Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Lupita Nyongo’s move on wildlife conservation is laudable but she will face hurdles

The elephant is an endangered species
The poaching of wildlife, proliferation of arms, abuse of illicit drugs and corruption are vices well known by many national governments. The Kenya government for instance has the capacity to deal with poaching and even corruption once and for all but, we all know that it’s elusive for a judge to sentence his own son for life imprisonment.

We need to laud Lupita Nyongo for joining global conservationists to try and save our elephants which are being killed at an alarming rate for its valuable ivory. However, any effort worthy its weight in salt for local and global conservation is for governments where poaching is rampant to cooperate with private actors like Lupita Nyongo for purposes of information sharing, capacity building, judicial interventions through heavy penalties on convicted poachers and activism to sever diplomatic links with nations which harbour poachers and open markets for wildlife products.

Lupita’s initiative is great. Her fresh passion to save our elephants depicts the validity of her dreams as envisaged in a speech she gave after winning the Oscar. She has joined the league of Dr Richard Leakey and Prince Philip; The Duke of Edinburg, who is also the patron of the Wild Wide Fund (WWF), amongst other world conservationists. The Oscar winner needs to be supported so that Kenya can realize the fruits of her efforts to combat poaching.

This is the time Lupita needs to dialogue with the Kenyan government and also work closely with the Kenya wildlife service to capture the loopholes which have made poaching a thriving illegal business for many decades despite the government efforts to combat it. If she is not supported, all her energies will be dry words; while our wild life will continue being killed by a few people who want shortcuts to riches.

Like drug cartels in South America, poaching is a get-quick-rich avenue often pursued by who-is-who in the society. Its economic benefits are huge. Many African governments are often aware who the direct beneficiaries of the wildlife trade are but often stays mum. For instance, it will be a big lie to say that the government of Kenya is not aware of those killing our elephants in the country’s national parks and game reserves.

Kenya has even embraced the Chinese when the demand for wildlife materials is so lucrative in China and other Asian markets. The Chinese are building our roads and bridges which often traverse through natural terrains inhabited by our wildlife…Can we trust that they are honest and cannot capitalize on their presence in the country to perpetuate illegal poaching since the market for wildlife products in China is sky high?

Kenya now boasts as being a true friend of China, I wonder if our country has initiated any measures to ensure that the Chinese government acts tough on wildlife trade which has a direct impact on the lives of our wildlife. Just like the way the people of Kisii conduct their stone carving at Tabaka soapstone grounds, ivory carving is a legal business in Guangzhou, one of the biggest cities in China.

According to Adam Welz, a South African writer, some African governments are trying their best to stamp out poaching through military empowerment to its rangers especially in South Africa. In the local scene, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) is more equipped, coordinated and with better equipment than where it used to a decade ago but the rate of poaching is twice higher. Nothing has scaled down the poaching of elephants and rhinos. Not even setting ivory on fire which Kenya has done several times.

I’m not being pessimistic with the efforts Lupita Nyongo has initiated in the fight against poaching but I’m skeptical if her efforts will yield any results without government engagement and intervention. Engaging the government and the intelligence service is the best way to go because they know local cartels involved in the illegal trade.

Just like the Kenyan government knows those behind corruption and illegal drug business, they know 100% those behind poaching.

Keep up the good job Lupita, and welcome to a society where thieves, drug barons and poachers are revered and celebrated. They attract and control power, they shape national debate in anything as they continue to kill our elephants and rhinos whose money they use to buy political loyalty.
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