Effort to repair Kenyan animal services amid post-election strife hints at job ahead in Zimbabwe

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2008:


NAIROBI, HARARE–The difficulty of restoring Kenyan animal
services after just a few weeks of unrest following the disputed
outcome of the December 27, 2007 national election hints at the
magnitude of the job ahead in Zimbabwe, where a similar
post-election crisis appears to be capping nearly nine years of
conditions almost as dysfunctional as the worst Kenya experienced.
As ANIMAL PEOPLE went to press, rioting had just resumed in
the Kibera slum district of Nairobi, near the headquarters of the
Kenya Wildlife Service, after talks broke down that were intended to
achieve a power-sharing arrangement satisfactory to supporters of
both incumbent president Mwai Kibaki and challenger Raila Odinga. As
earlier, all Kenyan animal advocates could do was hunker down, try
to stay out of the line of fire, and help the animals they could
with whatever they had, wherever they were caught when the trouble
The outcome of the March 29, 2008 Zimbabwean national
election likewise remained uncertain. The Zanu-PF party, ruling
Zimbabwe since 1980, appeared to have lost control of the national
parliament, but Harare Daily News editor Barnabas Thondiana told
ANIMAL PEOPLE that agents of Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean president
since 1980, “secretly stuffed ballots to enable him to achieve a
respectable election figure.” Claiming military support, Mugabe
tried to remain in power despite many indications that he had been
electorally defeated.

Cadres loyal to Mugabe had resumed invading farms owned by
Zimbabweans of European descent, as they often have since 2000,
while Mugabe announced new measures to reallocate land. A frequent
Mugabe tactic in times of political challenge, land redistribution
has both kept the Zanu-PF government in power and bankrupted the
national economy. Farm invasions have typically brought the
slaughter of domestic animals for immediate consumption and the
destruction of wildlife habitat to create awkwardly and ineffectively
cultivated fields, where families struggle to grow food in a nation
previously among Africa’s net food exporters, now struggling through
perpetual food scarcity.
Amid the turmoil, the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management
Authority in mid-March claimed to have raised about $900,000 U.S.
from its annual auction of animals from three safari camps in the
Zambezi Valley–about 10% less than the 2007 auction raised, and
only 60% of the 2006 receipts, even at the questionable official
exchange rates. The animals are sold chiefly to be shot by
trophy-hunting tourists. Long-term investments in hunting ranch
breeding stock have declined due to political instability and a steep
drop in hunter visits.
Amid the Zimbabwean wildlife disaster, internationally
distributed e-mails and photos from Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force
chair Johnny Rodrigues turned orphaned baby black rhinos named
Tatenda, Carla, and Lisa Marie into national symbols of hope.
Tatenda’s mother and two other black rhinos were killed at the Imre
Safari Ranch, operated by John and Judy Travers, on November 7,
2007, when “Four armed poachers dressed in camouflage uniform
assaulted and tied up the rhino guards and opened fire on the three
adult rhinos in their pens,” Rodrigues reported.
While John and Judy Travers undertook bottle-feeding
Tatenda, then just six weeks old, Janie Style of Buffalo Range
bottle-fed Carla and Lisa Marie, each six months old. “Carla’s
mother was shot and killed,” Rodrigues wrote, “and little Carla was
shot through her shoulders and chopped on her face with a panga
(machete). Lisa Marie was caught in a snare and almost lost her back
Rodrigues’ appeals brought repeated donations of urgently
needed milk powder from the Clover Milk company of South Africa and
other South Africans who usually personally deliver their
contributions, also including nipples and medications, as far as
Bulawayo. Rodrigues takes the supplies the rest of the way to the
The bottle-feeders have also raised an orphaned hyena and and
an orphaned warthog during the long effort–and most importantly,
have demonstrated to the world that people who care about animals
still exist in Zimbabe.
The 13 branches of the Zimbabwe National SPCA have continued
operations throughout the prolonged national crisis, but since July
2007 have had to euthanize most animals rather than holding them,
because pet food is no longer available. Some supplies have been
donated by the South African National SPCA.
ANAW in camps
In Kenya, while Kibaki and Odinga negotiated, the African
Network for Animal Welfare spent much of March vaccinating and/or
deworming 883 animals at 10 camps for internally displaced persons.
ANAW also took food to the animals in camps where supplies were
locally scarce.
How soon the camp residents will all be resettled, with their
surviving animals, is among the open questions in the abruptly and
violently redrawn ethnic landscape.
Another open question is the fate of Amboseli National Park,
explored on March 17 by Rupi Mangat of the Nairobi East African. “A
few years ago,” Mangat explained, “Amboseli was to be degazetted
and handed back to the Ol Kejuado County Council. This was seen as a
political maneuver [by the Kbaki government] to win favor. However,
the move was unlawful. For degazettement, a whole process has to be
followed. One requirements is to win 60% approval from parliament.
This never happened, but [the proposed return of the park to the
county council] caused tremendous confusion. To make things worse,
a new district was carved out of Kajiado [as Ol Kejuado is now more
often called]. Now the park lies in Loitoktok.”
Amboseli is still managed by the Kenya Wildlife Service, still rich
in wildlife, and is increasingly a flashpoint for wildlife/human
conflict, surrounded by agriculture and development .
“Crops are getting closer and closer to the park,” elephant
researcher Cynthia Moss told Mangat. “In February,” when
post-election conflict paralyzed the Kenya Wildlife Service as much
as the rest of the nation, “14 elephants were speared and four died.
We need to save as much of the ecosystem as we can, because the park
on its own cannot survive,” Moss said. “If the ecosystem changes,
the park will not be viable for other species.
“Amboseli is fascinating because of the swamps,” Moss added. “It
would never be able to feed a huge number of animals on its own,”
without the wetlands. “The problem is the land use policy,” Moss
continued. “There is nothing to stop someone from putting 20-story
buildings on the boundary of the park.
“There is also the issue of Mount Kilimanjaro,” Moss mentioned. “It
is estimated that by 2015, Kili’s ice glacier will be gone. We
don’t really know the long-term impact of this,” but runoff from the
glacier is the primary source of the water in the wetlands. Without
the glacier, Amboseli could become as harsh and dry an environment
as Tsavo National Park, to the east. This would inhibit growing
crops close to the park, but would increase the pressure to prevent
wildlife depredation on whatever still grew, and would increase the
desperation of pastoralists to find grazing land.
“Already, a lot of the elephant corridors are blocked off,” Moss
continued. “There should be a directive for no more lodges and
camps, because Amboseli is a fragile ecosystem, and cannot take a
big increase in vehicular traffic.”
Assessed Mangat, “This is not likely to happen if we are to
go by what has happened around the Maasai Mara, where the joke is
that there are more lodges than the lions.”
Proponents of degaz-etting Amboseli often cite the Maasai
Mara as their model–but Maasai Mara development schemes also have a
problematic history. “Particularly in recent years,” The New York
Times editorialized in 2001, “the millions of dollars in gate
receipts and lodging fees brought into the Mara by foreign tourists
have been used not for road repair or schooling and health care for
the Maasai,” as was promised when the Maasai gave up some their
ancestral lands to create the park, “but instead to enrich
officials…The infrastructure has steadily deteriorated, poaching
has persisted, and the Maasai have remained among Kenya’s poorest
and least educated people.”
In June 2001 the Maasai Mara management was turned over to a
new nonprofit corporation, the Mara Conservancy, which was supposed
to share half of all revenues with the Maasai. Touristic development
accelerated, but the economic goals were not met, bringing the
formation of a new management regimen, the Greater Maasai Mara
Tourism Development Plan, in October 2007.
Poaching increases
Economic ambition during the recent unrest tends to have
mostly involved looting in the riot-torn cities, and poaching in
rural districts. Tsavo East senior warden Julius Cheptei recently
told Pascal Mwandambo of The Nation that poaching for bush meat in
the Tsavo region, a growing problem for 20 years, has reached
unprecedented levels.
“While very little poaching is going on inside the park,”
Cheptei said, “outside, especially on community ranches, the
menace has increased tenfold.”
Poachers apparently took full advantage of several months when Kenyan
law enforcement was focused on stopping post-election ethnic violence
and inhibitions on travel, including taking livestock to market,
made meat relatively scarce and expensive.
Several prominent poaching and wildlife trafficking arrests
in late March 2008 signaled that the KWS was back on the job. Eight
poachers were caught in possession of 187 dikdik carcasses in the
Tana River region; four men were caught in the act of skinning an
endangered Hirola antelope they had illegally snared, also in the
Tana River region; and a Nakuru parcel delivery driver was on March
31 found in possession of 64 pounds of ivory.
But rebuilding the economic base of wildlife protection in
Kenya, one of the few nations that does not allow sport hunting,
will require rebuilding visitor confidence that Kenya is a safe
“Revenues to parks and reserves have plummeted, putting at risk
countless conservation initiatives carried out by KWS and others,”
United Nations Environment Program chief Ach-im Steiner told Reuters
reporter Lisa Ntungacim-paye on March 26. “If we can’t regenerate
tourism, then many of these environmental investments will either be
severely reduced or collapse,” Steiner added, mentioning that KWS
has had to cancel the purchase of 200 vehicles due to recent revenue
Tourism is the leading source of foreign exchange in Kenya,
worth about $1 billion in 2007, “but has seen massive drops in
profits and numbers since television showed images of bloody street
protests, burning and looting in the wake of the December 27 vote,”
wrote Jack Kimball of Reuters.

Print Friendly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.