Most Kenyans have seen giraffes in their lives, and are familiar with their images all over billboards and in shops. Many of us even have childhood memories of traveling with our parents to famous sites in our country to view the majestic creatures. It is perhaps something we take for granted, however, these creatures - and many other animals we are accustomed to sharing our land with - are extremely rare in most parts of the world.
Environmental conservationism is not only one of the most important policies of the President Uhuru Kenyatta administration, but is also our ethical duty to the world. There are not many countries in the world that can boast the kind of diverse wildlife that we have - perhaps Brazil, the DRC, and Indonesia to name a few.
Of these countries, Kenya is also one of the safest to visit for tourists, wildlife enthusiasts and scientific researchers alike. Kenya is known for its amazing safaris, and it generates millions of shillings to boost our economy each year. Following the coronavirus period, tourism will surely be one of the first industries to return to normal and contribute again to Kenya’s economic growth.
As well as the financial reasons, taking care of our animals and wildlife is a moral imperative. Apart from being home to the world’s last two Northern White Rhinoceroses in Ol Pejeta Conservancy and a host of other animals such as lions and elephants whose numbers globally are constantly dwindling, our country is proud to be the home of almost 30 per cent of the world’s last 100,000 giraffes.
There are four giraffe species globally, and Kenya has three of them - Rothschild, reticulated, and Masai giraffes. Despite this pride we take in being known as a sanctuary for the tall mammals, there have been a handful of recent occurrences where the gentle giants have been killed for their meat or other purposes.
The myth that giraffe meat boosts a man’s libido is one of the archaic beliefs that leads poachers to kill them. This is an old-fashioned and harmful way of thinking that hurts our animals. It is dangerous and based in fiction.
Furthermore, a study carried out in 2018 found that many meats sold in the coastal regions carried components of giraffe meat being disguised as beef. As a result, the animals have suffered a major reduction in population size, and risk becoming an endangered species.
More recently, this June, a group of men were arrested for being in possession of 150 kilograms of giraffe meat in Ijara. They were promptly arrested following a joint operation by the Kenya Wildlife Service, Northern Rangelands Trust and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations. This teamwork between different government agencies is essential to protecting the animals, and also showing the world that the Uhuru administration is determined to protect our God-given fortune of astounding nature.
During the 2018-19 fiscal year, wildlife and tourism was allocated Sh10 million from the national budget. On top of that, Sh5 million was allocated to the wildlife sub-sector. This increased over the past year and will continue to be one of Uhuru’s main priorities.
Without government backing, we risk being complacent in the silent extinction of one of the world’s most majestic creatures.
On top of targeting giraffes, poachers seeking ivory for clients in East Asia regularly target elephants and rhinoceroses in many of our national parks. Rangers from different regions across the country have dedicated their lives to fighting this, working around the clock to provide security for and actively keep track of animals for their protection.
This is backed by Uhuru’s effort in international forums to push anti-poaching laws and ensure that species native to Africa remain un-hunted and are allowed to live naturally. Many states from southern Africa have advocated at the UN and other international bodies to allow poaching and hunting of elephants, lions, and other rare mammals.
Not so in Kenya, where anyone who threatens our gift of god will be prosecuted by law. While the government has many priorities right now, such as ending corruption, boosting the economy and mitigating the Covid-19 crisis, protecting the environment will always be of utmost importance for the current administration. Let us hope that this tradition continues well into the future.