Kenya begins major project to save Rhinos
13 December 2013, 15:00
Nairobi - The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) on Friday begun
implanting microchips in every rhino in the world's famous Masai Mara
Games Reserve in an extensive process that will include sedating
hundreds of animals.
The Kenya Rhino Microchip Program runs along with the ear notching of
unmarked or younger rhinos and is being implemented by the KWS and the
Narok county government with the support of the World Wide Fund for
KWS's veterinary surgeon Isaac Lekolool, said the deployment of
microchips and notching of rhino ears combined with forensic DNA
technology will allow for successful traceability of every live animal
within Kenya and all rhino horns in the stockpiles.
"The forensic DNA technology will greatly improve the ability of
prosecutors to bring to court a case of not only possession of a
wildlife trophy, but will also be used to trace back the horn to a
poaching incident, thus providing greater evidence hence more punitive
penalties," Lekolool said in a statement issued on Friday.
The microchip is less than 2 inches long and can barely be traced by
poachers. The fitting process is expected to take up to four months.
The agency said investigators will be able to link any poached case
to a recovered or confiscated horn and this forms crucial evidence in
court contributing towards the prosecution's ability to push for
sentencing of a suspected rhino criminal.
Decimated by illegal killings, the endangered rhino is increasingly
under attack by poachers using high-tech, sophisticated technology.
The microchips will serve to strengthen rhino monitoring, anti-
poaching activities and also support anti-trafficking mechanisms
The East African nation is currently embracing the use of more
sophisticated technology to counter illegal wildlife trade and stop loss
of flagship species such as rhinos and elephants.
"Since poachers are using sophisticated technology, it's high time
that Kenya embraces the same," said Mohammed Awer, WWF Kenya's Country
Awer said WWF is committed to supporting the integration of new
technology and has already purchased the microchips at a cost of 17,647
U.S. dollars and supporting the implanting exercise in the Mara at a
cost of 58,823 dollars.
Currently, KWS and WWF are working together to ensure that Kenya
meets the CITES CoP16 rhino decisions that seek to ensure that rhinos
remain viable and able to survive current and future threats.
"Success in this effort would not only secure rhino populations in
Kenya but also deliver improved governance and institutional
strengthening in government, improved ability of government to combat
other transnational organized crimes, and increased national and
regional stability, all of which creates a more conducive environment
for sustainable economic development," Awer said.
The East African nation has 631 black rhinos and a total population of 1,030 rhinos.
The animals are part of the big five that draw tourists, a major
source of revenue for the east African nation. The other four are the
lion, elephant, leopard and buffalo.
Poaching of the rhino horn is a lucrative industry, with much of the
loot sold to the affluent in Asia. In those countries, some believe the
horns can cure a series of ills, including cancer and hangovers, and can
The East African nation has also lost 21 rhinos and 117 elephants to
poachers since the beginning of 2013. Out of these elephants, he said,
37 were killed in protected areas while 80 were outside protected areas.
In a bid to curb illegal trade in ivory, KWS said it has increased
education and awareness amongst the Judiciary and general public that
wildlife trafficking in wildlife and wildlife products is a serious
crime, which can be classified as economic crime for illegal trading in
ivory and rhino horn.