Kilindini Port Key Transit Point for Illegal Wildlife Trade

Kilindini Port
Kilindini, Mombassa

By MarEx 2016-05-11 22:32:29

Kenya is taking a bold stand against wildlife crime through improved enforcement action, higher penalties for wildlife criminals, and last year it was the only African range State to report a significant fall in the numbers of rhinos poached. 

Nevertheless, the country’s Kilindini Port in Mombassa is highlighted as a key source and transit point for wildlife commodities exiting Africa due to weaknesses in laws governing wildlife trafficking, corruption and high demand in Asia, according to a USAID-funded report launched by NGO TRAFFIC and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). 

Kilindini Port is an important exit point from Africa for illegally traded wildlife products from countries including Tanzania, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Zambia and South Sudan. Since 2009, more ivory has been shipped through Mombasa than any other trade route out of Africa. 

Wildlife trade routes between Kenya and Asia Source: Sam Weru, adapted Illustration

“Corruption among government and private sector officials is a key enabling factor of the illegal wildlife trade,” states the report. “The fact that wildlife contraband, especially rhino horn and elephant ivory, has been exported from Kenya only to be seized in transit or in destination countries means that wildlife traffickers are able to exploit security loopholes in the country’s law enforcement network.”

The lack of regional and international co-operation in East Africa to address wildlife crime is also identified as a critical weakness. “Future enforcement interventions in Kenya and elsewhere in the region need to be internationally co-ordinated and focus on targeting the middlemen and kingpins of large-scale trafficking, rather than easily replaceable low-level poachers and transport mules,” said Steven Broad, Executive Director of TRAFFIC. 

Kenya’s wildlife has suffered at the hands of poachers. According to the report, after years of recovery, Kenya’s elephant population is undergoing a marginal decline, with around 32,500 animals left in the wild — still well below the estimated population of 167,000 in 1973. Similarly, since 1970, Kenya’s rhinoceros population has fallen from around 20,000 to just 650 Black and 381 White Rhinos in 2014, although this is still the third largest rhino population in Africa after South Africa and Namibia

In recent years, despite the valiant efforts of KWS and others, increasingly sophisticated poaching networks linked to organized crime have emerged, posing ever greater challenges to the security of wildlife and the people that manage and protect it. Corrupt security agents, porous borders, and endemic conflict among communities in northern Kenya facilitate the illicit flow of weapons used by local poachers.

National elephant poaching trends, 2005 to 2014 Source: KWS database

In spite of these challenges and limited resources, Kenya has achieved tremendous improvements in tackling wildlife crime. Under the new Constitution of 2010, the country has taken significant steps toward codifying conservation and wildlife protection into a wildlife policy and legal framework. The Wildlife Conservation and Management Act of 2013 (WCMA) provides very high minimum penalties of KES20 million (more than $200,000) and/or life imprisonment for the killing of threatened species. 

Prior to the enactment of the WCMA, a study of wildlife crime cases prosecuted between 2008 and 2013 revealed only four percent of those convicted of wildlife crimes went to jail, and in relation to ivory and rhino horn cases, only seven percent of offenders were incarcerated after conviction. 

Source: R. Muasya pers comm. via Powerpoint presentation at the Kenya Wildlife Poaching and Trafficking Workshop April 14-15, 2015

The report concludes that Kenya needs to mobilize human and financial resources to prevent the illegal killing of wildlife in addition to partnering with conservation NGOs, relevant international bodies and diplomatic missions in a targeted and continuous dialogue, aiming to reduce the appetites of wildlife consumers, particularly in Asia. Since the majority of Kenya’s wildlife lives outside formal protected areas, incentives for community-led conservation are also critical to the future of the nation’s natural heritage. 

“The U.S. is firmly behind the international drive to curtail the poaching crisis that is decimating elephants, rhinos and other wildlife in Africa and its associated criminal activities that impact on broader issues, including rule of law, national security, rural livelihoods and economic development,” said USAID/Kenya and East Africa Mission Director, Karen Freeman. “USAID’s support for the production and writing of this TRAFFIC report is a small but essential component of our overall response to this ongoing crisis.” 

The report is available here.