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State launches elephant naming ceremony

 CS Najib Balala flanked by Maasai dancers after announcing the launch of Magical Kenya Elephant Naming Festival. (Courtesy)

Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala today (June 14) launched an annual elephant naming festival at the Amboseli National Park. Dubbed Tembo Naming Festival, the event will be held on August 12th to coincide with the World Elephant Day.

It is hoped that the festival will bring attention to the conservation of elephants and the Kenyan tourism offering.

“We feel that this is a great opportunity for everyone to be part of the sustainability of Tourism and Wildlife in Kenya for posterity. Wildlife is a big part of Kenya’s heritage and ensuring that future generations enjoy this resource should always remain paramount. The launch of Magical Kenya Elephant Naming Festival builds on the good work that KWS and other partners have been doing over the years,” said Balala. 


The initiative will also play a pivotal role in ensuring that the conservation of elephants is not affected by shocks and crisis like the Covid-19 pandemic.

The CS said Amboseli National Park was chosen for this launch because of its unique role on elephant conservation, not least a robust elephant research programme.

“This is the only place in the world, that the elephants can be traced through their DNA,” he said.

Amboseli is home to the world’s most famous elephants.

At the same time, Balala said conservation was a key priority area under the National Wildlife Strategy 2030. The strategy gives a roadmap for transforming wildlife conservation in Kenya. It lays out opportunities and innovative approaches to address emerging challenges facing wildlife in Kenya while ensuring benefits accrue to the millions of Kenyans who support wildlife living on their land.

“This initiative brings us closer to achieving the priority goals set out in our Wildlife Strategy. Implementation of the framework will enhance communication, coordination, and collaboration and inspire engagement and participation, as well as catalyze conservation actions by all stakeholders”, he said.


During the Tembo Naming Festival, individuals will have a chance to adopt an elephant after contributing funds towards their conservation.

The foster parent (adopter) will then be given priority in choosing the first name of the elephant. The second name will be a Maasai name based on the animal’s profile, history, role in the family and physical attributes like state of tusks.

To be part of this event, individuals can give as little as Sh1,000. For corporate bodies this will start from Sh50,000.

Currently, Kenya boasts of more than 34,000 Elephants, the number has been gradually increasing at an annual rate of 2.8 per cent over the last three decades. Remarkably, there has been a 96 per cent decline in poaching with 386 elephants being lost in 2013 compared to 11 elephants poached in 2020.

“We shall be fronting a special bill to protect all endangered species and protected areas and also promote private-public partnerships in conservation as we also endeavor to deal with other issues such as human wildlife conflict. The reforms will ensure resilience of the industry, strengthen collaborations between the national government and counties as we seek to protect our natural resources,” Balala added.

At the same time Balala expressed optimism that the tourism industry was coming back, but added that it would take time with the rider that the 2019 figures would hopefully be realized by 2024.

He also said the government hoped to up the figures paid out to victims of human-wildlife conflict.

He said the country had spent Sh2 billion in the last three years in compensation from cases arising from human-wildlife contact, but that this was not enough. He said the ministry had this year requested treasury to allocate Sh3.1 billion to pay the backlog of compensation cases.

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