First Lady Margaret Kenyatta present a "Hands off our Elephants" plaque to Helen Clark

First Lady Margaret Kenyatta present a “Hands off our Elephants” plaque to Helen Clark

Over 20,000 African elephants were poached across Africa in 2013, according to a report released on 13 June by the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Community empowerment might be the key to solving the poaching crisis in Kenya. This was the message from Kenya’s first lady Margaret Kenyatta and the Administrator of the UN Development Programme, Helen Clark while launching a new conservancy programme in the South of the country.

“This horrific phenomenon must stop. It is depleting our natural heritage, destroying lives and incomes, and fuelling corruption and insecurity”, said Ms. Kenyatta.

Wildlife attracts over one million tourists per year, generates over 12 percent of the national revenue, and directly employs over 230,000 Kenyans. Estimates put the value of a live elephant in Kenya at over USD 1 million per animal given its estimated life span and the services it renders the wildlife tourism industry.

Poaching has slowly risen and some even consider it to be a national crisis. Whatever you call it, the act is increasing poverty rates and adversely affects opportunities for sustainable development.

The scheme launched by the first lady and UNDP will create new livelihoods for communities living on the outskirts of Amboseli, an 8,000 kilometre-square natural reserve spanning the border between Kenya and Tanzania. By investing in sustainable farming, eco-tourism, and conservancy, the programme is expected to provide people with an alternative to killing wild animals.

In addition to creating new sources of revenue, the programme will give local communities, through the creation of village councils, the authority and capacity to plan and manage the use of their own land.

Creating better processes for information-sharing between communities, park rangers and national authorities, while raising awareness of the impact of poaching in affected areas will also be possible.

The programme in Amboseli coincides with the scaling up by the First Lady of Kenya of the #HandsOffOurElephants information campaign, which aims to stop the killing of elephants and slow down the demand for ivory in Asian countries.