The “Carnivore crowd” licks chops at chance to repeal Kenya no-hunting policy

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  July/August 2003:

NAIROBI–Roars are often audible at the
Kenya Wildlife Service headquarters on the fringe
of Nairobi National Park–and not just from the
dwindling numbers of resident lions,  fast being
poached to extirpation by Masai who see the park
as not only a buffer between their grazing land
and urban sprawl but also a source of grass for
their cattle and firewood now that drought and
overgrazing has turned their commons into
Losing in competition for fodder,  wild
ungulates have migrated from Nairobi National
Park into the distant hills.  Hungry lions have
turned to hunting Masai cattle.  Now the Masai
are hunting the lions.

Ten lions were killed in and around
Nairobi National Park in June 2003.  Fifty have
been killed there since 1999.
From upper floor KWS offices one can see the
vultures over the kill sites.  The Presidential
Palace is toward downtown Nairobi.  The KWS
Wildlife Orphanage,   David Sheldrick Wildlife
Trust elephant and rhino orphanage, and Kenya
SPCA are in the opposite direction.  The
Carnivore restaurant,  favored by would-be game
ranchers and  trophy hunters,  is almost next
The views illustrate the many pressures
on current KWS director Joseph Mutia and everyone
else who has occupied his seat since Kenyan
independence.  Whoever heads the Kenya Wildlife
Service must combat poaching,  maintain peace
with farmers and graziers,  generate revenue to
help sustain the nation,  and avoid the long
knives of the would-be game ranchers and trophy
hunters who with economic and political support
from USAid and Safari Club International,  among
other sources,  would undo if they could the
national prohibition on hunting enacted in 1977
by former President Daniel arap Moi.
Opposing hunting are Daphne Sheldrick,
widow of Tsavo National Park founder David
Sheldrick,  and two-time KWS chief Richard
Leakey.  They have long been the most influential
voices in Kenya for wildlife management organized
to attract eco-tourism–which requires that the
animals tourists come to see and photograph are
not conditioned by gunfire to flee the approach
of any human.
The Sheldrik/Leakey position is weak
right now because since September 11,  2001  U.S.
visitor traffic to Kenya has dropped back toward
the lows of the pro-hunting David Western regime
at KWS in the early 1990s.  Holding office
between the two Leakey regimes,  Western was
ineffective against poaching and corruption–but
he was and is still a favorite of the Carnivore
Barely one month after Mutia took office,
succeeding anti-hunting stalwart Michael Wamithi,
he was editorially under fire from The Nation,
the leading Kenyan newspaper,  which has
reputedly aligned itself with the “sustainable
use” faction.
Mutia was challenged on every front,  as
KWS for more than a week in early July used a
helicopter to try to drive away from three
villages near Tsavo a wandering herd of about 100
elephants who had already killed two people.
Similar incidents occurred at Mt. Elgon
National Park and the Mt. Kenya National Forest
Reserve,  where KWS became hugely unpopular in
1999 after taking over the management of the
reserve from the Forest Department with a mandate
from arap Moi to reign in corruption that was
fast depleting what remained of the natural
resources.  Finding that there was no new tree
growth on 76% of the heavily grazed and
cultivated reserve,  but that there were 494
acres of marijuana plantations,  KWS subsequently
arrested 1,200 local farmers for illegal logging,
charcoal making,  and poaching.
Unfortunately,  the habitat had already
been harmed beyond the ability to sustain the
resident elephants year-round–so,  during the
dry season,  they roam.
Halfway through 2003,  KWS wardens had
already killed eight rogue elephants around the
various national parks and reserves,  after
killing just two in 2002.  Farmers killed 11 in
2002,  and as July began were reportedly being
rallied into armed mobs by local politicians who
threated to kill more elephants with poisoned
arrows if “something” isn’t done soon about the


The “something” many seem to have in mind
is the introduction to Kenya of a hunting-based
CAMPFIRE economic development program,  richly
backed by USAid,  like the one the U.S. has used
to curry favor in Zimbabwe throughout the now
faltering regime of strongman President Robert
Mugabe.  CAMPFIRE in Zimbabwe has accomplished
little more than channeling spoils to political
insiders while affording wealthy trophy hunters
the opportunity to shoot trophy animals with a
U.S. taxpayer-supported subsidy–but that looks
good to many who fancy themselves to be political
insiders now that former opposition leader Mwai
Kibaki heads the Kenyan government.
KWS official Joachim Kagiri told Andrew
England of Associated Press that a good fence
could also keep the Mt. Kenya elephants out of
trouble–but 932 miles of fencing would be
needed.  Fencing Tsavo, a much larger reserve,
would be a task comparable to building The Great
Wall of China.
Environment minister Newton Kulundu told
Jeff Otieno of The Nation that his “experts are
working around the clock because we want to
change the old laws that have been unfair to both
human beings and animals.”  Kulundu blamed the
arap Moi regime for “bringing all these problems
by failing to adequately address human/animal
conflict,”  and promised that more compensation
for damage done by wildlife would be part of the
Wildlife Conserv-ation and Management Bill he
means to introduce.
President Kibaki,  soon after succeeding
arap Moi,  replaced the entire KWS board,
including Leakey,  with his own appointees.  That
left then-KWS chief Michael Wamithi,  formerly
East Africa director for the International Fund
for Animal Welfare,  without many friends in high
places,  only two months after he succeeded
Joseph Kioko.
IFAW tried to strengthen Wamithi’s
position in February 2003 by donating an
anti-poaching airplane to the KWS–a significant
demonstration of donor support for his policies.
Wamithi and Leakey meanwhile proposed and
set about creating a $400 million endowment fund
to enable the KWS,  Uganda Wildlife Authority,
and Tanzanian Wildlife Division to operate
without constant budget shortfalls and with less
political interference.
“Tanzania is not keen on the fund because
it is able to finance most of its conservation
activities from licensed hunting proceeds,  and
is afraid that the fund will interfere with its
sovereign right to determine how to manage its
wildlife resources,” wrote special correspondent
John Mbaria in the East African newspaper.
“Tanzania is the only country in East Africa that
pursues a consumptive utilization of wildlife
policy that allows safari hunting,”  Mbaria
explained,  hinting indirectly that Western and
Kulundu would soon gun for Wamithi in earnest.
On May 24 Kulundu suspended Wamithi and
announced that he was being investigated for
“insubordination” and “working in cahoots” with
Leakey to raise funds without government
approval.  Further,  Kulundu charged,  “Wamithi
and Leakey traveled to Uganda for a fundraising
meeting using a KWS aircraft,  yet Wamithi did
not seek travel clearance from the government as
required.  We are also investigating financial
and social improprieties at KWS,”  Kulundu told
Agence France-Presse,  seemingly to tar Wamithi
with as broad a brush as possible short of
charging him with any actual offense.
During the next two weeks Kulundu twice
warned Leakey against “interfering” with KWS,
and tried to replace Wamithi with African
Conservation Centre head John Waith-aka,
described to ANIMAL PEOPLE by one mutual
acquaintance as “a protégé of Western and an
avowed consumptive use fellow.”
Jacob M. Mati of Nairobi spoke out for Wamithi,
however,  in a June 2 open letter to The Nation.
“The sacking of KWS director Michael
Wamithi had more to it than meets the eye,”  Mati
wrote.  “Mr. Wamithi’s vision for the wildlife
resources in this country is well known.  And he
has not shied from stepping on sensitive toes.
He ignited the spark to his current predicament
when he boldly admitted that cropping was
decimating the wildlife population.  The wealthy
landowners of Laikipia,  Samburu,  Nakuru,
Kajiado,  Lamu,  and Machakos vowed to hit back
at Wamithi’s suggestion that cropping be stopped.
The suspension of Mr. Wamithi is thus seen as the
culmination of the power plays and corruption
behind the scenes.  It is not really about abuse
of office,  as minister Kulundu insinuated.
Besides,  Dr. Leakey and Mr. Ali Kaka [a Leakey
ally] have already told us that they paid for the
KWS helicopter.”
The KWS board,  even without Leakey,  did
not like the sound of that.  Soon after the Mati
letter appeared,  the board rejected the
appointment of Waithaka,  named Joseph Mutie to
head the KWS,  and suggested that Kulundu had
acted on “misinformation.”

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