Paratroopers in Kenya to train local rangers who are battling against increasingly militarised poachers
The British army is, for the first time in many years, taking a key role against the escalating illegal wildlife trade killing rhinos and elephants in Africa.
A total of 25 paratroopers in Kenya are on rotation at the army’s base in Nanyuki, 200km north of Nairobi, and will provide training to Kenyan rangers who are battling increasingly militarised poachers.
Kenyan parliamentarians are currently considering proposals to increase the penalty for poaching from the current maximum punishment of three years in prison to lifetime sentences. Kenya said last month it was going to microchip the horn of every single one of the country’s thousand rhinos in a bid to combat the trade, which is largely driven by demand from south-east Asia.
The environment secretary, Owen Paterson, who is in Kenya this week, said of the partnership: “Illegal poaching is having a devastating effect on some of the world’s most iconic species and we must work together to tackle it. By joining forces with those on the front line in Kenya, our armed services will be able to provide training and support to the courageous people who put their lives on the line every day to protect these animals.”
Brigadier Duncan Francis, defence attache based in Nairobi, said: “This is an excellent example of the British army taking positive action on an issue that is close to many people’s hearts. It is also the first time that we have carried out this kind of work. The 25 members of the parachute regiment involved in this training will be making an immense contribution to securing the future of some of the world’s most endangered species.”
The soldiers will not take part directly in operations against poachers, but provide training on how to patrol better, working more effectively as a team, and what to do if they encounter poachers. Members of the Kenyan Wildlife Service, Kenyan Forestry Service, and conservation organisation Mount Kenya Trust will receive the training in the coming weeks.
An NGO-organised conference in London next February will discuss how to improve law enforcement to tackle the illegal poaching of elephant, rhino and tiger parts.