Date Published:

Friday, April 5, 2019 - 12:45

Kenya Wildlife Service Director General, Brigadier (Rtd) John Waweru says KWS has developed a Corporate Policy to train community rangers at its Law Enforcement Academy (LEA) in Manyani, as part of capacity building for the entire wildlife conservation fraternity in Kenya.

This, Brigadier Waweru says, will ensure the community rangers are well trained to cope with the challenges that they encounter in the course of their duties.

The Director General made the remarks when he addressed a meeting that brought together key wildlife stakeholders from across the country. KWS, the Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association (KWCA), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Northern Rangelands Trust (NRT), and Maasai Mara Wildlife Conservancies Association (MMWCA),  were the main players during the fourth Annual National Conservancies Leaders Conference, which was held at the Multi Media University on March 27/28, 2019, under the theme: ‘Delivering Innovative and Inclusive Solutions for People and Wildlife.’ 

Brigadier Waweru stated that a common challenge faced by KWS and conservation stakeholders was to address the issue of compensation for loss caused by wildlife, elucidating that the current compensation program had faced stiff challenges. He, however, went on to assure the conference that the problems were not insurmountable, urging all present to work together to find lasting solutions for this emotive community issue. He expressed optimism that there would be a roll-out of compensation in the near future.

The DG commended conservancies’ contributions to reducing poaching in the country, and urged them to continue in their endeavours to see that poaching is eradicated. He said the fight against bush meat trade could be won through collaboration.

KWS Chairman, Board of Trustees, Dr. John Waithaka, commended the forum participants for the sacrifices they make to ensure that Kenya’s wildlife populations thrive, noting that the role they play in the conservation of wildlife is critical for the country. He told the conference how, in 1995, when KWS was in search of a strategy to ensure sustainable conservation, she concluded that it would be impossible to have viable wildlife populations in the future, unless the support of land owners was enlisted. He lamented about people of bad will, who doubted the fact that 70% of wildlife existed outside protected areas.

Regardless of naysayers, in 1995, KWS came up with a campaign of ‘Parks beyond parks,’ focusing on conservation outside protected areas. This resulted in a strategy called the Minimum Viable Conservation Area Network (MVCA) for every park; Dr. Waithaka said adding, “KWS looked at the area that was necessary and critical for the protection of wildlife. After this was done, KWS embarked on finding modalities to engage the owners of the lands adjacent to protected areas; this led to the rapid birth of conservancies: Kimana, Mwaluganje and several more”. Today, these conservancies’ efforts have led to the protection of 11% of Kenya’s land surface, compared to the 8% protected by KWS.

Dr. Waithaka commended the strides taken thus far, but said that there still remained much more to be done. He told the attendees that solutions lay with the conference and their partners.  He added that finding solutions for wildlife challenges was intertwined with finding solutions for people, which is why KWS made a paradigm shift from the previous strategy held 30 years ago, which focused only on the protection of wildlife.

The Chairman said that fencing was not a long-term solution for human-wildlife conflict, because it interfered with wildlife migratory corridors and the ecosystem as a whole. He encouraged the conference to think outside the box about the things they can do to find solutions that are mutually beneficial for both human and wildlife populations to thrive.

He thanked donors for their magnanimous support, but said that over-reliance on them was untenable in the long run. He advised the conference participants to identify ways in which they would eventually become self-sustaining. Dr. Waithaka informed the conference that, during his time as an employee of Parks Canada, Banff National Park had upwards of four million tourists per annum, regardless of their scanty wildlife populations. He challenged the participants to find ways of packaging their tourism and to change their mindset, because Kenya is endowed with many resources.

Immediate former KWS acting DG Professor Charles Musyoki commended KWCA for their rapid advancements in the last six years after the adoption of their Strategic Plan, which was developed in 2013. He lauded the collaboration between conservancies, which saw membership shoot from zero to 160 in that short span of time; thanking members present for the co-operation they gave him during his tenure as acting DG.

In Kenya, 15 million acres are set aside for conservancies, which play host to 65% of our wildlife, largely due to the collaboration of the land owners and communities residing adjacent to protected areas. The conference was heralded as a hope for wildlife populations in Kenya, even as it was recognized that wildlife intermingles with communities, therefore livelihoods of these communities should be at the forefront when discussing wildlife issues.

Questions raised by conservancy representatives included: the question of delinking compensation, yet it is laid down in the law; shorter time frames for compensation; alternative reparations for snake bite victims; the possibility of budgetary allocations targeting the management of endangered species; the rationale behind the haste employed to amend the WCMA 2013 and the diluted community representation as well as burgeoning elephant populations and the possibility of culling them.

The conference was updated on new policies and laws affecting conservancies, after which followed a discussion on governance and management issues in conservancies. Out of the registered conservancies in the Kenya, there was an impressive representation at the conference, from 121 out of 160 conservancies, hailing from 22 Counties. Chairpersons in attendance came from the Coast, Kajiado, Narok,Taita Taveta, Athi Kapiti, Laikipia, Sorale, Northern, Maasai Mara, Rift Lakes, Baringo and Western areas of the country.