6th December 2015
Government urged to fund wildlife conservancies to stem wildlife loss
Friday 3rd December 2015: Wildlife loss has recently become a crisis in Kenya, cases of wildlife crime and illegal tracking of trophy have been on the rise during the last three years. But help has come from an unlikely source; communities and landowners. A gathering of conservancy leaders from 96 conservancies across the country meeting at Maanzoni lodge 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”, says Benjamin Kavu, Deputy Director, KWS.
Communities and landowners have always been blamed for spearing, poisoning and snaring wildlife for meat and to protect their livestock or farms. That they are now taking the lead to conserve the same animals that has been a nuisance must be a big source of relief for wildlife enthusiasts and the tourism sector.”Without wildlife there is no tourism”, says Grace Nderitu, Ecotourism Kenya CEO. Wildlife tourism is the cornerstone of the Kenya economy, with treasured species such as elephants, lions and migratory mammals combined with iconic landscapes water bodies and cultures attract tourists, generating income and creating employment.
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, WWF, 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 conservancies. A strong protected area network connected by open corridors and dispersal areas is the backbone of a strong tourism industry.
Outside the Parks and Reserves where majority of wildlife occurs, eco-tourism opportunities remain underexploited. Here wildlife is threatened by human settlement, poaching, farming and infrastructural development. In the last 3 decades alone, human population has more than doubled and the government’s effort to provide services often clashes with conservation. The country’s wildlife population has also reduced by more than half bringing the tourism industry into stagnation.
‘’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 Kenya Wildlife Conservation Association.
‘’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. ‘’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, 3 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 Compensation and Conservation Committees were established while Conservancies were also recognized. This is a first for Kenya. Currently there are nearly 200 member conservancies registered with KWCA.
The leaders 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.
Dickson Ole Kaelo
Kenya Wildlife Conservation Association (KWCA)
About Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association (KWCA)
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 140 members, KWCA 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 their habitats are managed as well as strengthen people’s rights to manage and benefit from nature.