By Protus Onyango
A German-based, biodiversity conservation organisation has started a fund to financially support dependants of Kenya Wildlife Service rangers killed or injured in the line of duty.
The fund with an initial funding of 50,000 euros (Sh5.5 million) follows the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the International Foundation for Nature (Nabu) and KWS in which Nabu will grant 10,000 euros (Sh1.1 million) annually in the next five years to assist children of fallen wildlife heroes pursue education.
KWS and Nabu will seek the support of lovers of nature globally to contribute and grow the fund.
So far, a total of 61 rangers’ names have been inscribed on the heroes’ monument at KWS headquarters, with four new ones added to the roll of honour since December last year.
Details of the MOU were made public by Nabu’s Werner Shroeder at the annual Conservation Heroes’ Day marked on December 16.
Mr Shroeder said the support cannot and is not supposed to replace “a human life or the state of health” and that it wasn’t possible to compensate the sacrifices made by rangers and their families.
“The payment is supposed to be recognition of the courageous commitment for nature and wildlife,” Mr Shroeder said.
He added: “Without dedicated rangers, we would have no protected areas in Kenya or Africa. One of their key working elements is environmental education for the youth. Those who will protect nature when we are no longer there.”
He noted that although Nabu International was unable to undo or reduce the loss or injury to wildlife defenders families, the work of rangers in Africa was highly appreciated in Germany and Europe in general.
“Nature lovers appreciate the work of rangers very much because people understand that rangers in Africa do work and risk their life for all of us,” he said.
Nabu is the biggest and oldest conservation organisation in Germany having started in 1899. It has 500,000 members and 30,000 volunteers with 16 regional branches in every state of Germany.
The organisation is implementing projects involving the protection of species and habitats, ecotourism and environmental education in Africa, the Caucasus and Central Asia.
The organisation supports income generating activities to help local communities not to get involved in poaching or encroach into wildlife protected areas. Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Water and Natural Resources Judi Wakhungu, who presided over the event, emphasised the importance of wildlife and tourism in Kenya.