Elephant hunting in Kenya

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African elephant in Amboseli National Park, Kenya

Elephant hunting and elephant poaching and exploitation of the ivory trade are illegal in Kenya and pose a major threat to elephant populations. In the 1970s, 1900 elephants were killed in Kenya for their ivory tusks, increasing to 8300 elephants in the 1980s.[1] In 1989, as a dramatic gesture to persuade the world to halt the ivory trade, Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi ignited twelve tons of elephant tusks.[2] Illegal elephant deaths decreased between 1990, when the 1990 CITES ban was issued, and 1997, when only 34 were illegally killed.[1] Seizures rose dramatically since 2006 with many illegal exports going to Asia.[3] Poaching spiked seven-fold between 2007 and 2010.[4] Arrests continue at Nairobi's international airport, where 92 kilos[clarification needed] of raw ivory were seized in 2010, and 96 kilos[clarification needed] in 2011.[5]


During colonial times, elephant hunting in Kenya was seen as a sport for noblemen and was exploited by the colonial governors.[6] Among the game hunters, the bull elephant was said to be the most exhilarating form of elephant hunting. Small-bore rifles appeared to be the preferred option and aiming at the brain instead of the heart was another preference, though the motive was not always monetary for many of the hunters. However, many hunters were indiscriminate in their choice of elephants to kill – young, old, male or female, it did not matter, as the primary purpose was ivory to sell and meat to meet the food needs of their hunting party.[7]

An elephant skull with tusk removed by poachers near Voi, Taita-Taveta District

In the 1950s and 1960s, the Kenyan poacher received approximately Shs. 3-4/lb ($.79–1.05/kg); by the 1970s, it was Shs. 100/kg ($12.74/kg), increasing the black market value for the primary producer from about one fifth to one third of the real value.[8] In 1963, when elephant hunting was still legal, the Kenyan government issued 393 formal legal permits to hunters to hunt elephants.[9] Elephant hunting was made illegal in Kenya in 1973 and all animal hunting without a permit in 1977.[10] In the 1970s, Ngina Kenyatta (Mama Ngina), wife of then-President Jomo Kenyatta, and other high-level government officials were allegedly involved in an ivory-smuggling ring that transported tusks out of the country in the state private aeroplane.[11][12][13][14][15] New Scientist claimed that there was now documentary proof that at least one member of Kenya's royal family had shipped over six tons of ivory to China.[11] By the late 1970s, the elephant population was estimated around 275,000, dropping to 20,000 in 1989.[16]

In the 1990s the widespread ban on commercial ivory trading reduced the industry to a fraction of what it had been and elephant populations have stabilised.[14] But illegal poaching and sale on the black market still poses a serious threat, as does government bribery. The largest poaching incident in Kenya since the ivory trade ban occurred in March 2002, when a family of ten elephants was killed.[16]


Though elephant hunting has been banned for a 40-year period in Kenya, poaching has not reduced. Given the poverty of many of the people, and the high value of elephant tusks, they are shipped overseas and sold on the black market. Although Kenya has many national parks and reserves protecting wildlife, elephant populations are still at risk, a problem which is made worse by corruption and some officials supplementing their income with permitting poaching.[17] The Kenyan government has attempted to crack down on elephant poaching with the aid of multi-nationals but has often been too late in preventing the poaching of many elephants whose tusks have been seized en masse in cases at Nairobi Airport and in Bangkok Airport where Kenyan tusks have often been imported.

Trophy hunting, purely as sport and as a conservation action, is now being considered for adoption in Kenya, as such a programme appears to have yielded positive results in the other Africa countries of Namibia and South Africa under a community managed conservation programme titled “Community -Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM)”. Under this programme, while cash was offered as an incentive for sport hunting, the basic aim was wildlife control on the communal land for providing benefits to the community as a whole.[18] It is believed[by whom?] that trophy hunting might attract elephant poachers into moving into legal hunting and leaving elephant trading.

The Food and Agricultural Organization's (FAO) report states: "Trophy hunting is generally self-regulating because low off-take is required to ensure high trophy quality and marketability in future seasons. Trophy hunting creates crucial financial incentives for the development and/or retention of wildlife as a land use over large areas in Africa, including in areas where ecotourism is not viable. Hunting plays an important role in the rehabilitation of degraded wildlife areas by enabling the income generation from wildlife without affecting population growth of trophy species."[19]

The policy of trophy hunting has been adopted in 23 sub-Saharan African countries. The income generated in total in Africa is quoted to be USD 201 million/year, derived from about 18,500 international hunting clients covering an area of 1.4 million km².[19] Since there is a lack of consensus among the clients about the efficacy of this method of biodiversity conservation in Africa, a study carried out by the Africa Wildlife Conservation Fund indicates that if Kenya makes trophy hunting legal again, nearly 90% of the clients would be interested to pursue this activity in that country. In this context, the importance of effective regulation of hunting operators and clients has also been highlighted.[20]

Between 1970 and 1977, Kenya lost more than half of its elephants.[21] Large scale tourism promotion picked up in Kenya following the imposed hunting ban in Kenya since 1977. It has been noted that "photographic tourism", or non-consumptive wildlife use, is contributing 12% of Kenya’s GDP. Hence, some groups have recommended that tourism be promoted rather than any kind of hunting or consumptive wildlife use, as it could divert the attention of the government of Kenya from the policy goal of wildlife preservation.[22]

[23]==See also==


  1. ^ a b "ICE Case Studies - CASE NUMBER: 33 - CASE MNEMONIC: POACH - CASE NAME: Ivory Poaching". American University. December 1997. Retrieved 9 May 2011. 
  2. ^ Perlez, Jane (July 19, 1989). "KENYA, IN GESTURE, BURNS IVORY TUSKS". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 May 2011. 
  3. ^ "Kenya finds Illegal ivory in boxes disguised as diplomatic baggage". CNN. May 6, 2011. Retrieved 9 May 2011. 
  4. ^ Straziuso, Jason; Michael Casey; William Foreman (2010-05-15). "Ivory trade threatens African elephant". Associated Press. Retrieved 9 May 2011. 
  5. ^ "Kenya Seizes Traveler Carrying Elephant Ivory". Voice of America News. April 29, 2010. Retrieved 9 May 2011. 
  6. ^ American Museum of Natural History (1915). The American Museum journal. American Museum of Natural History. Retrieved 6 May 2011. 
  7. ^ Steinhart, Edward I. (2006). Black poachers, white hunters: a social history of hunting in colonial Kenya. James Currey. p. 71. ISBN 978-0-85255-960-4. Retrieved 6 May 2011. 
  8. ^ Douglas-Hamilton, p. 77
  9. ^ McNickle, Dan (19 March 2004). Teaching and Hunting in East Africa. Trafford Publishing. p. 275. ISBN 978-1-4120-1935-4. Retrieved 6 May 2011. 
  10. ^ "Africa's elephant explosion". Sportsafield. Retrieved 6 May 2011. 
  11. ^ a b New Scientist. Reed Business Information. 22 May 1975. p. 452. ISSN 0262-4079. Retrieved 8 May 2011. 
  12. ^ Bonner, Raymond (1993). At the hand of man: peril and hope for Africa's wildlife. Knopf. p. 51. ISBN 978-0-679-40008-0. Retrieved 8 May 2011. 
  13. ^ Animal kingdom. New York Zoological Society. 1980. Retrieved 8 May 2011. 
  14. ^ a b Wieland, Terry (25 March 2004). A view from a tall hill: Robert Ruark in Africa. Down East Enterprise Inc. p. 411. ISBN 978-0-89272-650-9. Retrieved 6 May 2011. 
  15. ^ Munger, Edwin S. (1983). Touched by Africa. Castle Press. ISBN 978-0-934912-00-6. Retrieved 8 May 2011. 
  16. ^ a b "Elephants on the High Street" (PDF). International Fund for Animal Welfare. March 2004. p. 18. Retrieved 9 May 2011. 
  17. ^ Anderson, David; Grove, Richard H. (25 May 1990). Conservation in Africa: Peoples, Policies and Practice. Cambridge University Press. p. 45. ISBN 978-0-521-34990-1. Retrieved 6 May 2011. 
  18. ^ "Elephant Hunting". Conservation Finance. Retrieved 7 May 2011. 
  19. ^ a b [fttp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/010/aj114e/aj114e09.pdf "Trophy Hunting In Sub Saharan Africa: Economic Scale and Conservation Significance"] (pdf). fao.org. Retrieved 7 May 2011. 
  20. ^ "Potential of trophy hunting to create incentives for wildlife conservation in Africa where alternative wildlife-based land uses may not be viable" (pdf). Africa Wildlife Conservation Fund. pp. 283, 286–287, 289. Retrieved 8 May 2011. 
  21. ^ "AFRICAN ELEPHANT IVORY TRADE STUDY FINAL REPORT" (PDF). savetheelephants.org. August 1979. p. 19. Retrieved 9 May 2011. 
  22. ^ "Shooting animals for ‘sport’". Bornfree.org. Retrieved 8 May 2011. 
  23. ^ Arkell-Hardwick, Alfred (1903). An ivory trader in North Kenia. London: Longmans, Green, and Co. Retrieved 17 February 2015.