Kenya's wildlife needs tourists
to come back - UN
Wed 5 Mar 2008
NAIROBI (Reuters) - Conservation projects to protect Kenya's rich
wildlife, from its rhinos to whale sharks, are at risk if the
country fails to attract tourists back after a post-election
crisis, the United Nations said on Wednesday.
Kenya relies on its game parks to draw hundreds of thousands of
tourists every year. But, the sector has been badly damaged by a
wave of cancellations following ethnic clashes triggered by
President Mwai Kibaki's disputed re-election in December.
The violence that killed more than 1,000 people prompted European
tour operators to cancel chartered flights to the east African
country, dealing a heavy blow to its tourism industry -- the
leading foreign exchange earner in Kenya.
Funding for conservation projects has shrunk as a result of of the
slump in tourist numbers, conservation officials say.
"If we can't regenerate tourism then many of these environmental
investments ... will either be severely reduced or collapse," said
Achim Steiner, head of the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP),
which is headquartered in Nairobi.
"Revenues to parks and reserves have plummeted putting at risk
countless conservation initiatives carried out by the Kenya
Wildlife Services (KWS) and others," he told reporters.
The KWS had to shelve the purchase of 200 vehicles used in
anti-poaching and other conservation activities due to revenue
fall-offs, Steiner said.
Kenya's tourism sector raked in nearly $1 billion last year, but
has seen massive drop-offs in profits and numbers since television
footage showed images of bloody street protests, burning and
looting in the wake of the December 27 vote.