“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” – Mahtama Gandhi
Kenya has made significant strides to ensure that perpetrators of wildlife crimes in the country are met with tough, harsh penalties as laid down in the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act 2013 (WCMA).
The legislation which came into force in January 2014 put the threshold of evidence admissible in a court of law high considering the marching penalties. The need to effectively prosecute cases of animals poaching, trophy trade and trafficking continues as offenders continue to engage in unlawful activities and trade.
Maasai Mara Wildlife Conservancies Association (MMWCA) in partnership with the USAID PREPARED Program trained 159 rangers drawn from 12 conservancies in the Greater Mara Ecosystem on how to use the WILD App to collect data on wildlife sightings, illegal activities, conduct patrols and report findings on a daily basis. MMWCA recognizes that first responders to wildlife crime mostly from local communities, are rangers or people with inadequate capacity to handle scene of crimes without distorting evidence.
“The training will help equip rangers with necessary skills needed to effectively collect evidence that can be used to link offenders, prosecute and punish those found culpable of wildlife crimes. These are geared towards comprehensive protection of Kenya’s national heritage.” Notes Stephen Kisotu – Technical Manager, MMWCA.
The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) in collaboration with Space for Giants and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) have come together to increase the number of specialized prosecutors to 14 from the current two.
Several shortcomings identified by the MMWCA have become apparent to the manner first responders handle their law enforcement mandate. These include:
– Contamination of evidence due to poor handling and preservation.
– Unpreparedness of the first responders in courts of Law.
– Limited knowledge of the provisions of the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act 2013
– Lack of Crime Scene Management Skills
– Drafting of defective charges
– Lack of knowledge on DNA Analysis and its role in investigation to prosecution
MMWCA in partnership with AFEW have embarked on a project “Building capacity of community conservancies’ rangers’ for effective management of wildlife crime scenes in the Greater Maasai Mara Ecosystem, Narok County Kenya.” The project hopes to train wildlife rangers drawn from the established 14 conservancies on crime scene management and preservation of evidence admissible in a court of law.
Poachers have gone to great lengths to hire best legal expertise available in a bid to defeat criminal liability. Defenders of wildlife have one option, to go higher and come out strongly and one of these ways will be to take forensic science seriously and build capacity across board to deter wildlife offenders.
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Introducing our new CEO; Daniel Ole Sopia
The Executive Board of the Maasai Mara Wildlife Conservancies Association (MMWCA) has made a change to the leadership team at MMWCA Secretariat. Daniel Ole Sopia has been appointed CEO of MMWCA effective 1st October 2017. Daniel will be responsible for leading MMWCA to the next level, building on the solid foundation and momentum achieved by the MMWCA team.
Daniel has vast experience in conservation, establishment of conservancies and in-depth knowledge of community engagement especially in the Mara and tourism in Kenya. He has done a remarkable job with MMWCA’s formation, firstly as the Chairperson of the Conservancies Council prior to joining the Secretariat as Chief Programs Officer. Now that the critical formation phase of both MMWCA and Conservancies is nearly complete, he will be moving on to work on strengthening the legal and leadership governance of the conservancies, sustainable revenue generating streams and increasing value for land under conservation.
We would like to thank Daniel for the significant contribution he’s made in setting the right tone, energy and structure at MMWCA, and for being a key driver in strengthening conservancies’ management and coordination of key stakeholders in the Greater Mara Ecosystem over the past couple of years.
We would like to welcome Daniel as he takes the helm as CEO of MMWCA. He will be responsible for working with the team to deliver on the plans we have been discussing over the past several years – to conserve the Greater Maasai Mara Ecosystem through a network of protected areas, for the prosperity of all – biodiversity and wildlife, the local population, and recreation and tourism for the nation of Kenya.
Daniel is an accomplished leader in conservation, with a track record of working with local communities to protect Kenya’s diverse ecosystems. He brings a great mix of leadership, inspiration, and passion for conservation. He serves on the Board of Greater Mara Trust/Greater Mara Management Limited as well as the Board of the Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association representing the Maasai Mara region. Daniel is a Silver-rated Professional Tour Guide who left active tour guiding to help set up Olare Motorogi Community Conservancy Trust in Maasai Mara. He co-steered Olare Motorogi Conservancy as a Director from 2006 to 2008, a Trustee and as a Community Development Manager until 2013. He has also served in the capacities of Board Member for Olare Motorogi Conservancy and Vice Chair of Olpurkel Company Limited, the Management Company managing the Olare Motorogi conservancy. Congratulations Daniel. We are indeed honoured to find someone that has such a perfect set of skills for this opportunity.
Finally, we would like to thank our partners for continued support as we charge ahead to ensuring the Maasai Mara is a cultural landscape where communities and partners secure wildlife and sustainable livelihoods for a better future.
A recent census has revealed a 72 per cent increase in the number of elephants within the Maasai Mara Conservancy and the Tsavo-Mkomazi ecosystems.
According to an aerial count by the Kenya Wildlife Service, there were 2,493 elephants at the Maasai Mara ecosystem compared to 1,448 recorded in 2014.
Releasing the results at the KWS Headquarters, Director General, Kitili Mbathi attributed the increase in the population to stiff penalties on poaching, increase of rangers and equipment.
“Over the past three years we have seen a serious decline in the level of poaching of elephants and rhinos and this has come about through three major factors, that includes additional rangers who are well trained, equipped and boost of the intelligence unit.”
The survey also captured that as much there is increase in the population of the elephant, human activities within and around the protected areas are gradually on the rise.
“Incidents of charcoal burning are on the rise, as well as the number of livestock in the ecosystem, both of which pose a threat to wildlife and their habitat,” Mbathi said.
An aerial count of elephants was also carried out in the Tsavo-Mkomazi ecosystem that includes: Tsavo East, Tsavo West, Chyulu and Mkomazi National parks as well as South Kitui National reserve, while the adjoining neighbourhoods include Taita, Kulalu and Galana Ranches.
During the census, a total of 12,866 elephants were counted, 12,843 in Tsavo eco system and 23 in Mkomazi national park.
Overall, the elephant population in Tsavo-Mkomazi ecosystem increased by 14.7pc over the last three years (2014-2017), representing an annual increase of 4.9pc over the period.
“The increase is notable, but as KWS there are plans to carry out further investigations on elephant poaching threat levels in Galana Ranch and Tsavo East national park northern side where a high carcass ratio was found with a view of taking corrective measures,” stated Mbathi.
Captured in the survey was the population of buffaloes and giraffes with both ecosystems recording an increase in their population.
KWS sought to look into the impact of the Standard Gauge Railway since being operational, and established that there is need to boost the electric fence along the railway line to avoid its destruction by elephants.
While referring to an incident where a section of the Tsavo East conservation fence was destroyed, Mbathi said the barrier as it is currently designed does not provide adequate power to prevent the elephants from crossing over.
“Along the SGR route there is an electric fence and some sections were not adequately electrified. We are working with Kenya railways to ensure that remedial measures are in place so the elephants will not be in a position to break the fence,” said the Director General.
He noted that they are observing animal behaviours in regard to the operations of the SGR line within national parks and reserves.
Biodiversity Research and Monitoring Assistant Director Shadrack Ngene said a few elephants have been collared to monitor their movements and if they are making use of the underpasses constructed to facilitate their migration.
“The collared elephants will help us understand the maximum utilization of underpasses that have been put up to facilitate their movement,” said Ngene, “But for now the elephants are using the underpasses effectively.”