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Future generations will be watching jumbos in zoos if poaching isn’t halted

Monday June 10 2013

By NG'ANG'A MBUGUA

One of the most unremarked coincidences of our time is the curious upsurge in poaching just as work on the spanking superhighways is coming to an end.

The rise in the killings of rhinos and elephants — ostensibly to feed the insatiable appetite for aphrodisiacs and ornaments — means that the present generation will bequeath the next ones nothing but extinct species.

It is not by accident that wildlife falls under national heritage. The present generation does not own the rich array of wild animals, trees and flowers that make Kenya the unique nation that it is.

Indeed, we are only custodians and are duty-bound to protect and conserve it, not just for our own enjoyment and that of the Laptop Generation, but even for the other generations that will come after them.

Given the rate at which poachers are killing elephants, rhinos and other game, including lions, we will have decimated these species in the next few years.

Before we kill the last one, I would propose that the government, out of its obligations to the future of this country and its people, loan some of these animals to zoos in Europe to be repatriated when the novelty of the highways has worn off.

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Last year, after paying homage to the bust of Nefertiti at a museum in Berlin, I asked an Egyptian journalist if it was not ironical that the image of Africa’s arguably most beautiful woman was on show in a small island in Europe 3,300 years after it was sculptured.

“It is better off here,” she said without remorse and went on to explain that had it been back in Egypt, it would probably have been broken by now and suffered worse fate.

Her argument appears to be the only window open for Kenya to conserve its dwindling animal species. Because there will be children born in 2090 and beyond, what will they say about our generation when they learn that we killed all the rhinos, lions and elephants?

If we have the foresight to loan some of the animals to other nations, may be we will be spared condemnation and those who will come after us can engage the West on how and why the animals should be returned to their rightful home.

I am told that even in the days when men were men, the wise ones would loan some of their wealth to their agemates. When one died, or fell on hard times, the trustees would always call the man’s sons and bequeth them the property entrusted to them.

If the present generation does not do something about the desecration of our national heritage, Kenya will become like some European countries which every week import butterfly puppae from the Arabuko Sokoke Forest in Kilifi County because they no longer have butterflies of their own.

I am told, though I could not verify, that some also import bees to pollinate their flowers — and we marvel at the beauty of spring.

In 20 years, we will be sending our children to European and Asian zoos to gaze at elephants and hyenas because we will have by then killed them all.

Also happening in tandem with the poaching is the vandalisation of amenities made from metal, be they goal-posts in slum schools or manholes in the backstreets of our towns.

All pieces of steel have become legitimate targets for the scrap metal yards and later export. Not so long ago, a scrap metal vendor was caught vandalising the hands of the oldest town clock in Nyeri.

But its desecration was not sufficient to cause outrage. Neither was the theft of the steel bars holding up the wind socks at JKIA. Let us not even talk about the railings — like those on Mombasa Road — that have been sawn off, causing multiple accidents when cars keel over bridges.

One of these days, a bus will go over the bridges and hurtle into a train. Maybe then we will sit up and notice and probably buy drones to protect steel pyres and guard rails from metal poachers.

But seriously, have we not been taught to appreciate modern conveniences and natural beauty? Or Is that we have been so consumed with making money that nothing matters any more?

Mr Mbugua is an Associate Editor with the Daily Nation. [email protected]

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