Conservationists in Kenya are warning of an imminent poaching crisis should proposals to open the doors to game hunting sail through.
Dr Paula Kahumbu, CEO of WildlifeDirect, told Daily Nation over the phone on Tuesday that the proposed consumptive utilisation of wildlife would be a shoo-in for international wildlife poaching syndicates, who are after wildlife trophies, to return into the country as well as exacerbate the problem of local bushmeat hunters to go on hunting sprees.
Loss of wildlife has been detrimental to the tourism sector for decades. Kenya Wildlife Service has over time complained about lack of adequate equipment to carry out anti-poaching operations as the main challenge the country faces to dealing with the problem.
“Commercialising bush meat trade is a major threat to wipe out Kenya’s precious natural heritage entirely,” said Kahumbu. “But beyond that it will lead to an escalation of poaching rates for the most imperilled elephants and rhinos that we already know are highly targeted for their horns. As conservationists, we are convinced that this is a very bad idea.”
According to her, even though the only people who would be able to produce game meat on a commercial scale will be the private sector, national parks and reserves would become soft targets for poachers.
Union of Veterinary Practitioners of Kenya chairman, Benson Kibore warned such a move would reverse the gains that have been achieved in the conservation sector in the last decade. He said the CS was “out of touch” and had “not considered the ramifications.”
“Already we have seen wildlife populations decline, except monkeys. Breaking that stigma especially among communities that live with these animals will never be undone if Kenya ever decides to rescind the decision. So this is a place that Balala should not take this country,” said Kibore.
The task force launched by Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala on March 29, wrapped up its work on Tuesday.
The task force chaired by Dr John Waithaka (Chairman), and Carole Kariuki (CEO) was charged with assessing and advising on modalities for implementing of wildlife utilisation in Kenya.
During the taskforce’s unveiling, Balala went on record to deflate concerns that the move will only make the poaching problem worse.
"All wildlife belongs to the government and the government is determined to keep the recognition of the industry worldwide in the wildlife sector," he said.
He said the government was exploring other ways of increasing the number of tourists coming to Kenya. He compared Kenya’s paltry 1.4 million tourists per year to competing destinations like South Africa at 10 million and Tanzania’s 2.2 million. He said Kenya was aiming at getting at least 5 million in 10 years.
“If we do not have numbers, it will not sustain the