Written by Moe Honjo, Animal Law LL.M. student
What can Asia do to stop poaching in Kenya? Being from Japan, this was my first question coming into the Kenya Legal Project. And, each day in Kenya, I receive input and answers from wildlife experts and those actively involved. For instance, 30 pages of my little notebook are filled with possible answers after meeting with prosecutors assigned to Kenya’s wildlife crime unit.
On May 20, 2014, we, as part of the Kenya Legal Project, visited the office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), in order to learn about the successes and challenges of prosecuting wildlife crimes. It was fascinating to know that the Kenyan government has a long history of wildlife conservation with a ban of sport hunting, and is continuing to improve on the recently amended Wildlife Conservation and Management Act of 2013.
In addition, what interested me the most was hearing the prosecutors’ perspective that poaching an elephant or rhino is truly an international issue, a bigger problem than what Kenya alone can solve.
According to Katto Wambua, a prosecutor who is working on further amendments to the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, inter-state collaboration is necessary to work on wildlife conservation, especially with other African and Asia countries. As elephants and other wildlife animals can cross boarders, poaching is not only national but regional issue. Thus, Kenya needs regional cooperation in terms of law enforcement, such as by the Lusaka Agreement Task Force.
Furthermore, it is also necessary to build a partnership between African countries, like Kenya, and Asian countries, like Japan, to tackle poaching and the high demand of African wildlife products. Public awareness campaigns in Asia and the exchange of state officers would be helpful to stop poaching, according to Katto. Due to the high demand in the East of rhino horn, the value is over $10,000 per kilogram – twice the value of gold. This number suggests that rhino will be killed illegally as long as the market exists.
Asian countries have supported development in Kenya, such as building economic infrastructure by JAICA, Japan International Cooperation Agency. However, if Asia really wants to support African development, then a full ban of ivory trade is crucial. Why? It is because the ivory trade contributes to further trans-national problems, such as possession of guns and other manner of anarchy and human trafficking. Like in the U.S., Japanese consumers still do not make a connection between their purchase of finished animal ivory/wildlife products and poaching. However, purchasing a little stamp made of ivory contributes to the national crisis in Kenya.
The U.S. government already recognized the link between poaching and terrorism and concluded that poaching is not trivial issue. It is time for Japan, and other Asian countries, to change their attitudes of ignorance and indifference towards ivory and other wildlife products. When I return to Japan this summer I will bring and share these urgent messages from Kenya. Saa hizi !(“It is time” in Kiswahili)