Despite our wins, we must stand up to towering emerging challenges
Nairobi-April 5, 2018:
As the first quarter of 2018 comes to a close we reflect on the highs and the lows for conservation. Poaching is down and our court monitoring work reveals greater number of convictions and jail sentencing. Our TV series NTV Wild Talk is still going strong and millions of Kenyans watch it weekly. We have expanded our education and outreach work through a powerful partnership with Safaricom, Storymoja and Utah University which will reach schools and children in every corner of Kenya through school visits, distribution of materials, and participation in citizen science projects. Children are participating in gathering information for nationally important projects to save endangered species. This is real empowerment and it fills a need for providing meaningful activities for young people to participate in conservation.Thanks to donors like you, we have been able to make significant impact on children at Enkijape Primary school where food has translated to better learning, and the reward for the best performing children is visiting parks and falling in love with wildlife. At WildlifeDirect we believe that the future belongs to the youth of today, and so we will continue to expand our work to reconnect Kenyans to their wildlife so that they will value it and act to conserve it.
On the downside the construction of the Standard Guage Railway through Nairobi Park has been started to the collective dismay of Kenyans. An iconic national park did not need to be bisected by a massive new construction. The project now seeks public opinion on plans to build yet another road through the park, these projects appear to be afterthoughts and the harbinger of worse to come. The route of the railway across Kenya has not been disclosed to Kenyans and so the government is pitched in an ugly battle against conservationists – both sides arguing that they have the best interests of Kenya in mind. It is a very potent and challenging time for Kenya and Kenyans. Though great efforts were extended last year we clearly failed to move the needle. WildlifeDirect’s position on the SGR is that we must now work much more strategically to engage the government planners in a more effective manner and we have offered our services to the government to help ensure that existing railways and road developments minimize impacts on wildlife. We also seek to participate constructively in future planning.
Another development has rattled conservationists – the creation of a Task Force to explore options for wildlife utilization as provided for in the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act. We are alarmed at the lack of public engagement in the process and we fear that utilization which could be in the form of cropping or culling wildlife to provide meat for local restaurants. While the initiative is said to be an exploration into how to deliver benefits to land owners and communities who live with wildlife, we fear that poor messaging, and the rushing of the process will undermine hard gained wins for tourism, while opening loopholes for corruption. We have noted a surge in alarm, anger, frustration, desperation and fear among conservationists and communities which reveals a need for a strategic approach to addressing what people really want. WildlifeDirect’s position on wildlife utilization is that given the ongoing declines in wildlife numbers across Kenya, solutions are needed urgently. We believe that incentives for communities and people who own land in park adjacent buffer zones or wildlife corridors must be created. These incentives should not involve the killing of wildlife, but they could involve economic activities such as the breeding of endangered species for restocking in other areas.