Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala (pictured) has created a naming fund for newborn rhino calves across the country.
Speaking at Meru National Park where he was accompanied by his deputy, Joseph Boinett, and National Assembly Environment Committee chairman Kareke Mbiuki for a rhino calf naming ceremony, the CS said the fund would be established across the country and used to maintain the welfare of park rangers who take care of rhinos.
"Anyone who wants to name a rhino calf must pay Sh100,000 for the privilege. This will also motivate parks in facilitating increased reproduction because the more their rhinos reproduce, the more money they get in their funds," said Balala.
The CS named two calves Walya and Layan after his two granddaughters who celebrated their birthday this week, and paid Sh200,000 into the Meru National Park naming fund.
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The Meru National Park has had 9 newborn rhino calves this year, although two died. The CS congratulated the Kenya Wildlife Service for the increased reproduction rate of black and white rhinos.
This year alone, the country has recorded 31 healthy calves, 17 of which are black rhinos and 14 white.
"If all 31 calves cannot be named I will make the fund public so that people can compete online on who gets to name the calves so that we can raise welfare funds for our rangers," said Balala.
CS Balala has further expressed the ministry's desire to amalgamate the Eastern region parks into one ecosystem in order to save their biodiversity and build adequate infrastructure to attract private investment.
Among the counties to be involved include Meru, Isiolo, Tharaka Nithi and Kitui.
"These parks are vast, but they lack lodges and proper infrastructure like good roads, which has hampered tourism even though they have an exquisite biodiversity. Amalgamating them into one will enable us to improve infrastructure and attract private investors who will revive the parks and promote tourism," added Balala.
Despite a substantial shortfall in budgetary allocation for human-wildlife conflict compensations, the ministry has issued Sh550,000 to Meru and Tharaka Nithi counties as compensation for crop destruction.
Previously, Sh15 million had been paid out in Tharaka Nithi and Sh65 million in Meru County. According to Balala, 13,000 claims have been submitted for compensation, but only 5,000 of those have been verified so far.
The outstanding bills for the verified claims range between five to six billion, while the government has only allocated Sh1.5 billion.
"This financial year, Sh549 million has been allocated for compensation. There is still a huge backlog of unpaid claims. We are trying to ensure compensation is done so that we can get the goodwill of the public," added Balala.
In an effort to mitigate human-wildlife conflicts, the government has also commissioned a 53km electric fence in Ura, Tharaka Nithi County, at a cost of Sh96 million.
Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi has asked the ministry to help boost mountain tourism in the county, as well as ensure roads leading to Meru National Park are in good condition.