Kenya's tourism and wildlife minister, Najib Balala, announced a bold move last year, one with the intention of curbing the country's serious poaching problem. Activists worldwide had a mixed response to Balala's plan to execute poachers -- most wildlife lovers praised the idea, but several human rights groups spoke out against the death penalty.
News 360, an online paper from South Africa, reported that none of the controversies appears to have changed Balala's mind. In fact, it's believed that Kenyan lawmakers are now in the process of fast-tracking the proposed death penalty law, one which dramatically increases the already steep stakes for convicted poachers. Until this law is enacted, poachers will continue to face a fine of $200,000, or life behind bars.
Advocacy group Save the Rhino collects data about Kenyan animal poaching. In a two-year span from 2016 to 2017, the advocacy group claims that at least 23 rhinos and 156 elephants lost their lives to poachers in just one country. In total, Save the Rhino claims that there were 2,082 rhino poaching incidents in Africa during the same two years. The immediate effect of Balala's threat apparently made a difference in 2018, though, when the continent-wide poaching number dropped to 769.
The situation in the Congo Basin is even more desperate. According to National Geographic, almost 30,000 elephants die annually due to poaching. It's unknown if the Democratic Republic of the Congo has any plans to adopt Kenya's death penalty strategy.
The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation pointed out that only 4 percent of Kenyan wildlife poaching cases were prosecuted before the country switched to a large fine and life in prison. It seems probable that other hard-hit areas -- like the Congo -- will be watching to see if making the move from a life sentence to execution makes another dramatic difference in the number of overall poaching incidents.