Poaching in Kenya may increase because of crisis
NAIROBI (AFP) — The crisis in Kenya's tourism industry caused by the post-election violence there and the subsequent collapse in tourism could mean more people turn to poaching, conservationists warned Thursday.
Environmental NGO WildlifeDirect.org warned that the world-renowned Maasai Mara Game Reserve "is under severe threat from widespread poaching following the collapse of tourism in Kenya's post-election crisis."
"Wildlife is going to be hit hard," Brian Heath, head of the Mara Conservancy Trust, was quoted as saying in the statement.
Since the December 27 presidential election deteriorated into violence, close to 800 people have been killed across Kenya.
Images of people hacking each other to death and reports of women and children being burned alive in a church dealt a huge blow to the tourism industry, Kenya's main source of foreign currency.
Around 90 percent of accommodation bookings for January were cancelled, hitting the country's economy during the tourism high season.
The NGO, chaired by conservationist Richard Leakey, explained that many people were expecting to turn to poaching for bushmeat trade if they lost their jobs in the tourism sector. "My community benefits directly from tourism as gate revenues pay for the wildlife conflict compensation scheme," explained Parmois Siampei, a Maasai administrative officer for the Mara Conservancy and local community member.
Leakey called a fund-raising campaign through conservancy blogs to save the Masai Mara reserve. "Africa's parks cannot survive on tourism revenues alone, especially during times of political instability."