, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 14 – The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) is offering free entry for Kenyans to three of its wildlife areas in Nairobi on Sunday as a ‘token of appreciation for their support for wildlife conservation.’
The areas include the Nairobi National Park, Nairobi Animal Orphanage and Nairobi Safari Walk.
The announcement was made on Saturday by Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala when he took part in 5th edition of the Global March for Elephants, Rhinos, Lions and other endangered species at the KWS headquarters in Nairobi.
During the two days, KWS said visitors will not pay entry fees for vehicles as well.
“I am very impressed with our youths today who have showed up in large numbers to show the world that there’s no room for wildlife trade,” Balala said at the end of a nearly 10 km walk from the National Museums of Kenya.
He called for international support proposals put forward by Kenya on the preservation of elephants and giraffes at next month’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Balala re-emphasized the government’s commitment to wildlife conservation while calling for sustained momentum on the ban on ivory trade.
In June 2017, KWS reported a seventy-two per cent increase in elephant population within the Masai Mara and Tsavo-Mkomazi ecosystems. The wildlife agency estimated the population at 2,493 up from 1,448 reported in 2014.
Kenya has the lion’s share of the world giraffe population with 35,000 giraffes located in Kenya out of an estimated global population of 90,000.
KWS has also posted a decline in poaching activities with only 40 elephants lost as a result of poaching in 2018 compared to 400 in the 2012/13 reporting period.
Kenya has been leading an aggressive campaign for the regeneration of wildlife population especially the elephants, lions, leopards, buffalos, and rhinoceros commonly referred to as the Big Five amid reports of a dwindling population.
In November 2016, a Living Planet Index (LPI) by the Wild Wide Fund (WWF) for Nature reported an eighty per cent decline in the country’s elephant population, with the global wildlife population shrinking by fifty-eight per cent.
WWF’s Conservation Director for Kenya, Jared Bosire, said the elephant population in the country had drastically reduced from an estimated 170,000 in 1970’s to about 35,000 at the time.
“In 70’s we had about 20,000 rhinos in the country, we have about 678 now – so you see that kind of a reduction is significant at a global level but very much applicable in the local context as well,” Bosire said during the launch of the report on November 2, 2016.
The agency attributed the decline to intense pressure on food production as agricultural activities expanded occupying about a third of the earth’s land area.
Other factors identified in the 2016 report were climate change, biosphere integrity, and biochemical flow.
“Changes are required across the food chain, from planet to plate, to reduce the pressures and impacts created by the current food system on the planet and its resources,” Bosire said.
WWF reported a thirty-eight per cent decline in terrestrial LPI with marine LPI recording a thirty-six per cent drop.
Freshwater LPI was the hardest hit with population abundance in the world’s waters declining by a whopping eighty-one per cent between 1970 and 2012.
Marine turtles and fish species popularly known as tuna were the most affected, WWF Africa Regional Director Margaret Kinnaird noting at the time that habitat loss and land degradation had continued to pose a threat to wildlife sanctuaries.
“Habitat loss and degradation really do a lot to unsustainable agriculture and natural resource extraction like logging, mining and firewood collection,” Kinnaird observed.
Marine population is also under existential threat due to overexploitation, sea pollution, invasive species, and disease.
Kenya has in the recent past joined a global campaign to tackle factors impeding the growth of wildlife population.
In March 2018, the country announced a forestation campaign aimed at doubling the country’s forest cover from an estimated seven per cent to fifteen per cent by 2022.
The campaign is seen as crucial to reversing the shrinking of forest cover, the tropical forest cover having declined by thirty per cent since 1700AD according to WWF’s 2016 report which reported an increase in carbon emission to about 390 parts per million.
WWF’s Africa Regional Director Fred Kwame said at the time the world’s population was surpassing the boundaries of what the planet could cope with, including the limits of its regenerative capacity.
“There’re positive things happening but they’re stuck against the challenge of a huge decline in the population of animals which will in turn have an impact on the ecosystem and the services that nature offers us.”
Kenya is also part of a global alliance seeking to preserve the shrinking fish population by eliminating Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.
During the inaugural blue economy conference in November last year, Canada made a pledge of $20 million – $10 million of which was committed to the development of satellite-based technologies – towards curbing IUU fishing activities.
“We’ll focus on building stronger public-private partnerships to address IUU fishing. Presently we’re investing $10 million to support the development and deployment of satellite-based technologies that can identify and track suspected IUU vehicles,” Jonathan Wilkinson, the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and Canadian Coast Guard announced.
[This story has been edited to remove Monday, after KWS indicated that the waiver was just for Sunday].