Emergency Boost for Tsavo Parks in Kenya
Elizabeth Wamba from IFAW's East Africa office reports from Tsavo National Park:
Last January, Kenya hit breaking news in the global media – and for all the wrong reasons! The mayhem that resulted from disputed presidential elections consequently led to massive cancellations in the tourism industry. Despite the unrest being restricted in a few pockets in the country and even within the urban towns, tourism visitation dropped by 90 per cent. Where 2007 had seen significant rise in tourism numbers and revenue earnings as compared to previous years, come January 2008, those tourists who were already in the country fled back to their homes. Those who had booked in advance cancelled all reservations. The tourism sector was battered beyond relief!
Thankfully, none of the protected areas were directly interfered with by the violence or those displaced from their homes. But all felt the impact of the tourism slump in revenue earnings. Hence, park managers were advised to undertake 40 per cent operational expenditure and oversee only critical park operations such as law enforcement and human-wildlife conflict management. This included Tsavo Parks which IFAW has been partnering with to enhance operations for the last three years.
Financial resources for wildlife protection are usually tough to come by even when there is peace and normalcy. Thus during any turmoil, those little resources are shifted to other crucial areas such as security for the people. Nonetheless, those responsible for wildlife protection still have to endure the lack of resources and continue safeguarding the parks. The threat from poaching becomes very real during such times and the response to such circumstances by organisations and institutions is critical – hence, the positive response from several donors’ to IFAW’s appeal for emergency support for Tsavo.
The donations, amounting to US$ 85,000 have been well received by the Tsavo management with Jonathan Kirui, Assistant Director of Tsavo, quipping, “This support will uplift our efforts to deter poachers, and we are grateful that this has come at an hour of great need for both the wildlife guardians and the animals especially the elephants.” Over 60,000 litres of fuel, 1700 litres of lubricants, 70 tyres and tubes were procured to boost Tsavo’s operations and will be used during these dire times as efforts are made to restore the tourism sector.
Tsavo is classified into two parks - East and West. They occupy about 52 per cent of the total protected areas in Kenya, and about 3.9 per cent of Kenya’s land surface. Set aside in 1948 for the preservation of wildlife and wild vegetation, the Parks have the largest single populations of elephant and rhino in Kenya, and are home to 60 mammal species and over 400 bird species. Due to a combined size of 21,000 square kilometres, the remoteness and close location to the Somali border, Tsavo experiences enormous challenges in terms of armed poaching, occasioning the need for regular and deterrent ranger patrols costing thousands of dollars in fuel, spares and ranger supplies.