Kenya Wildlife Service Executive Director William Kiprono yesterday hit back at critics from among the conservation NGO community when he slammed recent statements as “misleading the world that there is a crisis on elephant and rhino poaching in the country.” He then was quoted to this correspondent by a source attending the media briefing to have gone on saying that “despite what seems to be an upsurge in poaching of the two endangered species, the figures were not as alarming as portrayed recently by local NGOs.”
This swift reaction will not be pleasing to some in Kenya’s conservation fraternity who have taken the word of NGOs as the proverbial gospel only to hear things from another perspective as seen through the eyes of the KWS top brass.
Kiprono was then quoted to have further said that while there was no crisis there was a challenge, insisting that only KWS had the true figures through the use of scientific methods, clearly suggesting that some of the figures recently mentioned publicly were inaccurate if not outright exaggerated, setting his organization on a further collision course with the NGOs he was referring to.
According to KWS figures, 51 elephant had been poached this year and at least 11 rhinos were killed for their horns, while in 2013 the figures stood at 302 and 59, respectively. Added information sourced from past KWS press releases indicates that in 2012, 384 elephant had been killed while 30 rhinos had been poached – the latter figures last year resulting in sharp exchanges between KWS and EcoTourism Kenya’s Executive Director over the true extent of poaching in the country when he publicly rubbished those figures as too low and got subsequently arrested following a criminal complaint by the then KWS Executive Director Kipng’etich.
Some recent surveys in the Tsavo/Taita Hills/Mkomanzi area of elephant populations also confirmed a loss of some 1,500 elephant since the last survey 3 years ago, which would average to about 500 a year and as such greater than the figures released by KWS on the loss of elephant, though, of course, it cannot be conclusively established at this stage if these “missing” elephant migrated to other parts of Kenya and across the border in Tanzania or were truly poached.
Kiprono also used the opportunity to appeal for greater funding and for development partners and donors to support KWS directly, seen as a reference to channeling more funds into Kenya’s main conservation body rather than financially supporting NGOs which among themselves are jostling to tap into donor funds as their internal competition for funding is heating up.
What has over the past weeks become patently obvious is that KWS and a number of conservation NGOs do not see eye to eye on some issues, demonstrating the need for further one-on-one dialogue with their critics in order to close ranks and combat the real enemy out there – the poachers – instead of wasting resources and time in trying to play act in the public arena for brownie points.