What you need to know:
- Kenya Forest Service rangers have been killed and 106 seriously injured by poachers
The recently released data regarding deaths and injuries of park rangers over the past several years is certainly worrying.
In July, it came to light that over the past five years, five rangers of the Kenya Forest Service have been killed while another 106 were seriously injured by poachers. During 2019 alone, there were 22 cases of injured rangers.
Kenyan park rangers are some of our country’s true, unsung heroes. They commit themselves to grueling careers in order to protect the wildlife that makes Kenya so unique, and oftentimes live far away from their families. They work through long nights and weekends, and even during festivals that we are celebrating.
This kind of dedication evolves from a deep passion for nature and animals, something that only the truly compassionate are capable of. Kenya is a large country by land mass, and we have dozens of national parks. They are the heart of Kenya, and what makes us so distinct for many tourists coming to our country.
Cover large areas
This means that rangers are required to cover extremely large areas, and to work tirelessly to protect the animals roaming freely within them from poachers who seek out ivory from elephants as well as fur from lions and leopards.
Poachers also seek various types of exotic animals to sell at high premiums in the Far East as part of traditional, but disproven, medicinal practices.
During the Covid-19 period, Kenya has experienced a significant drop in tourism. 2020 will probably be the lowest year on record in terms of how many people visited our country, due to the significant reduction in flights entering Nairobi. Of course, we are not alone in this. The travel industry has been slashed all over the world, and people who make a livelihood off of it are experiencing major challenges.
Now that the government has deemed it safe to fly and drive long distances within Kenya once again, those who can should take the opportunity to support our national parks and the rangers who dedicate their lives to protecting them.
Making sure that Kenyan wildlife remains thriving and that animal populations continue to grow, rather than become extinct, is not only an issue for wildlife activists.
It is our imperative, as a Kenyan nation, to protect the majestic creations with which God has gifted our nation. We should all be environmental activists, in the spirit of the first family.
Both President Uhuru Kenyatta and First Lady Margaret have used their platform for the good of animals, and it is an example we should all be throwing our weight behind. Margaret has repeatedly called attention to the threat of elephant extinction in Africa. While they are not yet an endangered species, populations all over the continent are in decline.
This is partially because poachers, such as the ones that threaten our park rangers, are seeking ivory tusks to sell in China. It cannot be tolerated.
And the President has made it a key point of his administration to express Kenya’s unwavering commitment to our God-given wildlife on national forums. While several southern African nations have repeatedly refused to implement animal protection laws to prevent poaching, Kenya stands firm.
This is our responsibility to the world. Many of the world’s last major nature hubs - in Africa, South
America, and Southeast Asia - run the risk of becoming just a shadow of the former thriving habitat for animals. Our animals belong not just to us Kenyans, but to planet earth.
This also means environmental protection through other means, such as reducing general waste and especially plastic consumption. That is why the government banned plastic bags.
So, with the news that park rangers are still being targeted while they do their hard work, it is time for all of us to speak up. Whether that be on social media, or speaking to your friends and family about what they can do to support the Kenya Forest Foundation and other environmental causes, it is up to you.
The important thing is that we raise awareness, as well as stay informed about what we can do to preserve nature and prevent its destruction by humans. We only have one Kenya, so let us protect it for generations to come.
Ms Benyawa is a journalist. [email protected]