Kenya Named by CITES Among Countries That Need To Urgently Tackle Illegal Wildlife Trade

Kenya Named by CITES Among Countries That Need To Strengthen Laws To Tackle Illegal Wildlife Trade


The 15 tonnes of ivory that President Uhuru Kenyatta burnt on 3 March, at the Nairobi National Park

The 15 tonnes of ivory that President Uhuru Kenyatta burnt on 3 March, at the Nairobi National Park

Kenya has been named by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wildlife and Flora (CITES) among 17 countries that need to pay priority attention to strengthen their laws to tackle illegal wildlife trade. According to the new figures released on 5 May, the 17 countries are among 88 countries and 13 dependent territories that CITES says need to strengthen their legal frameworks to help combat illegal wildlife trade.

The other countries include Algeria, Belize, Plurinational State of Bolivia, Comoros, Djibouti, Guinea-Bissau, Kazakhstan, Liberia, Mauritania, Mozambique, Pakistan, Paraguay, Rwanda, Somalia, United Republic of Tanzania and Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

CITES, in collaboration with United Nations Environmental Program, UNEP, also announced a collaborative initiative to provide assistance to priority countries and territories, upon their request, to enhance their wildlife legislation. This includes the provision of targeted legal advice on the four basic domestic measures required by CITES, compilation of examples of best legislation, drafting support and close cooperation with UNODC and UNDP on the implementation of the relevant provisions of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the strengthening of the rule of law and the fight against corruption.

“Our problem in Kenya is not that we do not have good laws,” says Liz Gitari, the legal affairs manager at WildlifeDirect. “We have very good laws, in fact, we have some of the most progressive laws on wildlife conservation in the world. Our issue is the enforcement of this law especially in inter agency cooperation. We lack a clear demonstration of political will to deal with wildlife trafficking in Kenya, there’s too much talk by government and too little action that produced tangible and verifiable results,’’ she said.

On their part, CITES said that ensuring the 35,000 species of plants and animals listed under CITES are not illegally traded or exploited unsustainably required effective national legal frameworks in each of the 181 Parties to the Convention. “This joint initiative between CITES and UNEP will offer targeted technical support to countries to meet CITES legislative requirements, which is critical to fight the illegal trade in wildlife,” said John Scanlon, the CITES Secretary-General.

While China is on the longer list of the 88 countries, it is interestingly not listed among the 17 countries that require priority attention to tackle illegal wildlife trade.

China, which has historically been a significant destination for illicit ivory, has elsewhere and severally been identified as the single most important influence on the increasing trend in illegal trade in ivory in Africa. There have been several calls for the country to ban its domestic trade in ivory and as Liz Gitari says, these calls should not be ignored.

‘’We need to address issues head-on and ignoring the China problem does not help,” says Gitari. “In the global community we live in, we must acknowledge that what China does will have grave implications on whether we win this war or not,’’ she said.

Liz Gitari adds that WildlifeDirect is about to launch a report on wildlife crime prosecution in Kenya, which looks at the handling of wildlife crimes since the enactment of a new Wildlife law in 2014.  And as Liz says, the results of the study show that Kenya still has a long way to go.




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