First Lady Margaret Kenyatta on Thursday affirmed Kenya’s leadership and commitment to eradicate illegal trade in wildlife across the world.
The First Lady said Kenya has recorded a significant decline in poaching due to its enhanced wildlife law enforcement efforts and the government’s proactive anti-poaching measures.
"We have revamped and improved training and equipped Kenya Wildlife Service ranger forces that continuously evict poacher elements from the national parks," the First Lady said.
Margaret spoke during the fourth Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) which opened on Thursday at the Battersea Evolution in London, United Kingdom.
The First Lady, who is also the patron of the 'Hands Off Our Elephants' initiative, led the Kenyan delegation at the high-level London conference. Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala was present.
She said the government has strengthened collaboration with institutional networks and law enforcement agents in fighting wildlife crime including the judiciary, local, regional, and international stakeholders.
Margaret emphasized Kenya’s determination to eliminate markets and reduce demand for illegal wildlife trophies through the burning of ivory and rhino stockpiles.
"We have found it helpful in deterring the poaching of elephants and suppressing illegal ivory trade."
"Since 1989 to date, Kenya has destroyed a total of 137 tonnes of ivory and 1.5 tonnes of rhino horns," the First Lady said.
She pointed that Kenya has been able to significantly reduce the level of poaching of the country’s iconic wildlife species in the last three years.
"Our elephant population currently stands at over 34,000 while the rhino population stands at over 1,000."
"These are the fourth and third largest country populations in the world respectively,” the First Lady said.
Kenya is a key transit hub to international destinations and various illegal wildlife specimens – mainly ivory, rhino horn, pangolin scales and East African sandal wood – smuggled from within and other countries are transited through country’s ports.
The First Lady, however, said the application of strong and deterrent wildlife conservation and management policies that prescribe punitive prison sentences have worked well to reduce the illegal trade in wildlife in Kenya.
"We have further enhanced cross border collaboration within the region and on a global front to encourage countries to join our efforts to close market demand for illegal trade. We congratulate those countries that have pledged their support towards this effort," the First Lady said.
Noting that Kenya is endowed with some of the world’s most iconic species of wildlife, Margaret said the country’s participation in the global conference provided an opportunity to strengthen its resolve to eradicate illegal wildlife trade, build coalitions, and find solutions to better protect wildlife.
She observed that the objectives of the conference resonated with Kenya’s pursuit for sustainable development which requires diverse interventions to protect the country’s natural capital.
To further bolster wildlife conservation efforts, the First Lady called for new innovative ways to combat sophisticated crime triangles and research to inform practical policy interventions that will raise public awareness.
"Kenya intends to step up its enforcement efforts to tackle this organised crime by upholding internal law enforcement efforts, collaborate better with local communities and increase investment towards the protection of our iconic species."
She singled out enhancement of the capacity of Kenya’s a forensic laboratory to support law enforcement and successful prosecutions, improvement of the stockpile management system, enhancement of law enforcement at ports of entry and exit, human-wildlife conflict mitigation; and establishment of population status and distribution of pangolin as key areas of partnership in curbing the illegal wildlife trade.
The First Lady applauded the media’s contribution to combating poaching by profiling stories and supporting advocacy campaigns with local communities.
Speaking during the occasion Prince William Arthur, the Duke of Cambridge, commended the ongoing conservation work in Kenya, Tanzania and Namibia which he visited recently.
"I recently visited Kenya, Tanzania and Namibia and I saw the tremendous work in wildlife conservation," Prince William said, terming the illegal trade as an economic crime against humanity and the future.
He added: "It is time to treat the illegal wildlife trade as the serious organised crime that it is."
Other speakers included President Yoweri Museveni (Uganda), President Mokgweetsi Masisi (Botswana) and Ali Bongo Ondimba (Gabon) among other key stakeholders in wildlife conservation.