Space for Giants has just been awarded funding from the UK Government’s Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund for a project to reduce the illegal killing of endangered wildlife, particularly elephants and rhinos, in Kenya by curbing the supply side of the illegal trade. Kenya is one of three African countries identified by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) as being of greatest concern with regards to the trafficking of ivory out of Africa.
Tens of thousands of elephants and hundreds of rhinos are killed every year due to the illegal wildlife trade. One of the major factors contributing to the proliferation of this crime is the absence of meaningful deterrents as wildlife crime is characterized by low conviction rates and low penalties.
The recent passing of a new Wildlife Conservation and Management Act (2014) in Kenya has significantly increased potential penalties associated with wildlife crime. The reality, however, is that due to low capacity along the entire criminal trial process, it is unlikely that this new law will result in the creation of a major deterrent for wildlife related crime unless strategic actions are taken.
Working with our partners, the Kenyan Wildlife Service, Office of the Director Public Prosecutions (ODPP) and WildlifeDirect our aim is to significantly increase conviction rates and penalties for those who commit wildlife crime by building capacity along the entire criminal trial process. This will be achieved by: 1) providing training to law enforcement personnel along the entire criminal trial process, from the scene of the crime to the point of conviction; 2) enabling court user committees (CUCs) to become effective forums for the review and administration of justice in cases of wildlife crime.
The need for this project has been revealed through a recent court case investigation, conducted by our project partners WildlifeDirect, and a pilot study implemented by Space for Giants in Laikipia County, Kenya. Both of these initiatives have identified the judicial system as the main area of weakness in combatting wildlife crime in Kenya. The ‘Building Capacity to Counter Wildlife Crime’ project will address these shortcomings.
High-level training provided to law enforcement personnel in Northern Kenya will increase their capacity to investigate and prosecute wildlife crimes; and empowerment of CUCs will allow them address problems within the criminal trial process to increase the number of successful prosecutions. This will both remove poachers from the landscape, and act as a significant deterrent to poaching, which will reduce the illegal killing of elephants and rhinos.