Kenya Wildlife Service’ efforts to control wildlife crimes received a major boost with multi-partner donations made at KWS headquarters, May 18, 2021.
The donations fell under two projects: wildlife trafficking evidence security and destruction in Kenya and Uganda - donations were from Space for Giants, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and African Wildlife Foundation (AWF): and countering wildlife trafficking in Kenya - donated by International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and AWF.
Speaking on behalf of the KWS Director General, Parks and Reserves Director prof. Charles Musyoki said that in 2019, the Service began a transformation journey in its Strategic Plan 2019-2024, based on the three key pillars of Conservation, Collaboration and Enterprise.
“These pillars are supported by six strategic objectives with the most relevant one being the second objective; strengthening law enforcement capacity which aimed at stopping potentially devastating threats to wildlife species due to illegal activities including wildlife trafficking and associated poaching syndicates to feed illegal markets. Past experience indicates that focused wildlife law enforcement efforts coupled with other conservation approaches can accelerate species protection efforts,” he said.
The director said that poaching and illegal wildlife trade are increasingly becoming a major security challenge to wildlife law enforcement agencies across the globe, due to their link with other transnational organized criminal activities such as terrorism, drugs, arms and human trafficking.
He stated that in the past, KWS relied heavily on police assistance whilst processing wildlife crime scenes. The police were not always available due to the remote locations where some of these crimes occur. As such, KWS, through the Office of The Director of Public Prosecutions, gazetted its own crime scene officers in 2015. Their gazzetment has been a game changer in the prosecution of wildlife crime suspects, with positive feedback being received from the courts. This development made KWS the only wildlife law enforcement agency in Africa with its own scene of crime officers.
KWS plans to equip all existing investigation units with scene of crime equipment as well as open additional units. The Service in collaboration with its conservation partners is also focusing on training of first responders to crime scenes where a number of officers from different conservation areas have benefited and others are also lined up for future training.
The implementation of the project is anchored on four key objectives;
- Establishing formal protocols, guidelines and systems regarding evidence security and chain of custody of seized wildlife products.
- Providing training and mentorship on evidence management, the chain of custody to wildlife law enforcement officers, customs, prosecutors, police, evidence custodian and other relevant stakeholders.
- Providing equipment assistance and support to the relevant agencies to upgrade evidence lockers/ storage.
- Providing destruction and responsible maintenance of limited seized evidence following investigations and prosecutions.
The whole project was funded by The US Department Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.
The director thanked all the partners for their benevolence, which continued throughout the Covid 19 pandemic. He appreciated the motorcycle donations and hoped that future collaborations would yield vehicle donations, as well.
Items which have already been delivered to KWS under this project include six motor cycles, five desktop computers and five printers at a total cost of Ksh. 1,812,083.00.
Deputy Director of Security Nancy Kabete thanked all the partners for their support, which helped KWS achieve zero rhino poaching in 2020, and the lowest number of elephants poached ever recorded.
She requested the partners present to assist KWS with finding solutions to continuing cases of Human-Wildlife Conflict. She reiterated that communities living adjacent to wildlife were cognizant of the animals’ importance, but that ways had to be sought for peaceful co-existence between man and wildlife.
In attendance were the IFAW Regional Director for East Africa Mr. James Isiche; UNODC representative Javier Montana; Director of I & M; Space for Giants representatives and representatives of AWF.