PRESS RELEASE: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WildlifeDirect calls on stringent measures to curb illegal grazing following recent fires at Tsavo West National Park
Nairobi, 10thAugust 2020: Fire fighters worked tirelessly during the last two days to contain bush fires that erupted on 8thAugust at Tsavo West National Park.
In a statement to the press, the Kenya Wildlife Service has stated that it suspects that arsonists lit the fires and that police are tracking them down. The government deployed several agencies including the Kenya Defense Force, Kenya Forestry Service, National Youth Service, the County Government of Taita Taveta, conservation partners and community members to extinguish the fires.
The public are alarmed by the recurrent nature of these fires and whose scale is unprecedented. “Every time a fire is extinguished, another is lit somewhere else. These are the most severe fires experienced in my lifetime”, said Dr. Paula Kahumbu, CEO-WildlifeDirect.
WildlifeDirect has been monitoring wildlife crimes in all courts in Kenya since 2008 (see our Eyes In The Courtroom reports on our website wildlifedirect.org under resources). The Tsavo/Taveta/Voi area records the highest number of illegal grazing in national parks crime. Our current data, which will soon be released, reveals that the top most wildlife crime cases in Kenya are on illegal entry and illegal entry with livestock and they account for the bulk of wildlife crime offences nationwide.
Dr. Kahumbu stated, “The ecological impact of illegal grazing is massive. It results in habitat degradation, resulting in increased vulnerability to climate change and habitat loss for wildlife.”
In the last 2 years 883 people were charged with illegal entry and illegal entry with livestock into the Kenyan protected areas. 94% of those accused pleaded guilty and were convicted and sentenced on the same day.
The law states that a maximum of shs.100, 000 penalty be applied or 6 months in jail and the sentences mostly given out in Voi and Taveta courts were ranging between shs.10,000 and shs. 20,000 fine. 81% of the accused paid the fine and the rest walked free mainly because they were minors. Herders are using children to avoid the long arm of the law. This is not a new phenomenon; in 2017 we highlighted this issue in our Court Monitoring Report and recommended that the Child Welfare Service to be involved in the matter. However, to date nothing has been done.
It is also important to note that in the last 2 years, not a single jail term has been recorded for any person who was illegally grazing livestock in the national parks neither has anyone been arrested and charged with lighting a fire in a national park.
Our parks, particularly Tsavo West, are overrun with cattle that are herded by lowly children but owned by mega rich cattle barons in the cities who it is believed use livestock to launder corruption money. It’s no secret that more corruption equals more cattle in parks (Read The Cattle Barons of Kenya)
Message to the President
- Declare the fires in Tsavo West National Park a National Ecological Disaster and give the fire fighting teams adequate support to fight them, to investigate the arsonists and to bring them to justice.
- Declare parks vital to the economy and heritage of Kenya and sacred.
- Declare grazing in parks and arson in a National Park a crime against the economy and treat all offenders as criminals against the economy.
- Identify an Environmental Disaster Chief in the Office of the President who will champion and support the KWS and Ministry of Environment in creating a national fire preparedness plan with fully equipped stations and trained personnel, and a mechanism to declare emergencies and tap emergency funds or networks for support.
- Hold the Ministry of Livestock to account for ineffective livestock policy, policing and practices, and for failing to stem the abuse of parks for livestock grazing.
- Involve legislators and judiciary in amending and implementing the law specifically on penalties given to offenders charged with the offense of illegal entry and illegal entry with livestock, to be regarded as a serious offence.
- Call on Child Welfare Services to step in and address the abuse of children to commit crimes that are causing catastrophic degradation of our national parks.
For more information, please contact:
Victoria Wangui – WildlifeDirect, Communications Assistant
Email: email@example.com +254 (0) 715 845 128
WildlifeDirect is a Kenyan based conservation organization that has transformed anti-poaching results in Kenya through the award-winning conservation campaign “Hands Off Our Elephants” and the production of Africa wildlife documentaries. The vision of WildlifeDirect is changing hearts and minds and laws to ensure that Africa’s wildlife endure forever. WildlifeDirect produces wildlife documentary series’ as part of its mission to connect Kenyans to their wildlife and nature and inspire them to treasure it and act to conserve it.