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Without wildlife there is no tourism


“Without wildlife there is no tourism,” said Grace Nderitu, Ecotourism Kenya’s respected CEO. Wildlife tourism is the cornerstone of the Kenyan economy, with treasured species such as elephants, lions and migratory mammals combined with iconic landscapes water bodies and cultures attracting tourists, generating income and creating employment.

Wildlife losses in Kenya, cases of wildlife crime and illegal trafficking of trophy have been causing concern among the conservation fraternity during the last few years. Help has now come from an unlikely source – the communities and landowners bordering protected areas. A gathering of conservancy leaders from 96 conservancies across the country at Maanzoni Lodge in Machakos County provided a new source of hope for Kenya’s threatened wildlife. “It is a fact that areas where conservancies have been established, poaching is on a downward trend,” said Benjamin Kavu, Deputy Director of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) on the occasion.

Communities and landowners have often, and many times justifiably, been blamed for spearing, poisoning and snaring wildlife for meat and to protect their livestock or farms. Lion killings stacked public opinion in local, regional and international conservation fraternities against the perpetrators of such crimes and exposed the growing conflict between expanding human population and wildlife, made more acute by the year as more and more people push into what was previously seen as unproductive marginal land, therefore, left to wildlife.

The fact that such communities are now taking the lead to conserve the same animals that has been a nuisance and threat to their livestock must be a big source of relief for wildlife enthusiasts and the tourism sector.

The conference themed “Sharing Knowledge for a Better Tomorrow” was organized by Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association (KWCA), an umbrella body for conservancies in Kenya established in 2013. The meeting was funded by GEF Small Grants program, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), also known as the World Wildlife Fund in the US and Canada, The Nature Conservancy and USAID.

Kenya’s future prosperity as described in vision 2030 hinges on a healthy wildlife population dependent on a network of Parks, reserves and private conservancies. A strong protected area network connected by open corridors and dispersal areas is the backbone of a strong tourism industry and the guarantor of the long-term survival of Kenya’s prized wildlife.

Outside the parks and reserves where very significant numbers of wildlife are found, eco-tourism opportunities remain underexploited. Here, wildlife is threatened by human settlement, poaching, farming, and construction of infrastructure which, often poorly planned, runs across migration routes and corridors, threatening to isolate wildlife populations. In the last several decades alone, human population has more than doubled in Kenya and the government’s effort to provide services often clashes with conservation. The country’s wildlife population has according to some records reduced by more than half bringing the wildlife based tourism industry into question.

“Today, conservancies are diverse, both in size and governance structure. This diversity has put Kenya in the global map as an African leader in community based conservation. Each day our conservancies are featured in newspapers and magazines across the globe while at the same time they have become a topic of discussion and area of research among local and international academicians,” said Tom Lalampaa, Chairman of the Kenya Wildlife Conservation Association, before adding, “We heartily thank our communities and landowners for their continued resolve to coexist with the wildlife, even though many times they suffer costs.” Baringo and Samburu counties were singled out as leaders in the support of wildlife conservancies.

Because wildlife conservation is a national function, Tom urged the government to support the works being done by conservancies. Towards that end he reiterated: “The government of Kenya ought to allocate more resources and provide incentives to support conservation of wildlife outside parks and reserves. Making functional the County Wildlife Compensation and Conservation Committees, setting up the endowment fund and compensation scheme are among key legal mechanisms to help reduce cost of living with wildlife.”

The conservancy leaders were taken through the achievements that have been made under the Wildlife Act 2013 which include stiffer penalties for wildlife crimes and provided for three KWS board positions for private and community conservancies to mainstream the community voice in government development plans. Under this Act, conservancies were also for the first time recognized by law. County Wildlife Committees were established while Community Wildlife Associations were finally also recognized. Currently there are nearly two hundred potential member conservancies registered with KWCA.

The leaders at the meeting were urged to be good stewards of wildlife and nature and to participate and benefit from the tourism industry in their specific counties to ensure that both the people and wildlife are protected.

For ease of contact to the Kenya Wildlife Conservation Association, the following details availed:

Dickson Ole Kaelo, Kenya Wildlife Conservation Association (KWCA), +254 722467344

The Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association (KWCA) is a landowner-led national membership organization representing community and private conservancies in Kenya. KWCA works with conservancy landowners and regional associations to create an enabling environment for conservancies to deliver environmental and livelihood benefits.

Established in 2013 and with a membership of initially 140 members, KWCA’s mission is to be the forum where landowners have a unified voice, share experiences and actively participate in protecting and benefiting from wildlife. KWCA works towards a future where wildlife and communities benefit from a network of functional conservancies that complement state protected areas.

KWCA is setting out to change how Kenya’s wildlife and wild places are managed as well as strengthen people’s rights to manage and benefit from nature.

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