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