NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 27 – Kenya appointed veteran conservationist Richard Leakey to a key role in its wildlife service on Monday, the man who helped slow poaching in the country two decades ago.
Leakey, 70, was named in a government notice by President Uhuru Kenyatta as chairman of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Board.
A Kenyan national and former KWS head, Leakey was key in stemming the rampant poaching of the late 1980s, bringing in extreme measures including sending helicopter gunships into national parks.
Kenya’s elephant and rhino populations recovered from the brink of disaster, but more than two decades later the east African nation is once again facing soaring levels of poaching.
Last year Leakey warned that poachers had “an extraordinary level of international criminal backing” and were “operating with outrageous impunity, killing our elephants and rhinos at levels that will make them extinct within the country.”
He also said then that KWS needed a complete overhaul and new management.
The rise in poaching – with rhinos being killed even inside the most heavily guarded zones – show that poachers have little fear of tough laws designed to stem the wave of killings.
Leakey’s role is understood to involve formulating policies and guiding general direction, with day-to-day running done by the directors.
KWS say a thousand rhinos and some 38,000 elephants remain in the east African country.
But other wildlife groups say they believe the actual figures are much lower, and that impunity and corruption are to blame for the continued illegal wildlife trade.