Nairobi, Aug 24 – High-profile traffickers in illegal wildlife products in Kenya are not being brought to justice with certainty, according to the latest review of wildlife crimes in the country compiled by the advocacy group WildlifeDirect.
“The process leading up to a certain arrest, charging with serious offences, speedy trial leading to a conviction and sentencing followed up by seizure of assets belonging to high-profile traffickers is not guaranteed,” says the review, entitled On the Right Path? An analysis of Kenya’s law enforcement response to wildlife crime.
The review is the third in a series of reports monitoring the effectiveness of Kenya’s wildlife law enforcement in response to wildlife crime.
Analysing wildlife crime data collected from courts in Kenya in 2016 and 2017, WildlifeDirect researchers measured and evaluated progress. A total of 1,958 wildlife offenders were arrested and charged with 2,610 wildlife crime-related offences in 957 cases. A high conviction rate of 95 per cent by the prosecution points to certain likelihood that all these wildlife offenders will be prosecuted.
However, arrest and conviction rates, observed in isolation, do not fully examine the true dynamics of how effective the Wildlife Act is being enforced. It becomes important to understand the nature of wildlife offences, quality of trial advocacy, efficacy of expert analysis, appreciation of wildlife trophies as evidence, conclusion of cases, adjudication and sentencing style of trial magistrates, the report notes.
It points out that illegal entry into national parks with livestock was the most common offence transgressors were charged with.
Bushmeat and trafficking in wildlife products directly involved 48 different protected wildlife species. Elephants were identified as the most imperilled species affected.
On average, cases related to elephant ivory and pangolin scales were speedily concluded and harsh sentences handed down, while cases relating to major seizures drag on in court, according to the review.
Several cases relating to 19,000 kilograms of elephant ivory are still pending in various courts. The trial delay in these cases was mainly attributed to the lack of mutual legal assistance treaties with countries where seizures were made.
For the first time in Kenya’s history, a high-profile trafficking kingpin was convicted in 2016 and sentenced to 20 years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of $200,000.
Unfortunately, the convict was earlier this month acquitted on appeal due to allegations of evidence tampering by police officers.