Climate change killing more elephants than poachers, says Tourism CS Balala


A herd of elephants at Tsavo National Park.

Photo credit: Pool

Climate change has killed more elephants in Kenya than poachers in the last eight months Cabinet Secretary for Tourism, Najib Balala has disclosed.

"We had nine elephants poached in the last eight months and 179 elephants dying because of drought. That is a huge number. The time is ripe to discuss climate change," said Mr Balala. "

He observed that poaching in Kenya has been reduced to a single digit in the last eight months.

"One thing we have achieved is fighting wildlife illegal trade by closing the source market," he said

The CS noted that the number of elephants in Kenya dropped from 135,000 to almost 16,000 by 1989 while the recent statistics indicate that today Kenya has about 36,000 elephants, while we have 1700 white and black rhinos. Previously, Kenya had 7,000 black rhinos.

Climate change

Mr Balala said the government has recognised the impact of climate change and has taken action to address their threats including the development of the National Wildlife Climate Change Adaptation Strategy 2022-2032.

The CS said although the illegal trade and sale of ivory trade had declined it was important for Kenya to have "a paradigm shift on what is the new dimension of addressing conservation in Africa."

He observed that problem number one remains financial sustainability instead of depending on donor funding.

"As a continent, we need to have a sustainable financial model. We talk about donor funding but I think we need to start putting money in Africa to make sure the programmes are sustainable," said the CS.

He said while climate change and competition for agriculture and human settlement are still a big challenge saying “it is important to enhance conservation to address the biodiversity crisis by protecting 30 per cent of the world's terrestrial and marine habitats by 2030.”

 "It is important to conserve at least 30 per cent of the planet's lands and waters by 2030 as we are facing a huge population in Africa, and therefore we need to balance conservation, economic development, and community interest," said Mr Balala.

The CS was speaking in Kigali Rwanda on Monday during the IUCN Africa Protected Areas Congress (APAC).

This is the first-ever continent-wide gathering of African leaders, citizens, and interest groups to discuss the role of protected areas in conserving nature and safeguarding Africa's iconic wildlife.

He said for conservation to succeed it was critical to put people at the centre of conservation saying " if we don't do that we shall lose the goodwill of the people in conservation."

"Human-wildlife conflict is real and directly affects our people. We cannot address the issue of compensation, as well as stopping the impact of elephant destruction in farms and deaths if the communities are not involved," he explained.

He called for the creation of spaces and corridors that are appropriate for conservation. He revealed that during the pandemic there was a baby boom in Amboseli National Park.

"We had over 200 new elephant calves as well as a double twin birth in Amboseli and Samburu that rarely happens."

"This week we had a twin birth of giraffes born to a Maasai giraffe in Nairobi's national park. That is something that hardly happened in protected areas," said Mr Balala

He said there is a need to work closely with the private sector to jointly manage parks for the benefit of improving our biodiversity.