Kenya Wildlife Service Arrests 8 Men

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Kenya Wildlife Service rangers have arrested seven professional Tanzanian hunters and their Kenyan guide for illegally hunting around Tsavo West National Park in a renewed crackdown on wildlife criminals. The KWS rangers who had laid an ambush at Koranze in Taita Taveta District also recovered three powerful sporting firearms, 43 rounds, two powerful spotlights, a panga, a knife and assorted foodstuffs in the Saturday 3pm incident.

The suspects have been booked in at Voi Police Station awaiting prosecution and their vehicle impounded. At the same time, three suspected game meat dealers and their driver are being held at the Athi River police station on the outskirts of Nairobi for illegal meat trade and poaching. Their vehicle has also been impounded.

KWS special operations personnel have stepped up security along the international boundary having lost several elephants to poachers in the recent months.

The Tsavo West National Park incident is the second involving professional hunters straying across the border to shoot wildlife in Kenya. Several incidents where KWS rangers have exchanged fire with Tanzanian poaching gangs leading to the recovery of many weapons and the elimination of several gangs have been reported.

The hunters cross over from Mkomazi Reserve in Tanzania where hunting is legal into Koranze area in Taita Taveta District.

These incursions could be a result of a lack of wildlife in many parts of Tanzania caused by abused licensed hunting. Kenya Wildlife Service and Tanzanian Wildlife Authority work closely on wildlife security through a cross border agreement facilitated by the Lusaka Task Force.

The three suspected game dealers were intercepted with 213 kg of meat in five sacks on Saturday morning at 4.30 am at the Toll Station police check on Mombasa-Nairobi highway, barely 10 km from the city. They will be charged with wildlife and public health offences once investigations are complete.

The conductor in the matatu van escaped while police were inspecting what the dealers had initially claimed to be ‘rice’. Kenya Wildlife Service and public health officials found the meat to be that of two wildebeests (174 kg) and a young zebra (39kg). The animals were killed between Kitengela and Isinya in Kajiado District in a wildlife dispersal area adjacent to Nairobi National Park. KWS investigations have so far found that this trade has been going on for the last two months and the target markets are popular meat-eating places like Kenyatta Market, City Market and Burma.

The game meat dealers sell their meat passing it off as beef at a low price of Ksh 65 US$1) per kg at these markets. The Kenya Wildlife Service is concerned that this illegal trade is not only wiping out priceless wildlife but also posing great health risks to people.

The uninspected meat has a very high risk of transmitting diseases like anthrax and Rift Valley Fever to people. The odd time of operation by the suspected poachers in custody –4.30 am-- is outside the legal requirement of 6 am to 6pm while carrying meat in polythene bags makes it unhygienic for human consumption.

KWS investigators have also found that poachers turn to cattle theft when they fail to get livestock. We would like to appeal to land owners in dispersal areas to report hunters for wildlife because they not only kill wild animals but also resort to stealing cattle.

We have intensified our intelligence gathering on game meat and will do everything humanly possible to protect wildlife and people from the dangerous trade in game meat.

The two major arrests in a single day follow heightened surveillance by KWS in collaboration with other government security agencies and communities near wildlife areas.

Paul Udoto,
Kenya Wildlife Service,
Corporate Communications Manager