If you ask someone in a faraway country, say in Asia or Latin America, what Kenya is known for, they are likely to say our diverse wildlife. We are naturally blessed with a rich ecosystem, but there are challenges that must be confronted today. Global warming, population growth and a significant increase in the usage of non-recyclable materials such as plastic, and rising consumerism, all lead to slow (and sometimes fast) demise of wildlife species.
We therefore must step up our national conservation efforts. To preserve our heritage and our nature, it is critical to put systems in place that reverse destruction of species and their natural habitats. It is also imperative that we maintain policies that keep the wildlife here thriving as much as it has during any other century. Future generations will thank us for the focus we place on this. In fact, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) calls conservation the cornerstone of our economy.
Mother nature blessed Kenya with long coastlines, forests lining the Indian Ocean, and rich verdant savannahs. The Great Rift Valley is geographically unique and the second tallest mountain in Africa - Mount Kenya - stands proudly in the heart of our land, radiating its glory throughout Kenya.
The Big Five safari animals that tourists flock here to see, including lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards and buffalo, could not thrive if their natural habitat was unprotected. The strength and organisation of our national parks system ensures their safety and boosts our economy. While the tourism service sector provides a huge fountain of employment, so do other industries related to the environment - forest, agriculture and fishing to name but a few.
Kenya Wildlife Service has teamed up with the AWF to work on Maasai giraffe conservation in the Tsavo-Mkomazi transboundary landscape, which should hopefully serve as a model for emulation across Africa. Kenya’s ability to team up with Tanzania for conservation efforts should not be taken for granted.
Poaching and livestock incursions still present a problem at the Kenyan-Tanzanian border, which is why patrol units combining officers from both countries co-operate to protect key ecosystems. It is a testament to the deep relationship that President Uhuru Kenyatta has fostered with our neighbour, which far exceeds the cordial but surface-level foreign relations that many African states have with one another.
In 2013, the conviction rate for wildlife crime stood at only 44 per cent. Since then, it has risen to an incredible 91 per cent. Achieving this was no easy feat. It demanded the co-operation of the Kenyan police, DPP, KWS as well as the communities that inhabit ecological hotspots - especially in Tsavo and the coastal region. Community-based conservation has proven particularly useful in stopping illegal poaching across the country. There is no greater success than that achieved by a community working together.
Kenya is making progress in conservation in the international arena as well. The President recently sent delegates to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in Geneva. The central item on our delegation’s itinerary was preventing the passing of a proposal by South Africa to trade their ivory stockpiles.
With a vote of 183 to 101, it was defeated after Kenya rallied against it backed by support from the African Elephant Coalition and other like-minded nations. Ivory trade is a result of poaching that kills elephants and rhinos and is illegal in Kenya and much of Africa. The outcome was the result of months of teamwork between the Kenyan government and conservation organisations. This is a testament to the strength and importance of private-public partnerships.
It would be an exaggeration to say Kenya has a perfect environmental track record. However, recent steps show good change is happening.
At Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenyan veterinarians have teamed up with their European colleagues to try implant an embryo from a northern white rhino into a southern white rhino surrogate. If this results in a pregnancy, it could help reverse the demise of the extremely endangered northern white rhino species. Such innovations, as well as trans-border conservation partnerships and our participation in international forums to protect wildlife, prove Kenya is doing something positive.
The writer is Igembe North MP
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