The Kenyan government will take over the country's wildlife management authority for the next three months after allegations of corruption within the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has led to the suspension of at least six senior officers, according to news reports.
The move is an apparent response to Kenyan conservationist Richard Leakey, founder of the Kenyan NGO WildlifeDirect and former founding head of the KWS. Last month, Leakey suggested that the KWS had been "infiltrated by powerful individuals with a motive to enrich themselves from poaching profits." Leakey urged the Kenyan government to overhaul management practices at KWS. (See video below.)
Five senior officials at KWS have been asked to take leave, and a sixth individual, who is abroad, will be handed his suspension orders upon his return to Kenya, according to The Star, a Kenyan news site.
In a statement obtained by The Star, Richard Lesiyampe of Kenya's Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, said the senior officials "have been asked to proceed on leave to pave way for investigations into operations at the Kenya Wildlife Service."
"More senior officials are expected to be suspended or redeployed as the government tries to cut corruption networks at the KWS," The Star reported.
Last month KWS chief William Kiprono said his department's law enforcement officials arrested and prosecuted 249 individuals for "various wildlife offenses." Leakey, however, claims that fewer than 4 percent of all poachers convicted in Kenya are jailed.
Kiprono has denied allegations that a poaching cartel exists within the KWS, according to The Associated Press.
Scores of elephants and rhinos have already been poached in Kenya this year. Current figures suggest that by the end of 2014 the number of poached elephants and rhinos will be on par with previous years.
In March, the KWS said poachers killed 51 elephants and 18 rhinos already this year. In 2012 Kenya lost 302 elephants and 52 rhinos to poaching, compared to 384 elephants and 30 rhinos in 2011.
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