS’ commitment to fighting illegal wildlife trade, saying that wildlife were worth more alive than dead.