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SPOONER: Wildlife protection should not be seen as a ‘mzungu thing’

This week, we lost another rhino to poachers, this time in Nairobi National park – one of the best protected areas in the country.

This is devastating. What upsets me further is that some Nairobians don’t seem to care.

As an individual who works in conservation, I encounter all sorts of questions and, sometimes, insults. The most common ones are; ‘why do you care about animals’, ‘oh, that’s a mzungu thing’ or ‘so you look after animals, ok…that’s nice.’

I have a variety of answers which will hopefully help Nairobians realise that conservation is crucial to our economy. It isn’t a hobby invented by ‘white people’ who can’t be bothered to help Kenyans and it needs more domestic support.

To get through to most people, I have to break down the value of wildlife conservation into monetary terms. Protecting wildlife for the sake of defending a national heritage or because it’s a tragedy to lose such incredible creatures does not stand as a decent argument.

So, here goes. The tourism earnings in 2012/13 were at Sh96 billion. This does not include tourism receipts, goods or services they pay for while in Kenya. Also, 11 per cent of paid employment in Kenya comes from tourism; this will grow further by 1.4 per cent yearly to nearly a million jobs in 2022.

Thousands of Kenyans rely on this industry as a source of informal or seasonal labour.

A huge proportion of this tourism is ‘safari tourism’- people going to see the wildlife that we have to offer. Talk to any guide and they’ll tell you that these tourists specifically want to see the predators, elephants and rhinos.

It is precisely these animals — crucial to attracting tourists to Kenya — that are under increasing threat in our country. Poaching and increasing conflict over land and resources are claiming the most casualties.

If we don’t do something about it, soon we will lose them forever. This is a battle that affects our country – as true patriots we should all take up this cause as our own.