First Lady Margaret Kenyatta has called for a shift in approach and tact in the protection of wildlife resources in the country.
She said a sustainable solution that effectively engages all key stakeholders including local communities as equal partners is crucial in bolstering wildlife conservation efforts in the country.
“The subject of conservation continues to be a delicate and complex one that calls for complimentary capabilities of diverse groups including policy makers, philanthropists, conservationists, the civil society, the media and local communities,” she said.
The First Lady was speaking on Thursday evening when she presided over the main screening of a documentary titled ‘Ivory Belongs to Elephants Walk’. The 25-minute documentary covers the experiences of Mr Jim Justus Nyamu, the Executive Director of Elephant Neighbours Centre, who has so far walked 15,411 kilometres in eight countries to raise awareness on the need to protect the African elephant.
The First Lady termed the documentary a significant milestone that will raise global awareness on the plight of the African elephant.
“I congratulate the Elephant Neighbor’s Centre, led by Jim Nyamu, for the tireless effort, the energy and the courage. The advocacy walks of thousands of miles across Africa, Europe and America to educate and inform the world about our responsibility to nurture nature has been a true demonstration of the campaign’s resilience,” First Lady Margaret Kenyatta said.
She expressed optimism that the documentary will help draw the world’s attention to the campaign to save elephants and other iconic species for future generations as well as cultivate hope that the ongoing conservation efforts are not in vain.
The First Lady, who is also the Patron of the ‘Hand off our Elephants’ Campaign that was launched in July 2013, noted that Kenya’s elephant population of approximately 34,000 is the 4th largest in the world after Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe and regretted that illegal trade in ivory and rhino horns has resulted in the loss of elephants and rhino species at an alarming rate.
She emphasized the need for increased efforts to protect the declining elephant population in Kenya and across Africa even as she applauded the collaboration of wildlife stakeholders and development partners.
“The elephant is listed globally as critically endangered, and the threat of extinction demands concerted efforts by all of us to ensure that we protect the declining populations of these precious species,” the First Lady said.
“As citizens of this country, we are responsible for our national heritage, our environment and our wildlife. It is our obligation to conserve nature for our future, and for our children’s future,” she added.
First Lady Margaret Kenyatta underscored the critical role played by wildlife in the Kenyan economy especially the contribution of tourism sector as one of the country’s key foreign exchange earner and a source of employment.
“Our wildlife is the cornerstone of the nature-based tourism industry in Kenya. It operates as part of our economy and generates over 10 percent of Kenya’s GDP. The sector also directly employs over 11 percent of the total formal workforce,” she said.
Mr Nyamu echoed the First Lady’s sentiments, saying local communities should not be ignored in wildlife conservation.
“We cannot continue ignoring the native communities in the process of developing a sustainable and practical conservation model. The promotion of indigenous community roles in conservation is a key game changer in sustainable conservation models,” he said.
Other speakers included the Chairman of the National Museums of Kenya David Musila and Ecotourism Kenya Chief Executive Officer Grace Nderitu.