Shut down trophy markets, says Margaret Kenyatta as she fetes wildlife conservation heroes
First Lady Margaret Kenyatta on Sunday called for shutting down of all wildlife trophy markets in the world because they fuel poaching of precious species.
She said the war against poaching will never be won as long as there are countries that encourage and support trade in wildlife trophies.
“The war on poaching will not be won if the countries that drive the demand for these products do not shut the markets. We therefore call upon the international community to prevail upon the countries driving trophy demand globally to shut them down,” said the First Lady at the Kenya Wildlife Service Headquarters in Nairobi.
She made the statement when she led celebrations to fete Kenya’s wildlife conservation heroes who brave adversity and work long hours to protect the country’s unique wildlife.
This year’s Conservation Heroes Day was marked with pride as Kenya recorded a 90 percent reduction in rhino poaching, thanks to the sacrifice of rangers who are proud of their work. The day also coincided with 72nd anniversary of the establishment of the Nairobi National Park.
A Global Rangers’ Survey conducted early this year showed that over 95% of Kenya’s wildlife rangers are very proud of their work of protecting wildlife heritage despite working over 8 hours in some of the most difficult terrain and remotest places.
“It is because of the constant sacrifices of the men and women keeping vigil over our wildlife, that we are not only reducing the popularity of wildlife trophies in their core markets, but also gradually enlightening the world about the importance of preserving our unique flora and fauna for future generations to enjoy,” said the First Lady in her address.
The work of rangers is unique in that they face mortal danger both from poachers and the wildlife they are dedicated to protect.
The First Lady called on Kenyans to play active roles in conserving the country’s wildlife heritage.
“Our people must play an inclusive role in wildlife stewardship and invest in nature based enterprises to reap sustainable benefits from our wildlife heritage,” said the First Lady.
She said wildlife heritage is pivotal to Kenya’s tourism sector which attracts at least Ksh.120 billion to the economy on an annual basis.
The First Lady said the Government is committed to the sustainable management of wildlife resources, in order to contribute to the country’s development and enhance the livelihoods of Kenyans.
She said Kenya’s unique wildlife species places it in an enviable position amongst other nations.
“On this auspicious Conservation Heroes Day, let us acknowledge that those who look after our wildlife deserve special mention for all that they do,” said the First Lady.
“To the families of the fallen heroes represented here today, mere words are inadequate to express the gratitude we feel towards our conservation heroes,” she added.
Many KWS officers were presented with awards for exemplary efforts to conserve wildlife.
Special mentions were also given to wildlife rangers who died in the course of duty.
“Conservation heroes day is a sad reflection to the dark past to the relatives and staff as we remember our fallen heroes,” said John Waithaka, Chairman Kenya Wildlife Service.
The names of those celebrated posthumously were read in different categories including those who were shot dead in confrontations with poachers; those who were killed while on investigative duties; those who drowned and those who died in fatal road accidents or air crashes while on official duty.
Tourism Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala and the KWS Director General Dr Charles Musyoki also spoke at the event.
CS Balala said the First Lady has been a champion of conservation and her efforts to protect elephants has led to banning of ivory in many countries.
The CS said the children of heroes who lose their life in the course of duty while serving should be given jobs with KWS.
According to a recent global ranger survey, by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the average Kenyan ranger works more than 80 hours a week, yet 95% of them are proud to protect Kenya’s wildlife. Over 90% of Kenya’s rangers believe that communities are essential in securing Kenya’s wildlife.
Across the world, over 130 rangers have been killed protecting wildlife over the past 12 months. 5000 rangers across 17 countries in Africa and Asia, which included Kenya participated in the global ranger perception survey.
“Heroes Day is a bitter-sweet moment. Although it is a sad moment to remember our fallen heroes, it is also time to celebrate the selfless men and women who chose the noble path of sacrificing their own lives to protect people and the voiceless wildlife that we now enjoy as our heritage and treasure. We owe it to our gallant rangers,” said Dr. Yussuf Wato, Species Program Manager, WWF-Kenya.
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