Wildlife and environmental conservationists now want the national government to gazette elephant migratory corridors in the country to protect the endangered animal and reduce human wildlife conflicts.
The stakeholders were speaking at the Uhuru na Kazi building, Mombasa, during flagging-off of Tsavo East-Galana-Arabuko-Sokoke Elephant campaign walk initiated by Jim Justus Nyamu, the Executive Director for Elephant Neighbors Center (ENC).
The 25 kilometre walk is Jim’s 14th walk since 2013 when he embarked on the campaign dubbed “Ivory Belongs to Elephants Walk” to raise awareness on the value of elephants, how to mitigate human- elephant conflict and to raise awareness on poaching.
The ENC walk is aimed at sensitizing Coast residents on the values of the animals to the country’s economy, culture and heritage and raise their awareness of the poaching crisis.
The walk flagged-off by the Mombasa County Commissioner (CC), John Otieno, is conducted in partnership with the Kenya Wildlife Service, the Galana Crocodile Camp, Ministries of Tourism and Wildlife and Interior and Coordination of National Government.
The 16 days walk covering forested areas in Mombasa and Kilifi counties also involve members of different rotaries, conservationists, environmentalists, 65 schools and individuals.
Pollman Tours and Safaris Operations Director, Mohamed Hersi, urged Lands and Environment and Forestry Ministries, to move with speed and gazette the traditional migration routes for the elephants.
In the Coast region, illegal settlements and land grabbing have led to blocking of elephants and other species migratory corridors between Tsavo East National Park and other forests in Kilifi, Tana River and Lamu counties.
“Research has shown that elephants have remarkable memory to remember migratory routes, most of which have been affected by human activities. We urged the lands and environment ministries to gazette all these routes for the sake of posterity of these important animals in the history and heritage of our nation,” added Hersi.
The Kenya Tourism Federation (KFT) Board Member noted that settlements on the migratory corridors have escalated wildlife-human conflicts in the region hence posing serious threats to protection of endangered species.
Recent reports indicate the settlements continue to block traditional migration routes for elephants to Tsavo East National Park.
Nyamu revealed that his campaign walk is informed by movement of 14,000 elephants on that route migrating to best water sources, pasture and breeding.
“This is one area that has so many elephants. We have seen the elephants crossing the Bamba area finding their way to Tsavo East areas. Elephants move with other species like hyenas and hence the need to raise awareness to create harmony between wildlife and human beings,” he added.
Nyamu observed that although the National Government has allocated huge expenditure to compensate victims of human-wildlife, conflicts can be minimized by educating citizenry to act responsible towards the animals.
He raised alarm over poaching of dik- diks, gazelles, giraffes, and guinea fowl and other animals for bush meat trade in Kilifi County.
“It is a sad state of affairs for Kenyans to kill animals like dik-diks who water from succulents and lush foliage hence affecting animal food chain, leading to human wildlife conflicts,” he observed.
CC Otieno noted Kenya has made huge steps in addressing killings of the elephants since the National government introduced a multi-agency approach in anti-poaching operations.
The County Commissioner said the collaboration between Kenya and foreign governments, particularly the United States government, has yielded fruits including arrest of prime suspects behind ivory trade in the region.
“Elephants conservation is a global campaign and that is why the US and our government are collaborating in dealing with poaching which also fuels other crimes like illicit drugs and money laundering,” he added.
Otieno hailed the Tsavo East-Galana-Arabuko-Sokoke Elephant campaign walk by Nyamu, saying it will go a long way in raising public awareness on the value of protecting elephants and other wildlife.
“Tourism is a key pillar of our country’s GDP hence there is a need for a concerted effort to conserve these animals,” he observed.
Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) Coast regional Head of Conservation Samuel Tokore also hailed the initiative, terming it as a compliment to his agency’s conservation efforts in the region.
“We have elephant migratory corridors coming from Tsavo West to Tsavo East down- Arabuko Sokoke forest- Tana River -Lamu and along these corridors affecting by human activities and this campaign will go a long way in educating our people on the need to protect our elephants and other species,” added Samuel.
He revealed that sporadic rains recorded over several parts of the region come as relief to elephants and other wildlife within the Coast ecosystem, albeit impact of climate change and drought.
By Galgalo Bocha