• We’re not short of food, so there is no reason for anyone to hunt wild game for nourishment.
• We must certainly not tolerate poaching for ivory or skin
Palm Sunday, celebrated this month, is about recognising the courage of those who stand up for what is right - even when it is risky and difficult.
It is about standing up for the weak, the disabled and the voiceless. We are told to “encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble” (Isaiah 35:3) and this is manifested on this day in the conduct of Kenyans from all walks of life. They not only give a coin to a homeless person or hand out a meal to a hungry child, but they also share their smile and grace with strangers as they build the pillars of solidarity that make our society what it is.
As I visited Nairobi National Park last week with my children, I asked myself what does politics that serve everyone really look like? We saw beautiful zebras and wildebeests, the striking blue bird, the elegant impalas, the cheeky baboons and even some tall giraffes. Nevertheless, none of that could satisfy my children. They were in it for the lions, the leopards or at least some rhinos! Driving around for hours, they were nowhere to be found.
Is this really Kenya? I asked myself. Is it just that we have lost so many of this land’s beautiful creatures? Does caring for the weak and the helpless not include our most unique and vulnerable assets?
In 1928, there were less than three million Kenyans. Today there are more than 50 million. Yet while our population has mushroomed, our wildlife has experienced a worrying decline. For example, within just three years, the wildebeest population has Kenya dropped from 276,000 to 228,000. According to World Wide Fund, Kenya is following a global trend, in which humanity has wiped out 60 per cent of the animal population since 1970.
I may take my children again to the national park and I believe they will be able to see a lion, a leopard and a rhino. As for my grandchildren? .... I am afraid they will see such wildlife only in natural history books and cartoons.
Increased global warming and droughts make it a daily struggle of survival for everyone - not only for our brothers and sisters in arid areas. Extreme weather is also killing wildlife, from large elephants to smaller animals. Human-wildlife conflicts usually end up with the latter on the losing side. Finally, poaching is a terrible practice that kills precious animals and drives them into extinction.
Out of these, poaching is not only the cruellest but also the most unnecessary and easily avoidable cause of wildlife deaths. We are not a country short of food, so there is no reason at all for anyone to hunt wild game for nourishment. Certainly, we must not tolerate poaching for ivory or skin. It is encouraging to learn of our government’s efforts against wildlife poaching and of its commitment to the international campaign for a complete ban of global wildlife trade.
We can also get down to work to stop climate change. President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government has set ambitious goals for this. Better planning by local governments can help protect both farmers and wild animals from unnecessary encounters, granting access to farmlands to our people and preserving animals’ migratory routes.
The government does not act solely on the basis of moral duty. Our wildlife is one of the backbones of our tourism sector, which has enjoyed an unprecedented boom under Uhuru.
To me, however, it is our personal responsibility for future generations that speaks louder than anything else. I recently saw the First Lady share a Facebook post applauding conservation efforts. She also spoke in Nanyuki, during celebrations to mark the 35th anniversary of the William Holden Wildlife Foundation.
Her love for those gifts of God sone clear in her eyes. But love is not enough. Margaret spoke of the link between justice, animal protection and conservation, and how crucial it is for citizens to be active on these matters. This too is a manifestation of justice and this is the sort of politics that really does not leave anyone behind!
I may take my children again to the national park and I believe they will be able to see a lion, a leopard and a rhino. As for my grandchildren? If we don’t follow Margaret’s call and pursue the truly inclusive conservation policies she calls for, I am afraid my children’s children will see such wildlife only in natural history books and cartoons.
Samburu West MP