Kenya battles wildlife poachers in order to keep safari tourists coming
An elephant in Tsavo East National Park, Kenya. Donald Macauley / Flickr.com
The math is simple: One industry is sustainable, the other isn’t. But try telling that to people who can make a quick buck and move on before they need to deal with the consequences.
Tour operators want the government to act fast and contain poaching which they say could impact negatively on their business as Kenya is widely sold as a wildlife destination internationally.
The umbrella body Kenya Association of Tour Operators wants a new wildlife bill to be drafted and the government to take major steps to address the poaching menace.
The uproar by the tour operators comes after eleven elephants were killed at Tsavo National Park and their tusks chopped off in what is believed to be linked to illegal ivory trade.
“One of Kenya’s comparative advantages is its rich wildlife heritage. In recent years, this has come under attack in unprecedented levels,” said KATO.
The elephant population in the country is said to be dwindling at a fast rate due to poaching fuelled by demand for ivory mostly from Asia.
“Poaching is economic sabotage and the government must use all available machinery at its disposal to deal firmly with the menace.”
The tourism industry is already faced with a myriad of problems currently and players have expressed concern that earnings for last year and the current year may remain constant or drop slightly as a result of the challenges.
The industry netted Sh98 billion in 2011, the best performance in its history despite having missed the expected outcome of Sh100 billion for that period.
Some of these challenges that have affected bookings and sale of tour packages include security, upcoming elections, marketing funds and pricing of the packages and deferred implementation of the Tourism Act of 2011.
“The much awaited Tourism Act of 2011 remains largely unimplemented over one year since it was passed into law and the industry continues to grapple with issues that could have been resolved were it to be fully implemented,” said KATO.
Though arrivals increased slightly during the first half of 2012 compared to the previous year, there was a decline in tourist numbers from traditonal markets such as Italy, Germany, France, Uganda, Netherlands and Switzerland.
Arrivals for the period stood at at 564,835 compared to 549,083 in the same period in 2011, showing a 2.9 per cent growth.
Other notable declines were in emerging markets such as China, Czech Republic, Austria, and Russia which had previously showed signs of growth.
Meanwhile, the Kenya Wildlife Service yesterday announced new park fees for children and students for visits to Nairobi Safari Walk, the Animal Orphanage and Kisumu Impala Sanctuary.
KWS said that the revision of rates set to be effective from February 1 was done to boost conservation funds for the three parks.