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KWS staff on the spot over poaching

How poachers managed to kill two rhinos in five months in the country’s most protected national park is raising eyebrows in many quarters.

The killing and dehorning of a female black rhino on Saturday at the Nairobi National Park, which has been a sanctuary for the species, follows another such killing in August last year.

It remains unclear why such brazen attacks should occur at a time when the country has enacted strict laws to see those convicted of poaching or possessing endangered species’ trophies sentenced to life imprisonment.

This means that insiders’ involvement cannot be ruled out and it presents a nightmare for the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).

“Many people speculate that KWS staff must be involved, especially since the park is so well protected,” said Paula Kahumbu the chair of Friends of Nairobi National Park, a wildlife conservation society.

She added that some of the 32 officials suspended last year on suspicion of complicity in poaching crimes returned to work with no explanations offered.

KWS would not comment on the latest killing, saying it would affect the on-going investigations.

“KWS employees are human and once in a while errant staff are suspected of abetting  poaching. We however practise zero tolerance on such staff once caught,” said spokesman Paul Mbugua.

The park’s rhinos are being microchipped for easier tracking, but at the same time Mr Mbugua said there were rangers deployed specifically to protect rhinos throughout the day, further raising questions on their efficiency.

At 117 square kilometres, the park is one of the smallest in the country and it doubles up as the headquarters of KWS — factors which made it to be chosen as the most secure for the endangered species.

Mr Mbugua said that KWS was considering deploying unmanned aerial vehicles to intensify surveillance.

“While drones can do a good job, we have not acquired any yet.  We are considering the idea and at the opportune moment it may be tried