Environmentalists made point, but can cash in on Safari Rally allure

Wednesday March 18 2020
By PETER NJENGA

Hells Gate National Park, with its natural, alluring beauty of massive cliffs, ravines, and towers, is a popular filming location.

Hollywood movies, such as King Solomon’s Mines, Mountains of the Moon, Tomb Rider, the Cradle of Life and Lion King all have scenes from this iconic location.

Tomb Rider grossed Sh16 billion in the Box Office and featured megastar such as Angelina Jolie and indirectly showcased Kenya’s wildlife and tourism attractions through the bird’s eye view of Hells Gate and Amboseli national parks, since the actual fictional location was Greece.

But these films did not clearly define the allure of Hells Gate the way the World Rally Championship (WRC) Safari Rally will on July 19, at the 11-kilometre “Power Stage” estimated to be watched by over 70 million on live television and new media platforms in over 150 countries. The live feed will be produced by WRC +TV, the media department of the WRC Promoter who are the commercial rights holders of the International Automobile Federation (FIA) WRC series, which has 10 million subscribers.

Their brief in the rally is to produce 35 hours of television footage on Kenya, the African Savannah and wildlife potential providing the backdrop of the best rally cars returning to Kenya after 18 years.

Images captured and relayed to the world will include tradition and modernity.

On one side are the geothermal wells in Ol Karia, spewing vapour into the atmosphere in powering East and Central Africa biggest economy.

On the other are the picturesque, massive volcanic cliffs, towers and ravines which will ultimately increase international and local tourists into the area and country at large.

ENDANGERED SPECIES

Hells Gate is also home to the Ruppel's vultures that are endangered. They nest along the cliffs in the park.

A conservation team known as Wildlife First has been at the forefront of propagating the re-location of the Hells Gate “Power Stage” in protest, with the lifestyle of these birds in mind.

Their concern forced Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala to order an environmental impact assessment and mitigating factors report on the Safari Rally. Kenya Wildlife Service scientists returned a positive verdict in their report on the Safari.

He told the media that he was satisfied the Safari will not interfere with the birds or other wild animals.

While Wildlife First and other stakeholders are doing a good job, in some instances they can be faulted.

In international sport, there is protocol to be followed even by the government in engaging the world’s sports bodies such as Fifa, FIA and World Athletics to mention but a few.

JUMPED THE GUN

Wildlife First may have jumped the gun in their otherwise well-meaning tirade. First, the Safari Rally route, starting at Ol Karia 5 and ending at the public functions cliff, is 5.1 kilometres away from the park.

Secondly, modern rally cars are not jetfighters which leave behind sound booms which loud enough to scare unsuspecting human beings. They hum like bees.

And they will not be at Hells Gate for more than two hours. It would be prudent for these environmentalists to piggyback on the Safari to sell their cause on wildlife conservation.

Hells Gate is a recreational facility open to the public who transverse the area in buses and personal cars for fun and education.

And the rally cars are just a fraction compared to the over 800 mini-buses on similar excursions in the Masai Mara daily.

Finally, as a matter of national importance, the environmentalists would be doing justice to conservation efforts by fighting for the rights of Marabou Stocks which reside on trees on Mombasa Road near the Nyayo National Stadium.

These birds bear with petrol fumes, sound of vehicles and sometimes are stoned by unruly football fans.

Let us be fair to all creatures, urban or rural. Nor should we be selective in conservation efforts by targeting high profile events for cheap publicity.

Njenga is the Media Director at Safari Rally. [email protected]