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Kenya to launch anti-poaching unit to save wildlife

06 August 2013, 12:32

Nairobi - The government has formed an inter-agency elite unit to fight rampant poaching across the East African nation, officials confirmed on Monday.

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) spokesman Paul Mbugua said the 120- member anti-poaching squad consisting personnel drawn from various government agencies will be unveiled by the Environment, Water and Natural Resources Cabinet secretary Professor Judi Wakhungu on Thursday.

"The government has formed an inter-agency elite crack unit to fight poaching. The unit will be launched possibly on Thursday to help boost fight against poaching in frontline areas – areas which have been affected by poaching such as Tsavo," Mbugua told Xinhua by telephone on Monday.

The move comes after the anti-poaching campaign "Hands off our Elephants" emphasizing conserving elephant for posterity carried out by government and conservationists.

According to statistics from the KWS, elephant poaching has grown consistently over the last three years during which 829 elephants were killed. Last year, Kenya lost 384 elephants to poachers compared to 278 in 2011 and 177 in 2010. The rest is estimated to be eliminated in the next 10 years unless stronger counter-poaching measures are taken.

Conservationists say rising demand for ivory and rhino horn in Asia is the main reason causing the poaching crisis across Africa, as the continent has witnessed loss of over 1,000 rhinos in the last 18 months.

Kenya has been identified as one of the leading transit routes for smuggling ivory out of Africa. KWS estimates that more than eight tonnes of raw and worked ivory have been seized since 2009.

The country has also lost 21 rhinos and 117 elephants to poachers since the beginning of 2013. Out of these elephants, the spokesman said, 37 were killed in protected areas while 80 were outside protected areas.

Mbugua believed "The anti-poaching crack unit will be a big plus for KWS since it will help boost our fight against poachers."

- Xinhua

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