FACT CHECK: Did Kenya Introduce The Death Penalty For Wildlife Poachers?

Elias Atienza | Fact Check Reporter

An image shared on Facebook more than 400 times claims Kenya introduced the death penalty for wildlife poachers.

“What do you think about this?” reads part of the caption.

Verdict: False

No such law has been introduced. Wildlife poaching is not punishable by the death penalty under Kenyan law. The claim comes from erroneous reporting in a Xinhua news agency article.

Fact Check:

Kenya and other African countries have seen their wildlife populations, particularly those of elephants and rhinos, decimated by illegal wildlife poaching, according to The Guardian. The African Wildlife Foundation predicts that elephants, rhinos and several other species may go extinct “within our lifetime” at current poaching rates.

The Wildlife Conservation and Management Act of 2013 outlines punishments for various poaching convictions in Kenya. Penalties range from a fine of one million shillings and/or five years’ imprisonment up to a fine of 20 million shillings and life imprisonment, depending on the severity of the crime.

The Facebook post alleges that Kenya has introduced legislation that significantly increases the severity of punishment for poaching wildlife, with the caption reading, “Kenya has introduced a law that would institute death penalty for all wildlife poachers regradless (sic) of their nationality.” It has been shared more than 400 times.

A quick internet search turned up a number of articles repeating the death penalty claim. Some publications reported that Kenyan Tourism and Wildlife Minister Najib Balala publicly announced the move, even quoting him as saying that existing penalties have “not been deterrence enough to curb poaching.”

Balala’s alleged remarks in these articles originated in a 2018 article published by Chinese news agency Xinhua, according to AFP. That article placed his statement at an event organized by the Postal Corporation of Kenya. Patrick Omondi, the former director of research monitoring and strategic initiative at the tourism ministry, told AFP that Balala did not attend the event.

“That is misinformation,” Omondi told AFP. “I was the one reading the minister’s statement at the meeting and I can tell you nothing I spoke on behalf of the minister was related to the death penalty for poachers.”

Omondi also told AFP that there are no plans to institute capital punishment for poaching either. (RELATED: Did Trump Say Suicide Bombers Should Get The Death Penalty?)

In a phone interview with AFP, Balala did say that current penalties aren’t sufficient considering the damage caused by illegal poaching.

“But this does not mean death penalty – that, I assure you, was taken out of context,” said Balala. “We can have the fines increased, longer jail terms and ensure that the poachers do not easily get away by paying fines.”

Kenya’s penal code does allow for capital punishment but, according to Reuters, no one has been put to death in the country since 1987. President Uhuru Kenyatta commuted all death sentences in Kenya to life imprisonment in 2016, according to The New York Times. His predecessor, former Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, did the same in 2009.

In 2017, the Supreme Court of Kenya ruled unconstitutional the mandatory sentencing of capital punishment for crimes such as murder, treason and armed robbery, according to the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty.

Elias Atienza

Fact Check Reporter

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