May 11, 2018

LAIKIPIA: Kenya will fast-track laws to make wildlife poaching a capital
offense as part of the country’s bid to conserve flora and fauna, a senior
government official said late Thursday.

Najib Balala, the Minister for Tourism and Wildlife, said that once the
laws are enacted, the offenders of the wildlife crimes will face the death
penalty in accordance with the laws of the land.

“We have in place the Wildlife Conservation Act that was enacted in 2013
and which fetches offenders a life sentence or a fine of 200,000 U.S.

However, this has not been deterrence enough to curb poaching, hence the
proposed stiffer sentence,” Balala remarked during the official launch of
the northern white rhino commemorative stamps at Ol Pejeta Conservancy
located in Laikipia County on the slopes of Mount Kenya.

The initiative to issue a set of stamps to celebrate the northern white
rhino was instigated by the Postal Corporation of Kenya in honor of
“Sudan”, the remaining male northern white rhino that died on March 19
after suffering from age-related health issues and from a series of

Richard Vigne, the CEO of Ol Pejeta Conservancy that was home to Sudan,
said the tragic story of the northern rhino will be captured forever as a
signal to the world.

He added that whilst Kenya remains a global leader in conservation, there
are nonetheless many species across the planet that face a similar plight.

Vigne said that once Sudan’s condition worsened significantly and he was
unable to stand up, and obviously suffered a great deal, the decision to
euthanize the mammoth was made by his veterinary team. This left Najin and
Fatu as the two remaining northern white rhinos on the planet.

“Despite the extremely low numbers remaining, Ol Pejeta and Kenya Wildlife
Service are working closely with the scientific community to try to recover
this species from imminent extinction,” Vigne noted, adding that the only
way this can be done is through in vitro fertilization (IVF).

The conservationist said that because scientific practice has never ever
been done in rhinos before, it will require the removal of eggs from the
ovaries of the two remaining females to be fertilized using semen stored
from males over the last few years to create viable mature embryos for
storage in liquid nitrogen.

Once this has been achieved, a technique to reintroduce the embryos into
surrogate southern female, because the two are infertile, with the aim of
achieving pure bred northern white pregnancies.

“This effort will cost a huge amount of money, but is a noble effort to
reverse at least one of the wrongs that mankind has wreaked upon other
species that inhabit this planet with us,” Vigne stated.

Patrick Omondi, the Director of Research in the Ministry of Tourism and
Wildlife, said plans were underway to build a wildlife conservation museum
that will feature wildlife icons, adding that the remains of Sudan will be
displayed in a national conservation museum.

This news service is provided by Save the Elephants.