The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) plans to install boundary alarm systems and employ an additional 1 000 game rangers to protect national game reserves.
This is in response to a spike in poaching activity which saw at least 15 elephants killed in January.
KWS director William Kiprono told Somali-based Sabbahi Online the country also needed more aircraft to maintain surveillance over game reserves as well as vehicles and rifles to boost the reach and firepower of game rangers against organised local and international poaching syndicates.
He said the alarm system, connected to reserve fences, will go a long way in helping rangers pinpoint and react in the shortest possible time to boundary violations. The alarm system will detect intrusions and use the short message
service (SMS) to alert listening posts, showing exactly where tampering or breaking of fences has occurred.
Research conducted by KWS shows the new alarm system can cut intrusion into game reserves by 90%.
“This system will be able to stem runaway poaching and we see it as the long term solution to save animals from being wiped out by poachers. Tampering with fences includes animals interfering these structures, but it also shows attempts by poachers to tear down the fence. The signals will show exact locations so game rangers can react timeously,” Kiprono said.
As part of its game reserve security revamp programme KWS will recruit 1 000 more game rangers, buy more aircraft for surveillance and more advanced rifles and other weapons to out-match poachers, who are often well-trained riflemen and sophisticated enough to sometimes use helicopters to drive herds of elephants around game parks to more secluded points of slaughter.
The agency’s fight-back against poaching also includes public education and poaching awareness programmes targeting communities around major game reserves and poaching flashpoints.
“Elephants are sliding into the endangered species group. This poaching trend is not acceptable and cannot be tolerated. That is why we have to come up with more tactics to tackle this menace.
“Last year, we lost more than 384 elephant and 19 rhino; in 2011 we lost 289 elephant and 29 rhino. In January alone over 15 elephants and seven rhino were killed by poachers,” he said.
Last August KWS commissioned the construction of the first wildlife forensic and genetics laboratory for the East Africa region in Nairobi. The laboratory is expected to provide critical support for investigation and prosecution of wildlife-related crimes. It will also provide services for tracking the genetic status of declining wildlife and determining gene pools requiring special protection.
KWS is also fighting for its own credibility following allegations that some serving and former game rangers are involved with armed Somali poaching gangs blamed for the poaching scourge.
The government is yet to decide on whether to deploy paramilitary police and the army to crack down on the poaching crisis which conservationists fear may spiral out of control in the absence of robust short and long term interventions to secure the parks.
Tour operators in Kenya have called on government to deploy moreadvanced technology including drones to monitor movement of poachers and wildlife in the parks.