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Africa gets tougher on poachers

| Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, 5:39 p.m.

NAIROBI, Kenya — New laws in Africa with stiff penalties, more military training for rangers and new technology like drones with thermal cameras are all helping to protect rhinos and elephants. A new law in Kenya that increases penalties for killing tourist-attracting safari animals is already bearing fruit.

A Chinese man accused of trying to smuggle ivory in a suitcase was arraigned in a Nairobi court this week. Under the law that came into effect on Jan. 10 and that the Kenya Wildlife Service had spent years been lobbying for, the man could face up to life in prison and a $230,000 fine. In the past, such poachers and smugglers could walk out of court with a fine of less than $1,000.

“They have to think twice now,” Paul Mbugua, the spokesman for the Kenya Wildlife Service, said of poachers and the new law. “You just try your luck on the poaching, but the moment we catch up to you, you are done.”

Kenya's new law is being paired with increased training and deployment of advanced equipment.

Kenya's Ol Pejeta Conservancy will deploy drones later this year to help protect rhinos. Parks in Tanzania and South Africa are also increasing their use of surveillance drones.

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