Date Published: 27 Apr, 2015
BEIJING, CHINA: Wildlife conservation non-governmental organisations based in China have pledged to forge a united front with Kenya in efforts to combat global wildlife crime.
They held a round-table meeting with a Kenya Wildlife Service goodwill delegation at the Jintai Art Museum in Beijing where they discussed how the civil society could work with governments and communities in the fight against poaching and trafficking in ivory and rhino horn.
The NGOs present included International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Freeland, Traffic, Wildlife Conservation Society (WSC) and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This week, the KWS delegation led by the acting Director General, Mr William Kiprono, is scheduled to meet another NGO, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), to discuss ways in which social media platforms can be harnessed to create public awareness on global wildlife crime.
Mr Kiprono called on the civil society to be accountable for their resources they get for conservation work and avoid duplication of efforts. He cited IFAW East Africa, which was working with KWS in securing critical wildlife corridors and dispersal areas in Kenya, as a good example of what can be achieved when government and civil society cooperate.
“We need to talk to each other and not at each other. International criminals are not restricted to any nationalities. Let’s work together and make the best use of resources in conservation,” Mr Kiprono said.
He thanked the international community led by the Canadian Government for supporting the construction of a state-of-the-art forensic and genetic laboratory, the only one of its kind in East and Central Africa, which is planned for launch in May. He said the laboratory would not only help Kenya in prosecution of wildlife crimes but other countries in the region.
Mr Kiprono noted that conservation was an expensive enterprise yet it relied on unreliable tourism revenues. The Kenyan government is shouldering about 90 per cent of KWS conservation expenditure and requires support from international partners given that KWS tourism revenues have dropped by an estimated 60 per cent. He told the NGOs: “You should encourage more people to visit Kenya on wildlife safaris not just as part of their contribution to the conservation of iconic wildlife species but also for their own enjoyment and relaxation.”
The Kenyan embassy in China has eased travel procedures for Chinese visitors to Kenya, including allowing them to get visas on arrival at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi.
Other efforts by Kenya Tourist Board (KTB), KWS and other key players in the industry to encourage Chinese tourists to visit Kenya include translating promotional materials into Mandarin, training Kenyan tour operators in Chinese culture and languages in Confucius institutes and devising more innovative ways of improving visitor experience.
Many countries targeting Chinese tourists have been conducting surveys on their preferences in hotel cuisine and shopping patterns to figure out how to attract them in a more sustainable way.
KTB has also requested Chinese authorities to be allowed to hold promotional events in zoos and sanctuaries for potential visitors to be encouraged to visit wild animals in their natural habitats in Kenya.
Last year, Kenya was granted the “Approved Destination Status” by the Chinese government. About 10 years earlier, KTB and the China National Tourism Administration Bureau signed a memorandum of understanding on the implementation of a plan for organised group travel by Chinese to Kenya.
Lately, China has emerged as an important potential source of high net worth tourists for Kenya as visitors from the traditional western tourist markets decline.
About 40,000 tourists from China visit Kenya per year, pushing the Asian country to top ten source markets for Kenya globally and the largest source market in Asia. KTB projects the figure to grow steadily in the coming years, hitting 100,000 market next year, though still a negligible fraction of the estimated 100 million outward-bound Chinese tourists.