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(Apr 24, 2014) In early April 2014, it was reported that a special unit of prosecutors, the Wildlife Crimes Prosecution Unit, recently formed to combat wildlife-related crimes in Kenya, has already had some promising results. The Unit, which consists of 35 prosecutors who have undergone special training, is said to have successfully prosecuted 26 cases with a 78% conviction rate since it became operational in March 2014. (Julius Kithuure, New Wildlife Crimes Unit Taking Swift Action Against Poachers in Kenya, SABAHI (Apr. 2, 2014).) This is a marked improvement over the conviction rate for similar crimes before the Unit's establishment; for instance, in the last two months prior to the establishment of the Unit the conviction rate for wildlife crimes was only 20%. (Id.)

The establishment of the Unit follows a recent overhaul of the country's wildlife regulatory regime. In December 2013, Kenya enacted the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act (WCMA) 2013. (No. 47, KENYA GAZETTE SUPPLEMENT, No. 181 (Dec. 27, 2013), Kenya Law website.) The WCMA repealed and replaced the Wildlife (Conservation and Management) Act, 1976 (Cap.376, Kenya Law website; WCMA, § 118).

The WCMA categorizes the country's species of wildlife into four classes: critically endangered species; vulnerable species; nearly threatened species; and protected species. (WCMA, § 47.) The WCMA prohibits any activity involving a listed species without a proper permit. (Id. §48.) Although it imposes absolute prohibitions on sports hunting or any other recreational hunting,hunting for bush meat, and subsistence hunting of wildlife species, the WCMA permits a number of consumptive wildlife use activities under license. (Id. §§ 80, 96, 97 & 98.) These include:

  • game farming: raising wildlife in a controlled environment for conservation, trade, and recreation;
  • game ranching: keeping wildlife under its natural conditions for the purpose of use in conservation, recreation, and trade, but permissible only with respect to certain animals (e.g., crocodiles, tortoises, snails, frogs) and certain birds (e.g., ostriches, pigeons, and ducks);
  • live capture;
  • research involving off-take;
  • cropping: harvesting wildlife for products in game farms and ranching operations under certain conditions authorized by the Minister of Forestry and Wildlife;and
  • culling: selectively removing wildlife for management purposes. The Minister may authorize culling in wildlife conservation areas as a management tool, provided that no other tools are available and it is supervised. (Id. §§ 3 & 80.)

The WCMA also permits dealing in and import, export, and re-export of wildlife trophies under license; however, a number of restrictions apply. The licenses are to be issued for only one year at a time, they do not have blanket application (licenses are issued only for certain classes of trophy), and they are nontransferable. (Id. § 84.) In addition, import, export, re-export, or trade permits will only be issued if the purpose of the activity would not put the survival of the concerned species in danger; if the concerned communities have been duly compensated; and, in the case of export or re-export, if the relevant authority in the concerned country has approved the activity. (Id. § 85.)

One of the most notable aspects of the WCMA is the dramatic increase in penalties for wildlife-related offenses compared to the repealed law. Under the repealed law, the highest custodial penalty prescribed was ten years, while the highest fine possible was set at KES40,000 (about US$486). (Wildlife(Conservation and Management) Act, 1976, § 56; Hanibal Goitom, Wildlife Trafficking and Poaching: Kenya, LAW LIBRARY OF CONGRESS (Nov. 2012).) The WCMA imposes severe custodial punishments and fines for wildlife-related crimes, including life in prison.

The table below provides some examples of the offenses covered under the WCMA and the penalties imposed.

Offense

Aggravating Element

Punishment

Additional Action

Involving Endangered and Threatened Species. (WCMA § 92)

None.

Life imprisonment and/or a fine in the amount of at least KES20 million (about US$230,540). (WCMA § 92.)

Court may order forfeiture of the tools used to commit the offense and the fruits of the offense. (WCMA § 92.)

Court may also order the revocation of license, permit, or authorization issued to the offender under the WCMA. (Id.)

Anyone who acquires, possesses, or uses proceeds of a wildlife crime commits an offense punishable by up to 14 years in prison and/or a fine in the amount of KES5 million (about US$57,605). (Proceeds of Crime and Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2009 (Cap. 59B),§§ 4 & 16), KENYA LAW.)

Trophies and Trophy Dealing. (WCM § 95)

None.

At least five years' imprisonment and/or a fine of at least KES1 million(about US$11,527). (WCMA § 95.)

Same as for offenses related to endangered and threatened species. (WCMA § 92.)

Sports Hunting and Other Recreational Hunting (hunting certain critically endangered mammals and endangered mammals).(WCMA, § 96.)

Hunting wildlife including the black rhinoceros, white rhinoceros, and African elephant. (WCMA § 92.)

A fine in the amount of KES20 million (about US$230,540) or life imprisonment. (WCMA § 96.)

Same as for Offenses related to endangered and threatened species. (WCMA § 92.)

Sports Hunting and Other Recreational Hunting (including hunting of endangered and vulnerable mammals). (WCMA § 96.)

Hunting wildlife including African lion, cheetah, leopard, and striped hyena.(WCMA § 96.)

Five years' imprisonment and/or a fine in the amount of KES5 million (about US$57,635). (WCMA § 96.)

Same as for offenses related to endangered and threatened species. (WCMA § 92.)

Sports Hunting and Other Recreational Hunting (including hunting of all other mammals). (WCMA § 96.)

Hunting any mammals, birds, and sea shells not covered in the above two categories of offenses. (WCMA, § 96.)

Two years' imprisonment and/or a fine in the amount of KES1 million (about US$11,527). (WCMA, § 96.)

Same as for offenses related to endangered and threatened species. (WCMA, § 92.)

Import and Export of Wildlife Species (Category 1). (WCMA § 99.)

Im/exporting wildlife including the black rhinoceros, white rhinoceros, and African elephant. (WCMA § 99.)

Five years' imprisonment or a fine of at least KES10 million (about US$115,270). (WCMA § 99.)

Same as for offenses related to endangered and threatened species. (WCMA § 92.)

Import and Export of Wildlife Species (Category 2). (WCMA § 99.)

Im/exporting any other wildlife. (WCMA § 99.)

Two years' imprisonment and/or a fine of at least KES1 million (about US$11,527). (WCMA § 99.)

Same as for offenses related to endangered and threatened species. (WCMA § 92.)

Author: Hanibal Goitom More by this author
Topic: Animal protection More on this topic
 Conservation More on this topic
 Crime and law enforcement More on this topic
Jurisdiction: Kenya More about this jurisdiction

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Last updated: 04/24/2014