Conservationists fault Balala’s new KWS board

Tourism and Wildlife CS Najib Balala at a past function. He gazetted the new board of trustees on July 31. [File, Standard]

Conservationists have criticised Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala's appointments to the Kenya Wildlife Service board.

Balala, in a gazette notice dated July, 31, 2018, appointed a new board of trustees that will serve for the next three years.

In the new appointments following the expiry of the previous board's term in April, the CS appointed Ian Craig, the former owner of Lewa conservancy and Northern Rangelands Trust Director, Jochen Zeitz, owner of Segera ranch in Laikipia, Betty Maitoyo and Fred Ojiambo.

However, local wildlife conservationists have questioned the appointments, claiming some of those picked to sit on the board have been pushing for privatisation of wildlife reserves.

Conservationist John Mbaria, who co-authored the book ‘The Big Conservation Lie, claimed that KWS is deliberately being weakened to create a crisis that will eventually lead to privatisation of wildlife reserves.

Gilbert Kiptalam, a wildlife conservationists and Nyakio Munyiyi have also questioned some of the appointments.

Director of public communications at Ministry of Tourism Mulei Muia however maintained that the board is balanced as it is a representation of various parties.

Muia said KWS is a state agency and there was no plan to privatise the sector.

"The board is a representation of various parties and the Ministry does not disregard the choices of parties," Mr Muia said.

He added that the board members appointed represented both the communities and the conservancies and that KWS remains a state agency.

The new board is expected to serve for three years starting July 30, and replaces the one chaired by Richard Leakey.

The board's appointment comes barely a week after the death of 10 rhinos, eliciting outcry from conservationists.

KWS, which has been under fire was criticised, with Leakey noting that the absence of the board may have led to oversight on the part of those involved in the translocation of the rhinos without precaution. 

In a press briefing, Leakey said the absence of a team for three months meant ‘weighty decisions were hanging’.

The appointments have also emerged barely a week after Balala suspended six officials from KWS following the rhino deaths.

The CS termed the grounds for suspension of the six officials as ‘unacceptable and professional negligence’ noting that disciplinary action would be taken against them as deemed appropriate by the KWS board.