Africa has seen the unprecedented destruction of its wild fauna and flora as a result of poaching, fueled to a large degree by the profits that are gained by wildlife traffickers.
The last 35 years have seen the loss of 97 per cent of rhinoceros species and, in many countries, over 90 per cent of elephant populations, through uncontrolled trafficking in rhino horn and ivory.
Many other species are suffering the same fate. Birds, primates, reptiles and cycads are all being smuggled out of Africa to satisfy consumer demand abroad. At risk too are Africa’s rich and diverse tropical forests, threatened by uncontrolled commercial exploitation.
Kenya has had a fair share of these incidences that have been described as a great threat to the wildlife as well as tourism industry.
Maverick conservationist, Richard Leakey, recently said “Commercial bush meat hunting has become the most significant immediate threat to the future of wildlife in Africa and around the world.
And reacting to a proposal by the Center of International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biodiversity (CDB) on legalizing bush meat, Leakey said “legalizing this multi-billion trade will not help the wildlife. It will instead exterminate what remains, species that we are working so hard to preserve.” Leakey has spent two decades working to conserve wildlife in Kenya.
CIFOR had proposed that legalizing the trade was the only way to ensure species survival and provide protein needs to impoverished people.
“CIFOR argues that since up to 80 percent of the rural households in central and western Africa already depend on bush meat for their daily protein requirements, a blanket ban on the trade would endanger both humans and wildlife.
Notably a number of species that have experienced local extinctions or drastic declines due to the bush meat trade in Africa, including elephants, chimpanzees, gorillas, Pangolin, bush pigs, duikers, and monitor lizards.
Numerous primate species are especially susceptible. The bush meat trade is also a threat to many species in Asia. Three days ago more than 50 suspects were arrested as regional countries step up efforts against illegal trade in wildlife and their products.
A joint operation involving Kenya, Congo-Brazzaville, Ghana, Uganda and Zambia since June has seen conservancy officials recover 1,000 kilograms of ivory in powder form and carvings as well as hippo teeth.
Leopards, serval cats, cheetahs and pythons skins were also recovered in the four-month crackdown dubbed Operation Baba — in honor of a Ghanaian ranger who was killed by poachers. Thirty-six of the 57 suspects were caught in Kenya and 113 pieces of ivory, weighing 358 kilograms recovered.