Kenya plans to expand its national reserves and game parks in order to boost its wildlife numbers.
The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has said this will be achieved if the Wildlife Bill 2011 is enacted.
Among other things, the bill seeks to encourage individuals and communities to give up more land for the setting up of such facilities.
The proposed law also pushes for higher compensation for property, crops, livestock and injury caused by wild animals, a contentious issue between the service and communities.
The Bill is currently undergoing public scrutiny with stakeholders having been given up to the end of last week to provide feedback.
“We have no more land to create national parks. Hope lies in the hands of communities or private individuals. That’s why there’s a need to design sufficient incentives for the group to change their land use for conservation,” said KWS managing director Julius Kipng’etich.
KWS, which did not give the number of new wildlife facilities to be put up, said it had already secured one million acres of land from communities for the parks, including Tsavo, Amboseli and Laikipia national parks and Northern Kenya, in the past five years.
Kenya relies on its game parks to draw hundreds of thousands of tourists every year, with tourism among the top foreign currency earners for East Africa’s biggest economy, alongside horticulture and tea exports.
The tourism sector’s half-year revenue rose to $450 million from last year’s $390 million, with tourist numbers jumping by 13.6 per cent to hit 549,083 from 2010’s 483,468.
Nairobi expects arrivals to grow by 20 per cent in the second half of 2011, driven by peaks in July through to October.
Tourism earned Kenya $817.7 million in 2010, up 18 per cent from $694.4 million the previous year.
“We also have an incredible range of wild habitats, each with its own unique range of species, including the spectacular wildebeest migration in Maasai Mara,” said Najib Balala, Kenya’s Tourism Minister.
KWS said it was lobbying the EAC member countries to harmonise penalties to curb poaching across the region, saying Kenya had set pace with the proposed law. The proposed penalty on wildlife hunting and wildlife land encroachment is expected to reduce poaching incidents.
Wildlife hunting faces a fine of not less than $20,000 and five years imprisonment while grazing livestock in a national park faces a fine of not less than $2,000, a two year imprisonment and confiscation of the livestock.
The government of Tanzania has also decried the low sentences imposed on poaching crime, which is perceived to have risen in recent years.
Sentences for killing rhinos or elephants are as low as 12 months’ jail and a fine of between $50 and $100.
“Such penalties are no deterrent. Criminals will go to jail with the hope of coming back to their trade after a few months behind the bars. A penalty of $500 or even $1,000 is nothing to people who make a lot of money through poaching activities,” said Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete.
Neighbouring countries like Uganda, Rwanda and DRCongo have collaborated to protect the endangered mountain gorilla in a 10-year conservation plan since 2008 through deploying many rangers in the region while involving the community in wildlife conservation.
The last census carried out in 2010 showed gorilla numbers in Virunga Massif, a roughly 461 square kilometres area that covers the border territory from the three countries rose to 480, a 25 per cent increase from 2003.