What you need to know:
- Kenya has 23 national parks, four national marine parks, 28 national reserves and six national marine reserves
- New campaign seeks to eliminate single-use plastics from national parks by issuing eco-friendly waste disposal bags
Studying at Maasai Mara University was the best thing that ever happened to 32-year-old Vivian Kemboi and to wildlife conservation in the country.
Since the university is located near the world famous Maasai Mara National Park, Vivian became a frequent visitor.
On one such park visit, she noticed something unusual- that plastic paper bags were all over the Sekenani Centre, which is located just at the park’s main gate.
The park is known for the annual Wildebeest migration, which attracts thousands of international travellers every year.
Vivian also noticed that there were certain points within the park which were always littered. But that did not jolt her into action until she started photographs of wildlife eating plastics at the park.
“When I saw animals suffocating, I talked to a friend about doing a cleanup at the park. We went to see the senior warden at the park and he allowed us to start undertaking monthly cleanups at the park,” she recalls.
However, it did not end there, a voluntary activity pushed her to start a venture after she realised the problem was not unique to Maasai Mara National Park.
Years after she left college, Viviane was shocked to find people littering in Nairobi National Park.
“When the pandemic started, so many people were going to the park. Unfortunately, most of them would litter. This is what provoked me to start the waste free park initiative,” she tells HealthyNation.
Vivian, the founder and the executive director of the 3Es Experience, in collaboration with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and other partners, has been helping keep Nairobi National Park clean.
She gives out litter bags to visitors going for a game drive at the park. “People carry snacks packaged in plastic wrappers and easily drop them in the park whenever they go for a game drive. Unfortunately, most vehicles do not have litter bags. Only a few of them have such bags,” she says.
But, the bags she has been providing help visitors to dispose of litter properly. The visitors then hand the bags back when they complete their tour.
Vivian says the project aims at conserving the environment as well as protecting wildlife. It also targets other parks in the country apart from Nairobi National Park.
“Through strategic partnerships and collaborations we intend to scale up the initiative to other parks such as Tsavo, Lake Nakuru, Amboseli and Maasai Mara,” she says.
Kenya has 23 national parks, four national marine parks, 28 national reserves, six national marine reserves, and four national sanctuaries, according to KWS.
The new campaign seeks to eliminate single-use plastics from national parks by issuing eco-friendly waste disposal bags.
Despite the government having banned single-use plastic bags in protected areas, including national parks, beaches, forests and conservation areas in 2020, they are still in use, especially those used to wrap food.
As such, visitors still continue to discard plastic water bottles, cups, disposable plates, cutlery and straws indiscriminately in the protected areas.
“We noticed litter in the park was bad for the wildlife and the park itself. Once we collect, it is taken to the recycling station at KWS,” she says.
Not only does Vivian ensure that the park is clean, she is also focused on changing people’s attitudes and perceptions about conservation through advocacy.
She issues flyers bearing park rules and conservation information, and also allows people to give feedback. “We want to branch out to other national parks and would like to work with more partners. We are in talks with them so that we can do this in Maasai Mara and the Amboseli national parks,” she says.
The project is especially important now that all the national parks have been reopened after closure for over a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.