Wildlife scouts programme extended to next year

Rangers from different conservancies match at Kasigau Ranch in Taita Taveta County during celebrations to mark the World Rangers Day. 

Photo credit: Lucy Mkanyika I Nation Media Group

The government has extended the community wildlife scouts programme to assist in conservation efforts.

Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala said the Sh2.5 billion programme, which started in 2021 as part of the state’s economic stimulus efforts, will be extended to February next year.

The CS spoke during celebrations to mark World Rangers Day at the Manyani Kenya Wildlife Service Law Enforcement Academy in Taita Taveta.

“The programme was to end on Sunday but we have worked very hard to ensure that it is extended to safeguard our national heritage,” he said.

He also revealed that the government will set aside Sh300 million to establish a boot camp at the academy for non-rangers who want to learn about conservation.

A curriculum for the conservationists is being developed, he said.

“The boot camp will be for private citizens who want to commit themselves to conservation and also to attract international students who want to train as rangers,” he said.

The CS, whose tenure will end after the elections, said the ministry is working to digitise revenue collection at park entries to curb corruption.

He said the move will enable the ministry to collect over Sh7 billion in revenues.

“The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted our revenue but with automation and with the campaign of 'Zuru na KWS' we will be able to raise our revenue,” he said.

He said Kenya is known as a pioneer in defending and protecting biodiversity, especially in protecting iconic species.

“Rangers have committed themselves to conservation and despite the many challenges, Kenya has put conservation as its number one priority. We are known as the champions of conservation globally,” he said.

The CS said the commitment of the rangers has seen Kenya reduce poaching, and that KWS has recovered over 84,000 kilograms of ivory from poachers over the years.

Mr Balala said the security team at the KWS had worked hard to end poaching.

“Before, we used to have hundreds of elephants being poached but today the numbers have gone down. I appreciate the security team at KWS for the job they have done,” he said.

“This is a calling and it is a commitment and a passion to ensure this important asset is protected and cherished not for ourselves but society.”

Tourism and Wildlife Principal Secretary Zeinab Hussein said the government will work to ensure that the welfare of rangers is enhanced as they play an important role in conservation and protecting wildlife.

“Rangers are our conservation heroes and champions who are passionate and patriotic. I commend our rangers for placing Kenya on the global map as a world leader in the conservation of biodiversity, particularly the endangered species,” she said.

The PS noted the ministry is working to develop a framework for the New Wildlife Policy 2020, and review the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, 2013, and the National Wildlife Strategy 2030 to ensure better wildlife conservation.

She said the laws will ensure that the country addresses conservation challenges including human-wildlife conflict, emerging bush meat threats, poaching and associated illegal wildlife trade, loss of corridors, dispersal areas and critical wildlife habitats.

“We are working with conservation stakeholders, including development partners, to implement these policies and strategies,” she said. 

“Our conservation areas, particularly parks, reserves and conservancies, require continued support to keep the rangers on the ground, on patrol, and on their bases so that the security of wildlife, local communities and their properties are maintained at all times.”

KWS Director General John Waweru said the service is finalising the automation of the staff payroll so that workers can receive their payslips electronically.

He also said the staff have a medical insurance cover for easy access to health care.

“We have also streamlined our field allowances to ensure they are paid [on time],” he stated.