For First Time In 21 Years, Poachers Didn't Kill A Single Rhino In Kenya Last Year

Ryan Ford 8 Feb 2021

Far too few of us can say 2020 was a good year. Unless you happened to own a business making hand sanitizer or toilet paper, or maybe jigsaw puzzles — or if you owned a wad of Tesla stock — chances are the year was pretty abysmal by any measure.

But as it turns out, it was also a good year to be a rhinoceros in Kenya, where for the first time in 21 years, not a single rhino died at the hands of a poacher.

While the pandemic certainly complicated matters, it's not the reason poaching was down in Kenya.

Let's face it, if you're willing to poach a rhino, chances are you're not too worried about breaking quarantine protocols to do it. So, the anti-poaching forces in the Kenyan government still had their work cut out for them, as well as worrying about COVID-19 and a resulting 92% drop in tourism to Kenya.

"Without tourists I think poachers might think KWS had gone to sleep, but instead we did the reverse and enhanced our efforts," KWS Director General Brigadier John Waweru told The Independent.

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Officials with the Kenya Wildlife Service credited a multi-faceted approach and investment in intelligence for their successful anti-poaching efforts.

"Through my teams, I have enhanced anti-poaching and intelligence-led operations as well as strengthening collaborations with law enforcement agencies and the local communities," Waweru told the BBC.

"We have continuously reviewed policies and strategies to include solutions to emerging issues. Indeed, I am very proud of the team that I work [with] and I expect that even this year we can do it again, I don't see the reason why we shouldn't."

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One of those strategies has involved tagging and tracking individual rhinos.

KWS rangers recently completed a "black rhino ear notching exercise" in Tsavo East National Park to help with tracking.

"The exercise entails cutting off a combination of small section(s) of the ear in a V shape to give an individual rhino a unique identification feature," a KWS statement explained. The notches also help KWS keep an accurate count of the rhino population.

The notching exercise also included fitting horn transmitters and microchips on the rhinos.

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The other important arm of KWS's approach has been educating and working with local communities.

"The KWS provides training and support to help people to [coexist] with wildlife and to understand their value to all of us," Waweru told The Independent.

“Poachers do not operate in isolation. Thanks to the interaction we have with communities, anyone who sees or suspects wildlife crime alerts us. In this way we can alienate or apprehend potential poachers.

"Wildlife does not belong to KWS, it belongs to every Kenyan; it is our shared heritage."

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It's not just rhinos benefitting from the increased anti-poaching efforts, either.

In 2020, Kenya managed to get elephant deaths from poachers down to just 11 from 350 five years previous, the lowest ever recorded for a year, The Independent reported.

Waweru says that he thinks eliminating poaching altogether is within the country's reach. "I believe it is not a pipe dream to get Kenya’s poaching level to zero," he told The Independent.

h/t: The Independent

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