By Macharia Kamau
The recent killing of six lions has raised questions about the Government’s commitment to tourism as one of the key pillars of the country’s economic blueprint Vision 2030.
The lifeless response by Government agencies in charge of wildlife management — including the Kenya Wildlife Service — has led many to doubt the commitment by the country to the industry whose earnings was in excess of Sh100 billion last year.
The human-wildlife conflict incident led to the killing of six lions at the Nairobi National Park in June. This effectively reduced the population of this popular big cat to just 42 at the park — a big blow to the industry whose lifeline is wildlife.
The hotspot in wildlife-human conflict is the stretch between Athi River and Isinya, which has traditionally been a wildlife corridor, but has since turned into a human settlement.
“The population of both animals and people has been growing, which means an increased degree of interaction,” Rudolf Makhanu, national chairman Kenya Forest Working Group said, adding that there is need to re-look at land use around national parks.
“Government should restrict land use around the park, and ensure residents participate in economic activities that are in line with wildlife management to minimise huge losses such as instances of killing of domestic animals or crop damage,” he says.
Makhanu pointed out that wildlife conservancies in parts of North Eastern Kenyan have tried to engage the communities in conservation of wildlife, with a degree of success.
The recent killings are particularly chilling for the industry because lions have been at the centre of the country’s marketing campaigns in source markets.
While there have been efforts to diversify tourism products to include conference, sports, culture and agriculture, tourism authorities acknowledge that wildlife remains crucial for continued growth of the industry.
Part of the problem has been the exclusion of local communities from the benefits that accrue out of national parks.