Development should enhance the value of, and not destroy, precious national heritage

Zebras in Maasai Mara National Park, Kenya. (Photo: Courtesy)
What should be done to stem the decline of wildlife?

The most important thing is to enhance the protection and conservation of wildlife outside State-protected areas.

Also, livestock numbers would need to be regulated, possibly through taxes proportional to the number of livestock held beyond a certain threshold, especially in areas shared with wildlife, or some other such mechanism. Livestock, especially sheep and goats, continue to increase to levels that now threaten wildlife. Developments in rangelands need to be planned and regulated by the national and county governments.

The most classic example of how not to plan development is provided by what has happened in the Athi-Kaputiei Ecosystem, that contains Kitengela. But above all, the most promising avenue for stemming the decline is through promoting and enabling the formation and sustainable operation of private, group or communal conservancies outside protected parks and reserves in Kenya.

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Legislation and policy are also needed to promote various innovative uses of wildlife, compatible with conservation goals, so that land owners can adequately benefit from conserving wildlife. This is perhaps the reason that while wildlife are decreasing massively and livestock are increasing strikingly in Kenya while wildlife are increasing and livestock are decreasing in southern Africa.

What are the risks of continued wildlife decline to the economy?

Wildlife is the backbone of the Kenyan tourism industry, which is a leading foreign exchange earner. Travel and tourism contributed Sh220.6 billion directly to the Kenyan GDP (that is, 4.1 per cent) in 2014. This supported 206,500 jobs (3.5 per cent of all jobs in Kenya).

The total travel and tourism contribution to the GDP of Kenya in 2014 was Sh561.8 billion or 10.5 per cent of GDP. This supported 543,500 jobs or 9.2 per cent of all jobs in Kenya.

The continued massive loss of wildlife, such as what has been happening in Kenya, where 68 per cent of all wildlife has been lost in the last 40 years, if unchecked, would put the future of this vibrant industry in serious jeopardy.

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Besides the economic considerations, the catastrophic loss of wildlife implies the loss of vital genetic diversity and other values of wildlife. The loss of wildlife is almost always associated with the degradation or loss of their habitats in Kenya.

This implies loss of critical ecosystem services provided by the rangelands, such as purification of water and air.

As a scholar what do you recommend as best management system for the rangelands?

Wildlife face the greatest threats in the rangelands. These make up 88 per cent of Kenya‘s land surface and spans 21 counties from Narok and Kajiado in the south to Marsabit and Turkana in the north.

It is important and urgent that effective wildlife protection, conservation and management measures are established outside the protected State parks, reserves and sanctuaries in these rangelands and elsewhere. This is because most of Kenya‘s wildlife (65-70 per cent) is found outside the State-protected areas.

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One model that shows great promise is that of community, private and group conservancies.

These involve collaborative partnerships between governmental agencies, land owners, private investors in tourism enterprises, national and international NGOs. They are being tried with some notable success in the Masai Mara, Nakuru-Naivasha, Kajiado, Laikipia, Isiolo, Samburu and Marsabit.

The involvement of communities and private land owners is critical because the government resources available for conservation are inadequate, given the increasing raft of national challenges.

The landowners and communities have a detailed knowledge of the local circumstances, have various skills and vested interests in the success of the conservancies on their lands, due to a variety of factors, including the economic benefits from tourism and employment in the conservancies.

The conservancies also enable individuals, communities and the public to include or integrate their lands in broader landscape and regional biodiversity conservation frameworks.

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The landowners (private, group or communal) who choose to conserve and protect wildlife on their land contribute to expanding the space available for wildlife conservation and critical ecosystem services in the rural landscapes (rangelands).

The conservancies buffer adjoining protected areas from human impacts on their edges.

They also complement the limited skills, capacity and resources of State agencies. Because of the different circumstances prevailing in the rangelands, the conservancies adopt pluralistic and locally adaptive approaches to solving conservation challenges in the different localities.

But for these conservancies to succeed, wildlife and nature conservation must evolve to become a major constituent of sustainable rural livelihoods in the rangelands. For this to happen, the State must provide enabling legislation and policy environment.

The Wildlife Conservation and Management Act 2013, provides some of the required policies and legislation but several rules and regulations are still to be formulated, adopted and promulgated to fully actualise this Act.

Mega infrastructure projects such as the SGR have encroached on protected areas. Are there alternatives and best practices for Kenya to follow and safeguard its heritage as a beacon for protected areas management?

It is important to have mega projects because the country rightfully needs to develop. That said, development should enhance the value of, and not destroy, our precious national heritage. For example, Kenya is constructing a railway line crossing over the Nairobi National Park, which is a mere 117 kilometre square in area.

Kenya would most likely be the first country in the world to ever construct a railway line through an existing National Park. In all the seven known cases worldwide where a railway line passes through or over a national park, the parks were established after the railway line and not vice versa.

Moreover, six of the seven examples are vast areas so that the railway line has possibly limited impact.

Also, it has been shown that there is evidence of substantial pollution in parks that have a railway line pass through them.

Worse still, such developments set bad precedents and endanger other parks and conservation areas because they increase the risk that comparable developments could be undertaken in the other areas. Such developments may also cause as yet unforeseen but irreversible damage to the ecosystems  where they are carried out.Standard on Sunday – Fri, 10. February 2017 12:52 PM – New reporter story (Nairobi)

Development should enhance the value of, and not destroy, precious national heritage

What should be done to stem the decline of wildlife?

The most important thing is to enhance the protection and conservation of wildlife outside State-protected areas.

Also, livestock numbers would need to be regulated, possibly through taxes proportional to the number of livestock held beyond a certain threshold, especially in areas shared with wildlife, or some other such mechanism. Livestock, especially sheep and goats, continue to increase to levels that now threaten wildlife. Developments in rangelands need to be planned and regulated by the national and county governments.

The most classic example of how not to plan development is provided by what has happened in the Athi-Kaputiei Ecosystem, that contains Kitengela. But above all, the most promising avenue for stemming the decline is through promoting and enabling the formation and sustainable operation of private, group or communal conservancies outside protected parks and reserves in Kenya.

Legislation and policy are also needed to promote various innovative uses of wildlife, compatible with conservation goals, so that land owners can adequately benefit from conserving wildlife. This is perhaps the reason that while wildlife are decreasing massively and livestock are increasing strikingly in Kenya while wildlife are increasing and livestock are decreasing in southern Africa.

What are the risks of continued wildlife decline to the economy?

Wildlife is the backbone of the Kenyan tourism industry, which is a leading foreign exchange earner. Travel and tourism contributed Sh220.6 billion directly to the Kenyan GDP (that is, 4.1 per cent) in 2014. This supported 206,500 jobs (3.5 per cent of all jobs in Kenya).

The total travel and tourism contribution to the GDP of Kenya in 2014 was Sh561.8 billion or 10.5 per cent of GDP. This supported 543,500 jobs or 9.2 per cent of all jobs in Kenya.

The continued massive loss of wildlife, such as what has been happening in Kenya, where 68 per cent of all wildlife has been lost in the last 40 years, if unchecked, would put the future of this vibrant industry in serious jeopardy.

Besides the economic considerations, the catastrophic loss of wildlife implies the loss of vital genetic diversity and other values of wildlife. The loss of wildlife is almost always associated with the degradation or loss of their habitats in Kenya.

This implies loss of critical ecosystem services provided by the rangelands, such as purification of water and air.

As a scholar what do you recommend as best management system for the rangelands?

Wildlife face the greatest threats in the rangelands. These make up 88 per cent of Kenya‘s land surface and spans 21 counties from Narok and Kajiado in the south to Marsabit and Turkana in the north.

It is important and urgent that effective wildlife protection, conservation and management measures are established outside the protected State parks, reserves and sanctuaries in these rangelands and elsewhere. This is because most of Kenya‘s wildlife (65-70 per cent) is found outside the State-protected areas.

One model that shows great promise is that of community, private and group conservancies.

These involve collaborative partnerships between governmental agencies, land owners, private investors in tourism enterprises, national and international NGOs. They are being tried with some notable success in the Masai Mara, Nakuru-Naivasha, Kajiado, Laikipia, Isiolo, Samburu and Marsabit.

The involvement of communities and private land owners is critical because the government resources available for conservation are inadequate, given the increasing raft of national challenges.

The landowners and communities have a detailed knowledge of the local circumstances, have various skills and vested interests in the success of the conservancies on their lands, due to a variety of factors, including the economic benefits from tourism and employment in the conservancies.

The conservancies also enable individuals, communities and the public to include or integrate their lands in broader landscape and regional biodiversity conservation frameworks.

The landowners (private, group or communal) who choose to conserve and protect wildlife on their land contribute to expanding the space available for wildlife conservation and critical ecosystem services in the rural landscapes (rangelands).

The conservancies buffer adjoining protected areas from human impacts on their edges.

They also complement the limited skills, capacity and resources of State agencies. Because of the different circumstances prevailing in the rangelands, the conservancies adopt pluralistic and locally adaptive approaches to solving conservation challenges in the different localities.

But for these conservancies to succeed, wildlife and nature conservation must evolve to become a major constituent of sustainable rural livelihoods in the rangelands. For this to happen, the State must provide enabling legislation and policy environment.

The Wildlife Conservation and Management Act 2013, provides some of the required policies and legislation but several rules and regulations are still to be formulated, adopted and promulgated to fully actualise this Act.

Mega infrastructure projects such as the SGR have encroached on protected areas. Are there alternatives and best practices for Kenya to follow and safeguard its heritage as a beacon for protected areas management?

It is important to have mega projects because the country rightfully needs to develop. That said, development should enhance the value of, and not destroy, our precious national heritage. For example, Kenya is constructing a railway line crossing over the Nairobi National Park, which is a mere 117 kilometre square in area.

Kenya would most likely be the first country in the world to ever construct a railway line through an existing National Park. In all the seven known cases worldwide where a railway line passes through or over a national park, the parks were established after the railway line and not vice versa.

Moreover, six of the seven examples are vast areas so that the railway line has possibly limited impact.

Also, it has been shown that there is evidence of substantial pollution in parks that have a railway line pass through them.

Worse still, such developments set bad precedents and endanger other parks and conservation areas because they increase the risk that comparable developments could be undertaken in the other areas. Such developments may also cause as yet unforeseen but irreversible damage to the ecosystems  where they are carried out.

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