More land needed for wildlife conservation – KWS

NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 29 – At least one million hectares of land has been carved out for wildlife conservation in the last five years, according to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).

Director Julius Kipng’etich said on Monday that the wildlife space had set aside from communal lands in various parts of the country.

Speaking during a consultative meeting on the draft wildlife policy and Bill, Dr Kipng’etich emphasised the need for community involvement in wildlife conservation.

“The government has no more land to create national parks. That land can only exist if communities or private individuals who have a lot of land or local authorities come on board under trust land,” he opined.

He however recognised that for it to happen, the draft wildlife policy and Bill needed to design sufficient incentives for those three groups to change their land use for conservation.

Research and training, he said, were other areas that should be addressed in order to provide the right solutions to the problems that exist in the sector.

“Under the current arrangement, we don’t have a specific body that does wildlife research. That responsibility has been given to KWS and it is difficult to get research funding from the National Council of Science and Technology because KWS is not a registered scientific organisation,” he stated.

The KWS Director also said that punishment for wildlife crime needed to be punitive enough to curb the vice.  Under the current Act of 1975, the penalty for wildlife crime was Sh2,000.

“It was a lot of money at that time (1975) to punish somebody, but today it is loose change,” Dr Kipng’etich noted.

Also at the meeting was Forestry Permanent Secretary Mohamed Wa-Mwachai who said the draft wildlife policy and bill was yet to be reviewed by the necessary arms of government before it was presented to Parliament for approval.

It has to be reviewed by the Kenya Law Reform Commission, Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution, Attorney General and the Cabinet before it is taken to Parliament for approval.

The process of drafting a wildlife law has been in progress for more than five years.

“The process commenced before 2006 when the then Minister for Tourism and Wildlife established a taskforce which held meetings and interviews around the country and also visited several African countries to compare Kenya Wildlife management practise with the others,” Mr Wa-Mwachai informed.

The taskforce then produced a draft wildlife policy in 2007 which has been subject to discussion by various partners since.

The policy has proposed a broad range of measures and actions responding to the wildlife conservation challenges in Kenya and sought to balance the needs of the people with opportunities for sustainable wildlife conservation and management countrywide.

It has also sought to address conservation and management of wildlife inside and outside protected areas.