Trees For Life by Peter Towett

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It is not possible to sum up the importance of trees/forests in just a few words. Trees impact on our daily lives in so many ways, even in the midst of a busy, noisy, concrete city centre. Despite our dependence on forests, we are still allowing them to disappear.

Just think of how trees have affected your life today: Have you had your breakfast? Read a newspaper? Switched on a light? Traveled to work in a bus or car? Signed a cheque? Made a shopping list? Got a parking ticket? Blown your nose into a tissue?

Forest products are used in our daily lives. All the activities listed above involve trees in one way or another. Some are easy to figure out – fruits, paper and wood from trees, and so on. Trees also have medicinal value and are also used to make detergents. But looking at it beyond our narrow, human, not to mention urban, perspective, forests provide habitats to diverse animal species, and they also form the source of livelihood for many different human settlements.

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They offer watershed protection, timber and non-timber products, and various recreational options. They prevent soil erosion, help in maintaining the water cycle, and check global warming by using carbon dioxide in photosynthesis. If we all plant one tree at home and another in the office, we will be able to take care of them as they grow.

As we go round educating the communities on the need of preserving and the implications of removing trees, We teach schoolchildren to prepare seedbeds, collect seeds from indigenous trees, plant, water and protect the seedlings. We have found that they truly care for the plants more than if we were to give them seedlings and tell them to plant it, or if we plant them ourselves.

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So why wait? Join us at Amara Conservation in this cause and inspire your customers, friends, staff and loved ones with creative ideas on special occasions. How about celebrating their birthday, anniversary, graduation, new birth or any special event by planting trees? By doing so, one would be honoring their loved ones while caring for the environment and replanting our nation’s forests. This is especially great here in Kenya now that the rainy season is on! Planting a tree is an act of direct benefit to all.

Naivasha Rhino Meeting

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A two-day rhino stakeholder workshop to discuss strategies started yesterday morning at Fish Eagle Inn in Naivasha. The workshop is sponsored by WWF. Our representative from Amara Conservation Mr. Isaac Maina is attending, where he will discuss issues related to what Amara does, and the importance of conservation education programs in communities.

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We have been working to help secure the 3 key communities of importance to the Tsavo West and East Rhino Program. KWS Deputy Director Species Management Dr. Patrick Omondi officially opened the meeting.

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The meeting is aimed at sharing the efforts made in the implementation of KWS Rhino Strategy 2012-2016 and discussing the best ways we can all work together to realize the objective of 750 black rhinos in Kenya by the end of 2016.

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The Deputy Director reported that the targeted growth rate is 5% and a reduction of poaching to less than 1%. He mentioned that new rhino sanctuaries are needed. Tsavo East rhino sanctuary will be opened soon. He also had the good news that a new Wildlife Forensics and Genetics Laboratory will be officially opened on Friday 8 May. This will assist greatly in obtaining effective prosecution of wildlife criminals. Mr. Omondi stressed the need for collaboration and coordination among stakeholders to help conserve the black rhino population.

Ivory Belongs to Elephants Walk: Post by Peter Towett

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As we come close to the end of the “Ivory Belongs to Elephants” walk, the question that needs answering is: Can eco-tourism sustain wildlife and the communities? Are our only options limited to planting vast tracts of cornfields or having game reserves with professional poachers/hunters?

We at Amara Conservation, ENC and other stakeholders believe that hunting amounts to little more than legalized poaching for the attention-seeking elite. It provides for fewer investment opportunities, kills development and generates less income than conventional tourism. Other livelihood options added to tourism will work. Hunting and killing is a reckless activity, which causes untold harm to wildlife populations. And it is impossible to monitor in these vast open spaces. It only makes poaching easier.

Simple logic shows that for every poacher caught, there are hundreds, if not thousands, more. Once an animal is killed, it’s gone. Tourists, in their greater numbers, can photo shoot an animal over and over without harm, injury or suffering. The message as we walk has been to sensitize the communities along the route on the need for preserving these few and most valuable resources Mother Nature has for us. Also since the new Wildlife Bill was passed, many people have never been educated on the new penalties as well as compensations – we are doing this now, as we have been doing in our Taita Taveta Elder program.

The walk has traversed many areas as well as many hotels in Amboseli and Tsavo. These hotels employ an average of 30 to 100 staff per lodge. Serious investments are made to provide for comfortable accommodations and a range of activities for communities that go with such a facility. If we lose these natural resources, these employees will be the first to go home empty-handed – but the consequences will be far-reaching throughout Kenya. There is a need to conserve and to pass the baton of conservation to each and every sector.

Together as friends we believe we can conserve our wild animals. PETER TOWETT

At Mbulia and with KWS Assistant Director O’brein ­ Day 25/26

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We stayed on the Mbulia Conservancy at Kipalo Hills, everyone there was so helpful and kind to us! Kipalo Hills is a very special place to us all. From our camp we went to nearby areas of Mlilo, Paranga and Kishushe to meet as many schools and communities as possible over this 2 1/2 day period. Amara has worked here a great deal, and the turnout was high at every location. We are happy that people are seeing us all together, and are eager to work with us going forward.

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We came across a man illegally chopping down a tree (photo 3625), Mr. Rukaria of KWS detained him and took him to the local Chief’s office. Illegal charcoal is the cause of a great deal of deforestation that only worsens the drought in these areas.

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On March 3rd KWS AD Robert O’brein and Community Warden Mr. Rukaria flagged us off from Kayanda Secondary School as we walked on to Tausa. One more week and we will be in Voi!

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