Always ahead of the game in African tourism, Kenya banned trophy hunting in 1977, as it became clear that wildlife could be worth more alive than dead thanks to its growing tourism industry. Long-established national parks and newly gazetted communal conservancies across the country strive to protect the nation’s wildlife – including many threatened species such as wild dogs and black and white rhino. But shockingly, a third of Kenya’s wildlife may have disappeared in the past quarter of a century*. Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), which manages Kenya’s national parks, is unable to provide the kind of 24-hour surveillance needed to deter poachers – and recent investigations even revealed that KWS staff were involved in poaching – and going as far as killing other poachers to cover their tracks.** And as a huge amount of wildlife actually lives outside of these protected areas, human-wildlife conflict results in the poisoning of predators, which threaten livestock, as well as the illegal hunting of game for meat.
In several other African countries where controlled hunting is permitted, (including Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana) wildlife is on the increase and high trophy hunting fees have been reinvested in wildlife conservation. Inevitably, there has, therefore, been talk of introducing hunting permits in Kenya. This would be a highly controversial move, not only amongst animal welfare groups, but with those who feel that this would be a step backwards for conservation. There are concerns about the potential for corruption and the ability – and conflicting interests – of the KWS to manage the permits – as well as the negative image this would bring to the tourism industry.
*Source: The Economist
**Source: Save the Rhino
What you can do
It still comes down to that principle that got hunting banned all those decades ago – that wildlife is worth more alive than dead. By visiting Kenya, taking a game drive and paying your entry fees to national parks and reserves, you are putting this into action.
Communal conservancies are also a fantastic example of how land use can affect the fortune of wildlife. Rather than fees being paid to KWS, they are paid directly to the community that owns the land, meaning that local people can see instantly the benefits of protecting the wildlife – which is what visitors come to see. The conservancies create important buffer zones around the parks and wildlife reserves – creating extended wildlife corridors and deterring poachers in a kind of Kenyan “Neighbourhood Watch”. So visiting the conservancies and creating income for those who have set aside their own land for the protection of wildlife sends an important message to those who may otherwise be poaching or poisoning.
If you want to support a specific programme in Kenya take a look at Save the Rhino
, who run several protecting the endangered rhino, and the areas they live in.