Early Recovery of Nature-Based
Tourism Good for Kenya and Good for Biodiversity Says UNEP Head
Achim Steiner Backs Kenya Tourist Board and Kenya Wildlife
Service Push at Berlin Tourism Fair
Berlin/Nairobi, 5 March 2008 -
Tourism can play a key role in restoring economic activity and
employment in Kenya and in doing so play its part in bringing
peace and stability to the East African country, the head of the
UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said today.
Achim Steiner, UNEP’s Executive Director was speaking on the eve
of his departure to Berlin, Germany which this week is hosting one
of the world’s biggest tourism fairs.
“Tourism, based in the main around Kenya’s fabled wildlife and
natural landscapes has historically been a centre-piece of the
economy and for job creation. The income generated is also vital
for the country’s conservation effort and for maintaining Kenya’s
important network of National Parks and other protected areas,”
said Mr Steiner.
“Sadly visitor numbers have crashed since the post-election
instability of late December 2007, 25,000 people directly employed
in tourism-related industries and countless more indirectly
employed have been laid off and revenues to parks and reserves
have plummeted putting at risk countless conservation initiatives
carried out by the Kenya Wildlife Service and others,” he said.
“The newly signed peace agreement, brokered by former UN Secretary
General Kofi Annan and his team, now provides an opportunity to
bring stability to Kenya and its people. Tourism can play a
central role in this. In doing so, it can also play an important
role in conserving important wildlife and ecosystems from
charismatic creatures like elephants and rhino to whale sharks and
some of the most dense and diverse birdlife on the planet,” said
Mr Steiner, also a UN Under-Secretary General.
According to official statistics, to be presented in Berlin this
week by the Kenya delegation, 2007 saw a record number of over a
million international tourists arrive in the country by air and by
sea—a rise of 10 per cent over 2006.
But since the disputed election result in December 2007, numbers
have fallen precipitously and it is forecast that an average of
9,000 visitors will come each month over the first quarter of
2008—a drop of over 90 per cent and an expected loss of 5.5
billion Kenya shillings.
Conservation Challenges from Revenue Declines
The Kenya Wildlife Service, which last year posted record revenues
of $28 million, is also suffering and an order for over 200
vehicles needed for anti-poaching patrols and other important
conservation work has just been shelved.
The decline in tourism-related revenues may also damage important
conservation work according to experts.
These include a captive black rhino breeding programme launched
six months ago aimed at boosting the number of animals to 700 in
five years, up from 540 now.
Wide-spread poaching reduced the country’s rhino population from
an estimated 20,000 in the 1970s to below 350. But anti-poaching
and other initiatives including rhino sanctuaries have brought the
number back up to around 540.
Other pioneering initiatives that may be at risk include community
projects, species translocation schemes and one to test new ideas
to reduce human-animal conflicts in and around the Amboseli
National Park, home to some 1,500 elephants.
These include chili tobacco ropes which can help deter elephants
from spoiling farmland, simple but ingenious alarm systems for
farmers using trip wires that ring bicycle bells in the farm house
and fireworks that can scare animals away.
Mr Steiner said: “Indeed it is an overall measure of KWS’s success
that elephant populations in Kenya have risen recently by four per
cent following years of successful anti-poaching and other
management. This rise comes at the very moment when revenues are
suddenly suffering as a result of the post-election crisis”.
Wider Environmental Impacts
The African Wildlife Foundation is also concerned about the impact
of falling tourist numbers on a strong of recently established
The case of the Ol Pejata Conservancy in Laikipia underlines the
challenge. Established in 2004, it is the largest private run
conservation project for the Black Rhino in Africa with 77 animals.
Richard Vigne, the Conservancy’s chief executive officer, said the
project employed 600 people many of whom are drawn from the local
He said running a conservancy with rhino cost 2.5 times the cost
of managing the same area of land without the animals.
Mr Vigne said the decline in tourism was affecting some 60 per
cent of the not-for-profit conservancy’s revenue alongside
important community outreach.
Ol Pejata has raised over $1 million for local community work over
the past three years from donors and there is concern that future
support may now be at risk.
Around 8% of Kenya’s land area is held in protected areas. Nairobi
National Park (117 square km) was the first to be established in
Kenya Wildlife Service is a State agency mandated to preserve
Kenya’s wildlife and its habitat and display it in its natural
form. Kenya depends on non consumptive uses of wildlife resources
especially in the form of tourism.
In the financial year 2006/2007, tourism accounted for 20 per cent
of government income. Under Kenya’s Vision 2030 economic blueprint
to make the county a middle level economy, tourism will play a
central role. Wildlife based tourism accounts for about 75 per
cent of all tourist visitors to Kenya.
Kenya’s wildlife plays a central role in the economy, especially
in the support of livelihoods. KWS manages four of the country’s
five major water towers, the sources of hydroelectric power,
protects fish breeding sites, protects forests which are a source
of rain for agriculture, protects invaluable biodiversity in
Tourism is also the main source of revenue for Kenya Wildlife
Service (Statistics attached).The revenue is used to manage
wildlife, its habitat, and wildlife research, support community
projects, among other activities.
Recently, the General Election dispute in Kenya caused a sudden
drop in tourism activities in national parks and reserves by about
80 per cent.
FIGURE: VISITOR STATISTICS 2003- 2007