- Down to Earth
On Tuesday, February 28, the Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change, and Forestry led the burning of endangered Sandalwood logs worth Ksh10 million.
The move sparked debate online with some individuals suggesting that the government should have sold the trees anyways since the damage had already been done.
Sandalwood is one of the endangered tree species in the country and is popular in the international market, especially among smugglers.
It is used to manufacture different products including a special type of oil whose litre retails for Ksh382,800 ($3,000) on the international market.Undated photo of sandalwood taken out of a lorry
The trees are illegally uprooted for the extraction of essential oils to manufacture medicine and cosmetics. The oil is found in its roots and trunk.
A leader from Samburu County, John Partangu, disclosed that the illegal traders use the youth to distinguish between male and female trees. It is believed the female tree produces more oil.
Additionally, to some locals, the species is also used to smoke containers used for milk fermentation.
Furthermore, for a kilogram of the wood, the sellers get between Ksh200 and Ksh300.
According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, the over-exploitation of the wood in Kenya goes back to 2006.
Willis Okumu, a senior researcher at the East and Horn of Africa, suggested that regional unity was key to ensuring the tree is protected within the East African Community.
"It is vital that environmental regulations in neighbouring Tanzania and Uganda align to the designation of the East African sandalwood as a threatened species," he argued.
According to researchers at Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI), the demand for the tree continues to grow despite the lack of seedlings.
Domestication of the tree was listed as one of the ways to save the species from extinction.
According to the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act 2013, Section 92, anyone who commits an offense in respect of any trophy of that endangered or threatened species shall be liable upon conviction to a fine of not less than Ksh20 million or imprisonment for life or both.Photo collage of sandalwood being set on fire at DCI headquarters along Kiambu Road on Tuesday February 28, 2023.DCIfire illegal
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