When it comes to stamping out poaching, Kenya is taking up a new philosophy: a life for a life.
The African nation is looking to fast-track new laws that mean wildlife poachers could the face the death penalty as part of their ongoing plan to rid the country of wildlife crime, according to Xinhua Chinese state media.
“We have in place the Wildlife Conservation Act that was enacted in 2013 and which fetches offenders a life sentence or a fine of $200,000,” Najib Balala, the Minister for Tourism and Wildlife, told reporters at the launch of the northern white rhino commemorative stamps at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, one of Africa’s two IUCN Green Listed reserves.
“However, this has not been deterrence enough to curb poaching, hence the proposed stiffer sentence.”
The Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya was the home of Sudan, the world’s last surviving male northern white rhino who died in March this year. Loss of habitat and war played a part in the decline of this species, but it was largely down to – you guessed it – decades of overhunting and poaching.
Richard Vigne, the CEO of Ol Pejeta, also announced a bold new plan to save the northern white rhinos from imminent extinction. Using a technique never successfully pulled off with rhinos, they are planning to take eggs from the ovaries of the two remaining females and fertilize them using cryogenically preserved semen from since-deceased males. However, the lack of available genetic diversity means that this will be no small feat.
“This effort will cost a huge amount of money, but is a noble effort to reverse at least one of the wrongs that mankind has wreaked upon other species that inhabit this planet with us,” added Vigne.
The UK’S Natural History Museum estimates the lengthy process could cost as much as £6.5 million.
Kenya has actually been making slow but steady progress at tackling poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. The country lost nine rhinos and 60 elephants to poachers in 2017, compared to 14 rhinos and 96 elephants in 2016.
Southern White rhinos were almost driven to near extinction by colonial poachers in the late 19th century when their numbers dropped to less than 100 individuals. However, thanks to huge conservation efforts, their numbers were up to nearly 20,000 in 2017, making them the only rhino species to not be listed as endangered.
Nevertheless, poaching is a problem that continues to chip away at the country’s already struggling wildlife. Just this month, on May 2, poachers killed two black rhinos and a calf in Meru National Park, Kenya.