OSCAP Rhino Conference 2014
Benson Okita, Ouma, Kenya Wildlife Service
Benson Okita Ouma holds MSc degree in conservation biology from theUniversity of Kent in Canterbury, United Kingdom. His dissertation focused on population dynamics and performance of black rhinoceros in Kenya whilst currently awaiting a public defense of his PhD thesis in the Netherlands on black rhinoceros densities. He has been involved in the conservation of rhinoceros in Kenya since 1996. Rhinoceros was declared a special species in Kenya through a Presidential decree in 1985 following a decline in its numbers from 20,000 to less than 350 animals within 20 years. Poaching for rhino horn was the main reason for the drastic decline. Today, through collaborative efforts on security, technology, science and finance, rhino numbers in Kenya are gradually recovering. However, serious threats to rhinos remain. Recently, rhino poaching has been rampant in Africa and Asia, while in Europe and America rhino horns are being stolen from museums and private collections. Okita has been at the forefront of national and international efforts to protect this iconic species and long-term solutions to the poaching crisis.
He was appointed to the position of acting Assistant Director and Head of Conservation Programmes department at Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) in 2013. Before this appointment he served as the National Coordinator of Kenya’s Rhino Conservation Programme at KWS since 2006, and Chairman of the East African Community Rhino Management Group since 2009. He has been a member of the IUCN-SSC-African Rhino Specialist Group since 2003 and was appointed to the position of Deputy Chairman of this IUCN group in 2011. He joined the editorial board of the Pachyderm journal in 2012. He has been lead negotiator for the Kenyan Government on rhinoceros matters at the 14th (2007) 15th (2010) and 16th (2013) Conference of the Parties meetings of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). During these CITES meetings, CITES Resolution Conf. 9.14 (Rev. CoP 15) was amended as championed by Kenya to place more obligations and accountability of States whose citizens are implicated in illegal trade in rhino horn. Stricter rules and decisions were also enacted to help reduce rhino poaching, reduce illegal demand for rhino horn and curtail illegal exports and re-exports of rhino horns and hunting trophies.
President Mwai Kibaki, CGH, of the Republic of Kenya conferred on Okita the highest citizen award – The Moran of the Order of the Burning Spear (MBS) – in 2008 in recognition of his distinguished service to the Nation.