Conservationists say No to Wildlife Gift as Thai Prime Minister Visits Kenya

Tuesday, November 8, 2005
Nairobi, Kenya
Conservationists, including IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare– www.ifaw.org), today strongly urged the Kenya Government to decline to the proposal by the Thailand Government to export Kenyan wildlife to a zoo in Thailand.
Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is currently on a three-day official visit to Kenya and it is expected that his Government will follow-up on the proposal made late last year when the Kenyan President visited Thailand.

“In January this year, the then Minister of Tourism & Wildlife Raphael Tuju stated that this matter will be considered in the best interest of the country.  The Kenya Government has kept this issue under wraps for a year now. We are urging our Government to take into consideration values other than monetary compensation as the latter is incidental when it comes to our natural resources,” said James Isiche, East Africa Regional Director for IFAW.

“We understand that there was a technical report prepared last year by the Kenya Wildlife Service giving its justification for this move and wonder whether the prevailing wildlife environment and other factors considered as this drastic decision was made. Equally, it would help if this report is made public for scrutiny by Kenyans since wildlife is a national heritage.” added Isiche.

“Kenya has had a strong foundation in its history as a resilient advocate for pro-conservation policies. Reports in the media indicate that the Thai officials are hoping to get a black rhino as part of the consignment. Kenya has less than 500 black rhinos, having been wiped out by poaching in the 1970s and 80s. Each individual is crucial to the recovery and survival of this species, and that is why there is a public outcry whenever a rhino death occurs. Why then would we want to give away our rhinos while we are still trying to recoup what we lost? What conservation value would we be adding by giving away rhinos to Thailand?” queried Isiche.

“The initial justification given earlier in the year that Kenya has an abundance of wildlife is not sufficient as what might appear to be plentiful in one area may be the exact opposite in another area of the country. The reality is that wildlife populations in Kenya today are generally on the decline due to threats arising from poaching, habitat loss and land use changes. 

“A comprehensive policy solution to address challenges in the sector such as human-wildlife conflicts, land use changes need to be developed by the Government as this is a major problem affecting local communities and wildlife, that is prevalent throughout the country and can attract global goodwill if well articulated,” commented Isiche.

Conservationists have also questioned the move to export wildlife captured from the wild to be confined in a zoo.

“Confining wildlife in areas away from their natural habitats is subjecting them to unnecessary stress and suffering that will ultimately reduce their quality of life, if they even survive the long haul flight from Kenya to Bangkok,” said Isiche.

“By shipping wildlife to Thailand, Kenya will be setting a dangerous precedence that may result in other requests for similar gifts from other states. It is also self-defeatist in that Kenya is currently promoting tourism in Asia while by giving wildlife to Thailand may discourage tourists from the Asian continent from setting foot in this country” added Isiche.

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