Kenyan conservation on the brink

In Dec 2001, we were in Kenya on our honeymoon. We were in Amboseli, Samburu & the Masai Mara. It was absolutely fantastic and I would probably say it was one of the highlights of my life. Especially the Mara. It is so awe-inspiring that one can get emotional. But, regrettably, even then I could definitely see some ominous signs that Kenya wasn’t looking after what must surely be their most valuable heritage.

The soil erosion in the Mara was shocking. There are tracks that are as wide as dual carriageways and they are still expanding. And nothing grows in/on these tracks. It is a mess. These widened tracks are formed initially in the rainy season when it is muddy and drivers don’t want to drive through the mud. Instead they drive around the mud and broaden the track in the process. All that is needed is some very basic maintenance on the roads. But there was no maintenance anywhere in the park.

New roads were also being created at an alarming rate. This happened when the drivers (usually on request from their ignorant passengers) went off the roads to get closer to animals. This then created new roads and before you knew it people were using these “new” roads as if they’d been there forever. This could be fixed with just very basic supervision. In Kruger, one of the best managed parks in the world, if you disobey the rules, you can get thrown out.

Now some more extremely worrying news about Kenya has surfaced. The first issue is that the Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS) has had a lot of its powers removed. Instead the Kenyan government has agreed to give local regions more of a say in how they run conservation in their area. I’m not 100% convinced that this is a bad idea, but many environmentalists think that local institutions are more prone to bribery than the KWS. Being African myself I know that this opinion isn’t totally unwarranted. I want to say that we should just wait and see, but with the stakes are so high that I don’t think we can afford to “wait and see”.

Now to the latest and most bizarre bit of news. I’m afraid this one stinks like rotten eggs to me – I cannot see any legitimacy in this. Kenya and Thailand have signed an agreement that will allow Thailand to manage Kenyan game reserves!! Thailand is one of the worst offenders when it comes to wildlife smuggling. Thailand have just opened a zoo where you can order your lion, tiger etc from its cage. Why on earth would Kenya allow them in. To me it sounds like the proverbial Wolf in Sheep’s Clothes or more appropriately, poacher in conservationist’s clothes.

Not only is this deeply troubling from an environmental perspective, but also from an economical one – so much of Kenya’s economy depends on eco-tourism. Any Kenyan or environmentalist should be very worried indeed.

This post has been syndicated from The Green DB.

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