A few weeks ago, the world’s last male Northern White Rhino, Sudan, died at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. With Northern Whites preyed upon to near-extinction, Sudan’s death left just two known alive — Najin and Fatu, his daughter and granddaughter. The news, greeted with unsurprising sadness in the conservation world, played out differently in Africa.
Following the comments on social media, there was a sense of mortification; that something horrible had happened. His death is not only partly a dramatic failure by governments to protect critical nature, but also the first time that we the young generation have seen an extinction in our lifetime, not as a story but something real. In years to come, an ordinary African may need to travel to see elephants or rhinos in zoos or sanctuaries outside Africa, rather than in parks close to them like Nairobi National Park. The park is an important sanctuary. Kenya prides in it being the only national park in a capital city. It has supplied black rhinos to re-stock more than half the rhino sanctuaries in Kenya
The Tsavo Conservation Area is timeless. It is one of Kenya’s most stunning National Parks, unrivalled in its diversity of landscapes and wildlife. It is home to more than 12,000 elephants, the largest population in Kenya, and has the potential to increase the current population of endangered black rhino. Yet, these two parks are at intense crossroads with the development of a new six lane road. Are we really in dire need of this road? Especially through the Parks, not considering and using the existing road reserve? More than one third of this road will be fenced off inside Tsavo and in the wildlife dispersal areas of Nairobi Park.
And similarly, why build a new road (expressway) while we have not fully utilised the new standard gauge railway? There are those amongst us who feel that the money would have been better used to improve the more needy and old roads than sinking the same amount into new one.
There have already been warnings like with parts of the continent recently facing the worst drought in recent years, and alarms about cities like Cape Town in South Africa running out of water, there is a sense of disappearing wildlife and wild places are a symbol of deeper anguish, under our watch.
How Tsavo and other ecosystems are being handled depends on visionary policies. Wildlife alone cannot pay for all social needs. Private ranches and conservancies surrounding the park are one way to ease the pressure and allow wildlife to move safely in and out of the park. The fact is, when a park is laid bare, its retention capability is reduced because the root system is destroyed, leading to a cycle of soil erosion and water runoff. While we are still thinking of ideas and ways to tackle problems facing our environment, let’s we not forget that countries like Chad are losing their most reliable source of fresh water, Lake Chad which scientists predict could be drying up.
It’s not yet too late to protect and fight for what we have. We must band together and be heard by the powers that be in order to protect our precious natural resources!