BY MWAKERA MWAJEFA
Kenya can only succeed in protecting its wildlife resources through engaging and involving key stakeholders including local communities to bolster conservation efforts in the country.
A shift approach, according to the First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, will see such communities become the primary protective fronts and solution to the current wildlife and human conflict in many parts of the country.
“The subject of conservation continues to be a delicate and complex one that calls for complimentary capabilities of diverse groups including policy makers, philanthropists, conservationists, the civil society, the media and local communities,” she said.
Speaking on April 11, 2019 during the screening of a documentary titled ‘Ivory Belongs to Elephants Walk’, Mrs Kenyatta termed it (documentary) as a significant milestone that will raise global awareness on the plight of the African elephant.
The 25-minute documentary covers the experiences of Mr Jim Justus Nyamu, the executive director of Elephant Neighbour’s Centre, who has so far walked 15,411 kilometres in eight countries to raise awareness on the need to protect the African elephant.
“I congratulate the Elephant Neighbor’s Centre for the tireless effort, the energy and the courage. The advocacy walks of thousands of miles across Africa, Europe and America to educate and inform the world about our responsibility to nurture nature has been a true demonstration of the campaign’s resilience,” she said.
She expressed optimism that the documentary will help draw the world’s attention to the campaign to save elephants and other iconic species for future generations as well as cultivate hope that the ongoing conservation efforts are not in vain.
According to her Kenya’s elephant population of approximately 34,000 is the 4th largest in the world after Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
However, she regrets that illegal trade in ivory and rhino horns has resulted in the loss of elephants and rhino species at an alarming rate. This calls for increased efforts to protect the declining elephant population in Kenya and across Africa.
“The elephant is listed globally as critically endangered, and the threat of extinction demands concerted efforts by all of us to ensure that we protect the declining populations of these precious species.”
“As citizens of this country, we are responsible for our national heritage, our environment and our wildlife. It is our obligation to conserve nature for our future, and for our children’s future,” she added.
Wildlife plays a critical role in the Kenyan economy especially the contribution of tourism sector as one of its key foreign exchange earners and a source of employment. The resource is the cornerstone of the nature-based tourism industry in Kenya.
It operates as part of our economy and generates over 10 percent of Kenya’s GDP, says Mama Kenya adding, “The sector also directly employs over 11 percent of the total formal workforce.”
Echoing the First lady’s sentiments, Mr Nyamu says local communities should not be ignored in wildlife conservation because doing so will affect the process of developing a sustainable and practical conservation model.
“The promotion of indigenous community roles in conservation is a key game changer in sustainable conservation models,” he said.
Other speakers included the Chairman of the National Museums of Kenya David Musila and Ecotourism Kenya Chief Executive Officer Grace Nderitu.