Leakey cedes seat for KWS hot seat

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 1998:

NAIROBI––Richard Leakey, resuming
directorship of the Kenya Wildlife Service,
which he previously headed 1988-1994, has
surrendered his seat in Parliament.
“I would prefer that my successor
should be from the handicapped community,”
said Leakey, who lost both of his legs in a 1993
airplane crash. “I would prefer a female candidate,”
he added.
Credited with virtually halting poaching
in the Kenyan national parks and corruption
within the KWS during his previous stint,
Leakey resigned after clashing with politicians
close to Kenyan president Daniel arap Moi, and
helped organize the opposition party Safina, but
Moi reappointed him after the KWS ran up an
$8 million deficit last year under David
Western. Within days of Leakey’s reappointment,
KWS received $2 million in U.S. aid.
Besides the deficit, resurgent corruption,
and renewed poaching, Leakey must contend
with tree poaching which according to
Musa Radoli of the Nairobi Nation has
destroyed much of the formerly protected
Kakamega Forest.

He also must deal with recurrent invasions
of grain-eating quelea birds, blamed for
destroying as much as 10% of the Rift Valley
wheat crop this year, despite deployments of
pesticides and explosives by the Kenya
Agriculture Ministry in May which killed an
estimated 12 million of the 17.7 million queleas
believed to have been in the region.
And, though Leakey opposes elephant
hunting as a virtual invitation to poachers,
he was obliged to permit KWS rangers to kill
three of a herd of about 50 alleged rogue elephants
who rampaged through crops for two
days, October 21-22.
Moi meanwhile undercut Leakey’s
efforts by announcing on October 23 that farmers
could continue to raise crops within the
national forests. Within days, farmers expanding
the land they had under slash-and-burn cultivation
sparked a fire that by October 30 had
reportedly razed half of the remainder of the
Imenti Forest––and it occupied only half the
area that it did just a few years ago.

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