An internal investigation by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) revealed in 2013 that poaching and illegal trafficking of ivory had assumed an internal dimension, driven by some current and former staff members.
The report of the Fact-Finding Committee on Wildlife Security contains details on how the Service’s own employees were colluding with poachers to kill elephants and rhinos for their horns that are then trafficked to Asian markets.
“During discussions with teams on the ground, it emerged that some former employees, particularly those who left the service on disciplinary grounds, are being associated with poaching within the (Tsavo) ecosystem,” the committee appointed by acting KWS director William Kiprono reported.
In addition, the committee pursued leads that indicated the possibility of collusion between serving and former employees in specific areas where elephants and rhinos were killed.
“For instance, the rhino that was killed in Ngulia sanctuary in March 2012 was shot at a water-hole inside the sanctuary that was not manned at that time. This could not have been possible without the collusion by an insider conversant with the deployment,” the committee reported.
Following on the report, the KWS board then under the chairmanship of former Finance minister David Mwiraria had also instituted investigations in which more than 30 staff were interdicted.
However, all those who were interdicted were brought back, and one of the officials who was adversely mentioned transferred to Mombasa.
Mr Kiprono confirmed the actions the board took then. “For sure the board cleared those people. The normal process was followed,” he said.
The committee’s findings also indicated that poachers were adopting “new techniques involving the use of mobile phones, motorbikes and small vehicles to enhance poaching co-ordination and reduce chances of being detected and apprehended.” Other techniques, the report said, include use of poisoned arrows, water melons and spikes.
The allegations of staff involvement in poaching and illegal trafficking of ivory raises serious questions about wildlife security in the country following the recent seizure by authorities in Thailand and Singapore of Sh1 billion ivory in from Kenya in one month. Nine people, including an official of the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and a transporter were arrested.
Conservationist Paula Kahumbu told Sunday Nation that while Kenya’s biggest problem is that it has become the major transit point for ivory from other African countries, poaching remains rampant.
According to the government, Dr Kahumbu said, the number of elephants killed by poachers in 2014 was about 150, but she believes the figure could be higher.