United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the European Union (EU) on July 23, 2020 donated an assortment of equipment to Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to aid the Service in hastening field patrols to protect wildlife.
Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife Hon. Najib Balala received the donation for handover to KWS at the Service headquarters during a ceremony attended by top ministry officials, EU and UNODC diplomats. The CS said hospitality industry and the conservation sector were among the worst hit sectors by Covid19, because of their dependence on visitors who travel from across the world.
He noted that before Covid 19 pandemic, KWS park-entry revenues were Ksh 4.2 billion annually, but during 2020/2021, these revenues are expected to be less than 1 billion shillings, hence the partnerships with UNODC and EU, to agree on how best to offset these major revenue deficits to continue to manage our national heritage.
Balala advocated for not only reviving the sector post-Covid, but rethinking methodologies for a new and better tourism and wildlife sector. “In March this year, the government approved a new policy for wildlife; the previous policy dated back to 1975,” he said.
The CS said the government has tamed the poaching menace through several successful anti-poaching campaigns. From January to date, not a single rhino has been poached anywhere in Kenya, he said adding, of the nine elephants poached during this period, none was poached in KWS protected areas.
Balala said even more dangerous to wildlife now is the illegal game/bush meat poaching and encroachment into national parks. He said that plans were underway for the re-survey of all our national parks and reserves. He assured that his ministry and KWS would ascertain that by the end of 2021, there are title deeds for all KWS protected areas in Kenya, to prevent encroachment in terms of grazing, charcoal burning and other illegal activities. He reached out to the EU for partnership in carrying out this mandate.
The CS issued a stern warning to poachers and consumers of bush meat. He discouraged Kenyans from consuming any game meat, as doing so leads to exposure to zoonotic diseases and viruses like Covid19.
He thanked KWS Director General Brig. (Rtd) John Waweru and his team for their resilience and commitment to conservation, saying that the government has committed 1 billion shillings to pay salaries to community scouts in conservancies which have 3,500 rangers in total.
The EU Ambassador to Kenya, Amb. Simon Mordue, said Covid 19 has had a grave impact on economies and local livelihoods which are linked to the protection of wildlife. The challenge that this poses, he said, is that people are, unfortunately tempted to recourse to illegal trade to try and make money during these difficult times.
He said that, within the overall support package of KShs 40 billion the EU has made available to Kenya, it has ensured that there can be support for the ministry in the area of wildlife, tourism and KWS. This has manifested itself in many forms such as contributing to the salaries of the rangers and wardens whose livelihoods have been endangered by lack of trade and the closure of parks and conservancies, he said. He noted that the period during which the pandemic lasts would be the best time to visit Kenya’s Parks and Reserves, while allowing visitors to take advantage of the recently lowered park entry rates.
He said the EU supports practical measures that can provide equipment and support, such as the regional program funded entirely by the EU which involves the distribution of 15 motor bikes, 180 sets of tyres to enable KWS to quickly respond where there is a threat, to protect Kenya’s biodiversity.
He applauded the CS for his efforts to brainstorm widely on what can be done to support a re-emergence of a stronger Kenyan tourism and wildlife industry, in order to harness the potential economic benefits of this unique biodiversity.
UNODC regional representative, Mr. Amado Philip de Andrés said UNODC is supporting Kenya by providing technical assistance to fight the pandemic. He acknowledged the CS and his team for their exemplary leadership, saying there are collaborative plans with the European Union to create a cross-border program covering the entire region in the next 18 months.
The African Union will then adopt these programs under the leadership of the CS, he said. Principal Secretary in the State Department of Wildlife, Prof. Fred Segor, expressed his gratitude to Kenya’s partners for their contribution to wildlife management, saying that he looked forward to closer future collaboration.
KWS Director General, Brig. (Rtd.) John M. Waweru lauded the long-standing association KWS has had with the UNODC. He cited the ‘new normal’ that KWS and the world are having to adopt due to the corona virus pandemic. He added that UNODC’s support to KWS was especially vital now given the rising threats to wildlife from soaring bush meat poaching.