Student - 9 september 2010

Tackling poachers in Kenya

Who? Natascha van den Bosch
What? Research into the relations between elephant poaching in African countries and the punishments meted out for it.
Where? Kenya
Why? To improve the way poaching is tackled.

'This internship has been an eye-opener for me, by showing me all the things you can do to prevent poaching and illegal trading. I was working for the Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants Programme (MIKE), doing research on the relation between illegal elephant hunting in African countries and the laws and punishments for it. I looked at the laws in force in 14 African countries, as well as at the punishments handed down, and the numbers of elephants poached. The results of this research, which are still being processed, should show whether the emphasis needs to lie on more stringent regulations or on better tracking methods. This research offered me a perfect way of combining my two majors, Criminology and Animal Management.
'When I first arrived in Kenya I felt just like a tourist, and it was hard to get used to. At my work, people were terribly nice, and they did their best to make me feel at ease. But out on the streets you had to watch out. The police are very corrupt and they walk around with truncheons. As a woman you could not safely go out alone at night, and if you took a minibus to work you shouldn't have any valuables on you. To start with I lived with a Kenyan family, which had the advantage that I quickly picked up Kenyan manners and customs. But after a couple of months I wanted to be able to do my own thing again, so I moved in with some other interns.

'I was given a lot of particularly interesting assignments for my internship. For example, I helped to set up a workshop on optimizing the various methods of controlling and tracking down poachers. I was also allowed to attend the annual meeting of the advisory group of the MIKE programme, in which the progress made in the previous year was discussed, and field workers and data analyists gave interesting presentations. The best bit about this was that I have learned a lot and made some valuable contacts.

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