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Ranchers lobby for harsh, new laws to deter illegal invasions

Ranchers are proposing severe measures to deter invaders from over-running their properties.

Among them are harsh jail terms and hefty fines for those found guilty, as well as written permission if any outsider is to step foot, or hoof, on private farms.

In their views to amendments to the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act (2016), the Conservation Alliance of Kenya (CAK) and the Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association (KWCA) say these measures should be introduced to safeguard their investments.

The 155 conservancies which cover 6.3 million hectares seek protected area status that makes it illegal for anyone to enter for whatever reason.

Entering the ranches without permission, says a statement signed by KWCA chief executive Dickson ole Kaelo and CAK’s Lucy Waruinge, would constitute an offence. Invaders are to be taken to court to face trial and, if convicted, to be fined not less than Sh100,000, or be jailed for not less than 12 months or both.

The statement also seeks to restore a clause allowing them to trade with sanctuaries, as long as it is sustainable.

Where property is destroyed, as happened to some properties  in Laikipia County recently, those found culpable are to face a jail term of not less than seven years or pay a fine of not less than Sh10 million, or both.

The views, which were the culmination of a two-day session bringing together conservancy operators, conservationists, pro-wildlife lobby groups and civil society representatives, said a new subsection should be introduced criminalising possession of any poisonous substance.

It says that having poison in a “protected area” should be an offence, so should possession of snares, spears, arrows, traps, ammunition or firearms without authorisation. Anyone found guilty is to be liable to a five-year jail term, a fine of Sh5 million, or both.

While wildlife laws assented to by President Uhuru Kenyatta introduced punitive sentences and fines, ranchers and conservancies propose segmentation of game trophy possession punishments to state that anyone found with trophies of extremely endangered wildlife should be fined Sh20 million or be jailed for life.

While bushment hunters face a fine of Sh30,000 or one-year jail term, conservancy owners want the fines enhanced to Sh10 million, with jail sentences of not less than seven years.

“A person who injures, molests, tortures or attempts to kill any wild animal, and any person dealing in game trophy, is liable to a Sh12 million fine or a jail term of not less than two years on conviction,” it says.

Unlicensed snake charmers, as well as keepers of wild birds (quails, peacocks and guinea fowls), could face a Sh500,000 fine, or be jailed for not less than one year, or both. The new recommendations also seek to discourage making of ornaments, saying any carver found liable should pay Sh1 million fine or serve a jail term of not less than two years.

Anyone found with a piece of wildlife trophy weighing less than a kilogramme is to pay a fine of Sh10 million, or serve a seven-year jail term, while those found with trophy weighing more than one kilogramme are to pay a Sh20 million fine, or be jailed for life.

The recommendations are part of suggestions made to the amendment Bill currently before the parliamentary committee on Environment and Natural Resources.

The move by the conservancies seeks to bring to an end seasonal incursions by grazers in search of pastures and water when drought strikes.

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