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Kenya : Hunting ban plan splits delegates

PostPosted: Fri, 2007-05-04 07:21
by GOSA
Daily News

Hunting ban plan splits delegates

April 23, 2007 Edition 1

Tens of thousands of tourists flock to Kenya each year to see
lions, leopards, elephants, wildebeest and other wildlife
roaming the parks and reserves.

But animal numbers have fallen by at least two-thirds over the
last three decades, and experts blame poaching plus human
destruction of their habitats.

Those backing sport hunting say it would preserve wildlife by
encouraging better management and earning big money that could
be ploughed back into conservation.

It would also bring Kenya into line with neighbours Uganda and
Tanzania, and with South Africa, which all profit from
restricted hunting.

Opponents have denounced any moves to re-introduce the blood
sport and accused elitist hunters of colluding with wealthy
local landowners.

Emotional

"It is such an emotional issue right now," said Sarah Macharia,
a Kenyan environmental consultant.

"Every time they try to count our animals there are fewer and
fewer. I am against hunting because we don't have the capacity
to enforce any rules on it. Maybe later, but not now."

Last year, Kenya's government appointed a committee to formulate
a new wildlife policy.

The draft report, completed in February, recommended lifting the
ban on hunting, but its publication has been delayed by the
wrangling.

Tempers have flared, and one Kenyan journalist recently
protested at the idea of Arab royals and rich Americans, "bored
by ordinary living", blasting away at big game while children in
rags look on from the doorways of mud huts.
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Opponents say locals want a bigger share of tourist revenues
from the parks and reserves, which go mostly to the service
sector, and compensation for loss of property or crops caused by
wildlife - but not hunting.

Supporters of hunting include not only ranchers and sports
hunters themselves, but also some veteran conservationists who
have worked in the country for decades.

They say countries like South Africa and Tanzania have prospered
hugely, partly because hunters spend thousands of dollars, many
times more than regular tourists, and partly because they have
experienced an increase in animal numbers.

Mike Norton-Griffiths, an expert on the economics of wildlife
management, says natural habitats in Kenya are being destroyed
by landowners because the returns from agriculture are currently
much higher than from wildlife.

Money-making activities like selling animals, culling locally
abundant populations, marketing trophies and - most valuable of
all - sport hunting, should be allowed, he says.

Well-funded foreign animal welfare groups, mostly based in the
United States, have muddied the debate, and even "subverted
democracy", in Kenya, he says.

These groups seem determined to make sure hunting never returns,
apparently regardless of whether this leads to further falls in
wildlife numbers or continued rural poverty, he says.

"If they succeed in derailing the wildlife policy review, the
decline in the country's wildlife will carry inexorably on," he
wrote in the magazine New Scientist last month.

"That would hardly be a victory for conservation." - Reuters