I guess that’s why poaching is a multi-million dollar business. In countries such as Kenya, with a 40% unemployment rate, it is a fertile place to find a man willing to risk it all.
And who is looking for a man willing to forfeit his freedom, or even his life?
When we discuss “poachers”, we need to clarify; it is not just one man, or group of men. It is the local man trying to feed his family, but it is also the man at the next level up paying off the local and collecting the “prize”, it is the kingpin at the top putting out the order for the ivory or horn. Poaching is a multi-level business, similar to the drug trade, affecting people at varying levels of economic status.
In 2o11, poachers earned $30 million USD from 165 tons of ivory (which was a total of 15,400 elephant deaths). These numbers were in East Africa alone.
Why are there so many people willing and eager to slaughter these animals?
The price of ivory on the black market is approximately $900 USD per lb. An average sized elephant tusk weighs approximately 25 lbs. So suppose for one elephant death, the poacher is holding a valuable haul of $22,500 USD.
An even greater treasure, a single rhino horn fetches $300,000 USD.
In April of 2013, a Chinese man was caught with 439 pieces of ivory. His punishment? A $300 USD fine (that’s less than $1 a piece). As many poachers are multiple offenders, assuming this man got away with it at least once before, he’s already ahead, and only has to face a minor inconvenience.
Some are even luckier. There are 2000 poaching arrests a year, but only 10% are actually taken to court. The burden of proof lies within the courts, and unless caught “red-handed”, the perpetrators usually walk away.
Bottom line: profit outweighs risk.
Kenyan Wildlife Direct Director Dr Paula Kahumbu states many magistrates and prosecutors do not know the importance of wildlife, hence the light sentence against perpetrators. They are only being given 10 years/$470 USD fine (maximum). But the reality is they are allowed off after the fine is paid. Thus, the poacher is free to poach again.
Kenyan Wildlife Services has appealed to Parliament to pass the Wildlife Bill ,which has stiffer penalties including jailing poachers without the option of fines, a seemingly more logical deterrent. It would also slow down the incidents of repeat offenders.
“The Bill has been lying there and it is high time our legislators passed it if we have to protect our endangered species,” said KWS officer Robert Njue.
Kenya is not the only country facing the issue of leniency toward poaching. Uganda, Gabon, and Tanzania are also guilty of minimal, insignificant sentences.
Please read, sign and share! President of Kenya: Please declare poaching a National Disaster