Kenya, UK launch toolkit to combat illegal wildlife trade

 Najib Balala

Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala. Kenya and the UK launched a toolkit to help impede the illegal wildlife trade.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Kenya and the United Kingdom on Thursday launched a toolkit to help impede the illegal wildlife trade.

The Wildlife Trade Financial Flows toolkit was spearheaded by the UK’s minister for environment, Lord Zac Goldsmith, and Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala at the Kenya Wildlife Service offices in Nairobi.

The kit will help financial institutions such as banks to spot, address and report any suspicious transactions related to illegal wildlife trade.

The UK, in collaboration with TRAFFIC, an organisation that deals with wildlife trade monitoring, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Themis and Safaricom helped develop the template.

“We are committed to combating illegal wildlife trade and particularly saving endangered species. Today, the pangolin is the most illegally trafficked mammal in the world,” Mr Balala said.

“We are therefore grateful to all convening partners coming together with the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife in launching this toolkit that will contribute to the safeguarding of our flora and fauna for the benefit of future generations.”

Mr Goldsmith asked Kenyans to prioritise the campaign against illegal wildlife trade and ensure it is wiped out.

The launch follows a recent incident in which 282 cartons of crabs were intercepted at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) as they were being exported to China.

A report by TRAFFIC estimates that about one million pangolins have been poached in the past one decade.

TRAFFIC also highlights other threatened animals, including African rhinos, elephants, tigers and the South African abalone.

“Kenya has much to celebrate as it is home to three pangolin species. Pangolins are shy, mainly nocturnal mammals that only eat ants and termites,” said Dr Claire Okell, founder and director of Pangolin Project Kenya.

“Their only defence mechanism is to curl into a ball, and whilst effective against predators, this makes them extremely vulnerable to poaching.”

A 2016 report from TRAFFIC on Kenya indicated that corruption in the public and private sectors drives the increase in illegal wildlife trade. The Kilindini port in Mombasa and JKIA are the main routes that traders use for illegal trade in wildlife.

The United Nations, in a report, also reiterated corruption and added that the growing use of firearms among residents who coexist with wildlife “presents a serious threat to wildlife security”.