17 December 2005

Kenya: Maasai Stage Protest Over Thai Wildlife Gift

Nairobi — More than 500 members of the Maasai community yesterday held a demonstration in Narok to protest the Government's decision to export 175 wild animals to Thailand.

They said they were the gatekeepers of the wild animals since they had lived with and protected them since time immemorial and asked the government to consult the concerned communities before proceeding with the scheme.

Waving twigs and chanting anti-Government slogans, the group said the State should not take any animals from Narok District for the deal.

The chairman of the Narok Communities pressure group, Mr Moses Nkoriompai, said the Government had ran out of ideas on how to make money and had turned to selling off the national heritage.

He said the Government was reneging on its policies on wildlife conservation, and warned that exporting game would damage Kenya's reputation and lead to a decline in tourist numbers.

Addressing the demonstrators at Oloontoto Primary School in Rereshwa near the Maasai Mara Game Park, Nkoriompai said exporting the animals would be biopiracy.

Reading a memorandum signed by 15,000 residents of Narok District, the chairman said it was wrong to shut up a free-range animal in a zoo.

He said the process of capturing wild animals, caging them and transporting them over long distances was a procedure that should only be undertaken when absolutely necessary.

He said the process could result in excessive stress to the animals and even death.

Sidney Quntai, the chairman of the Kenya Wildlife Conservation and Management Network, said the notion that there were excess animals in the country was wrong.

He said the wild animal population has been falling over the years due to illegal bush meat trade, encroachment on parks and reserves and excision of forests.

According to a report by the Department of Resource Survey and Remote Sensing in 2004, Kenya's wildlife population declined by 40 to 60 per cent between 1977 and 1994, said Quntai.

He said the massive decline is estimated to be higher due to increased human populations and activities in the animal areas.

"Kenya's wildlife has evolved in our environment for hundreds of thousands of years and it is dangerous to take the animals to alien lands where they are likely to be susceptible to fatal diseases," he said.

Quntai said the Government should encourage tourism in the country to fight poverty instead of promoting its growth elsewhere.

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