President William Ruto has ordered for a review of laws and policies to tackle challenges being experienced in the wildlife sector.
In a speech delivered by the Prime Cabinet secretary Musalia Mudavadi on behalf of the President during the first Scientific Wildlife conference in Naivasha, Ruto admitted that whereas legal frameworks and policies existed, the wildlife sector was experiencing challenges.
“In this regard, I direct the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Heritage to submit a report to me in the next month on a roadmap towards the enactment of a broader conservation policy and law with other relevant sectors,” President Ruto said.
He added: “In addition, the Ministry should submit a report to my office in the same period on the relevance of the National Wildlife Strategy and the Wildlife Policy and whether their review is necessary.”
He said the move was part of harmonizing the existing policies and legal frameworks to respond to the needs of the wildlife sector.
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Ruto said some of the challenges the wildlife sector is experiencing include habitat loss and degradation, loss of ecosystem connectivity, climate change, human-wildlife conflicts, diseases and loss of genetic viability.
He added that poaching, alongside infrastructural development and encroachment into wildlife areas, are also critical challenges that have led to significant declines in wildlife populations across the country.
He said that while there are challenges in the wildlife conservation sector, scientific research plays a key role in evidence-based decision-making.
“We expect to get innovative approaches to addressing the myriad of challenges, including issues of wildlife corridors and ecosystem connectivity. We also expect that collaboratively with other relevant Government Ministries, the Institute shall contribute to tapping from the Blue Economy and Carbon financing in protected areas, among others areas,” he added.
During the conference, scientists exposed glaring gaps in integrating research findings into policymaking.
They said while research remains continuous, there is still a worrying gap to be addressed.
While policymakers decide policies based on available evidence, researchers have been striving to find ways to gain new knowledge and build the evidence base.
However, scientists say a lot of research is being done but few informed policies.
Wildlife Research and Training Institute director Dr Partick Omondi said scientists continue doing a lot of cutting-edge research that needs to be considered to solve the current challenges the sector is facing.
WRTI board chair Dr David Nkedianye said there was a need to integrate research findings into policy making, and communicating research findings to policymakers remains a key challenge.
"Sometimes there is too much knowledge that is not useful on the ground. Our habitats are getting degraded, wildlife populations are reducing, and livelihoods are affected because of the populations that are going down and affecting tourism. If wildlife numbers crash, we have ourselves to blame, and part of doing that is doing research and feeding the research into policy and implementing these policies," Dr Nkedianye said.
To seal the existing gaps in research and policy formulations, the stakeholders announced the development of a national wildlife database that policymakers can easily access for the formulation of policy and management.
"With this, science will guide policies, and through this initiative, we can all reverse wildlife population declines," Dr Omondi said.
Conservation Alliance of Kenya Board Chair Lucy Waruingi said: “If we do not integrate research findings into policies, biodiversity will continue suffering. Scientific data can inform the management of ecosystems better, but our policies do not translate to these findings."
The event brought together local, regional and international scientists, wildlife managers, conservation partners, and stakeholders.
During the three-day event, the stakeholders will discuss issues and challenges in the wildlife sector, including changes in wildlife population trends, wildlife habitat restoration and connectivity, climate change mitigation and adaptation abilities.
In 2020, the government delinked Wildlife Research and training functions, staff and assets from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to operate as an independent institution.
This followed the need to provide coordinated wildlife research and comprehensive data to inform scientific-based solutions that inform policy decisions and management approaches and create innovative wildlife-based products and services.