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Elephant naming festival will foster conservation efforts

By Najib Balala | November 8th 2021

Tourism and wildlife CS Najib Balala, Kajiado Governor Ole Lenku (blue checked shirt) witness the collaring of elephants before the start of the Tembo Naming Festival held on Oct 10 at Amboseli National Park.

Kenya’s wildlife and natural resources are key tourist attractions. Travellers visit our national parks, reserves, and conservancies to see wildlife in natural habitats. Without a doubt, Safari is and will continue to be one of our prime tourist offerings alongside the beach and other attractions and experiences.

Kenya was once again named the world’s leading Safari destination by the World Travel Awards (WTA) in 2020, cementing the fact that wildlife is a big part of our culture and heritage. This is a position we are keen on maintaining as a competitive edge over other destinations offering similar experiences.

Towards this front, therefore, our key priority area under our National Wildlife Strategy 2030 is conservation. The strategy gives us a roadmap for transforming wildlife conservation. It has laid out opportunities and innovative approaches to address emerging challenges facing wildlife while ensuring benefits accrue to the millions of Kenyans who support wildlife on their land.

This is captured in our strategy and implementation framework that enhances communication, coordination, and collaboration to inspire engagement and participation as well as catalyse conservation actions with all stakeholders.

The country today boasts of 23 national parks, 26 conservancies, 26 game reserves, 160 community conservancies and over 150 NGOs that play a major role in ensuring that we protect our endangered species. The national wildlife census now gives us a clear picture of the wildlife resources we have. This will help us to identify where resources are required going forward. That said, conservation highly depends on tourism for revenue which has been highly hindered by the low uptake of tourism in the last 18 months. The Covid-19 pandemic has greatly affected the tourism sector globally.

Due to this, we must look inwards for solutions to ensure that this model that sets us apart from the rest of the world is sustained. Initiatives to protect wildlife like the use of technology to monitor threatened wildlife populations must continue. Poachers are increasingly using technology to better their chances of success. To match and outdo them, we must embark on modernisation and embrace new technologies. This is now even more important with the reduced number of visitors in the parks due to restricted movement.

Additionally, we are working on sensitising the public on the need to be part of the conservation efforts. Everyone has a role to play to ensure that future generations enjoy our wildlife resources. One of the initiatives that will in the long run play a great role in ensuring inclusion in conservation efforts as well raising funds for conservation is the annual Magical Kenya Tembo Naming Festival that was held for the first time in October this year.

The festival has the potential to encourage Kenyans and the international community to engage in conservation efforts and also offers an opportunity to learn more about elephants, other wildlife and our heritage.

During the event, individuals had a chance to adopt an elephant after contributing funds towards their conservation. The foster parent (adopter) was given priority to choose 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.

According to the national wildlife census, Kenya boasts over 36,280 elephants. The number has been increasing at an annual rate of 2.8 per cent over the last three decades. Remarkably, there has been more than 96 per cent decline in poaching. Some 386 elephants were lost in 2013 compared to 11 elephants poached last year.

This success is attributed to enhanced government initiatives to combat poaching and trafficking of ivory. With this increase in numbers comes in other challenges such as human-wildlife conflict as well as reduced elephant space within the parks. The festival will ensure that we have enough resources to mitigate against this as well as guarantee that the conservation of elephants is not affected by shocks and crises like the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Balala is Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife

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