A Kenyan government official on Saturday said that anyone caught possessing ivory should be sentenced to life in prison as a headstone was unveiled for the world’s last male northern white rhinoceros.
Wildlife officials at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, about 250 km (155 miles) north of Nairobi, put down the 45-year-old rhino, named Sudan, on March 19 because of a rapid deterioration of his condition.
Kenya’s tourism minister Najib Balala was present at the conservancy to unveil the headstone and declared that ivory belonged to elephants and rhinos rather than humans.
‘‘We are very clear as a government punitive measures must be taken into punishing people who kill our wildlife and that’s why we are pushing for life sentences for people who kill for ivory because ivory belongs to elephants and rhinos better than taking it for human consumption’‘, Balala said.
Sudan is survived by the last two females of his species, his 27-year-old daughter Najin and 17-year-old granddaughter Fatu. The only hope for preserving their species is through in vitro fertilisation using their eggs and stored semen, according to Ol Pejeta.
Thousand of southern white rhinos still roam sub-Saharan Africa, but decades of rampant poaching have drastically cut the number of northern whites. Poachers could sell northern white rhino horns for $50,000 per kilo, making them more valuable than gold.
Kenya introduced tough wildlife-protection laws in 2013 in an attempt to stop highly lucrative ivory smuggling, mainly to Asia, which has led to the slaughter of thousands of rare and endangered animals.
Kenya had 20,000 rhinos in the 1970s, falling to 400 in the 1990s. It now has 650, almost all of them black rhinos.