Kenya deployed paramilitary forces and plans to acquire drones to fight poaching of rhino and elephant populations in the East African nation where wildlife parks help draw almost 2 million visitors a year.
“Wildlife underlies an important and growing role in Kenya’s economy because of the wildlife-based tourism industry,” Richard Lesiyampe, principal secretary in the ministry of environment and natural resources, said today in the capital, Nairobi. “Poaching of our indigenous species, especially elephants and rhinos, has to stop.”
Kenya is home to the Maasai Mara park, through which the annual migration of millions of wildebeest takes place, and boasts Indian Ocean beaches. Tourism is the country’s biggest foreign-currency earner after tea, generating more than $1 billion a year.
The nation, which has banned the trade in ivory, is trying to clamp down on a rise in killings of rhinos for their horns and the murder of elephants for their tusks. Poachers killed 34 rhinos so far this year, a 17 percent increase on the whole of 2012, while 190 elephants have been illegally slaughtered in Kenya in 2013, compared with 384 last year, Lesiyampe said.
That leaves Kenya with a population of about 1,025 rhinos and 40,000 elephants, he said.
Kenya today began training a 121-man anti-poaching unit comprising personnel from the Kenya Wildlife Service, administration police and the general service unit, the paramilitary wing of the Kenyan police.
“We are in the process of acquiring drones,” William Kiprono, director of the Kenya Wildlife Service, told reporters in Nairobi today, without providing further details.
The World Wildlife Fund is among organizations using technology such as drones to combat poaching. The WWF last year introduced unmanned aerial vehicles, which are launched by hand and programmed to fly automatically, to monitor poachers hunting for endangered animals in Nepal and criminals involved in illegal logging, according to its website.
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