Kenya on Thursday hosted a meeting of the Eastern African elephant range states – Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, South Sudan and Ethiopia, to find common ground to stop poaching and fight other wildlife crimes, which have seen mainly elephant and rhino, but also other species, poached and trophies, teeth and skins smuggled abroad to consumer markets like China and Vietnam.
The newfound cooperation, supported by the Lusaka Agreement Taskforce, extends to the sharing of intelligence data, joint antipoaching operations, law enforcement in broad terms and future alignment in legislation and regulations.
Participants were drawn from the regional wildlife management bodies, law enforcement, security agencies and policy makers.
East Africa in recent years was at the very center of poaching, where elephants were lost in alarming numbers, especially in Tanzania, while the ports of Dar es Salaam and Mombasa were becoming notorious for smuggling ivory out of the continent.
Host Kenya is also the only country in the region which has a forensic laboratory dedicated to conservation, based at the headquarters of the Kenya Wildlife Service and additional investments are underway to upgrade the facilities and allow for DNA sequencing. This will also allow for the chain of evidence to be tightened when samples are delivered to the lab for analysis.
Meanwhile Kenya has also announced the fitting of additional satellite-based tracking devices on elephants and rhinos in the world-renowned Masai Mara Game Reserve to improve real time monitoring and surveillance of populations. Uganda is using similar technology – in Murchison Falls National Park elephant have been fitted with collars to allow the Uganda Wildlife Authority to monitor their movements and, in case they stray from the park, to intervene in a timely fashion.