6 November 2018

Kenya: China's Lifting of Its Rhino Horn Ban Reverberates in a Kenyan School

At a little known but aptly named primary school in Kenya's capital, pupils have taken it upon themselves to become ambassadors for the endangered rhino, or kifaru in Swahili.

A massive mural of a rhino welcomes you at Kifaru Primary School in Nairobi's Umoja Estate, where the pupils are settling down after their lunch break in the school yard.

A few hours earlier, and more than 9,000 kilometers (5,590 miles) away, the Chinese government had announced a reversal of its 25-year ban on the use of rhino horn in traditional medicine.

The news came as a blow to pupils and staff at the school that prides itself on working to save the mighty herbivorous mammals that are native to Africa and some parts of Asia.

Pupils and rhinos meet

"It's the wrong step towards the environment. Rhinos are rare animals in most countries in Africa and the world at large. If we keep on poaching rhinos then the next generation will have nothing," Moses Kuol Malual, a former pupil at Kifaru Primary told DW.

"Most countries in Africa depend on tourism for their income."

In 2011, environmental activist Sam Dindi began working to raise awareness at schools in Nairobi and Kisumu, a port city on Lake Victoria, about the plight of the endangered species.

Dindi found Kifaru Primary a perfect model for his rhino education platform because of its name. "I first began by taking the students to Nairobi National Park. This is because some of the students had never seen a real rhino," Dindi says.

"I told them to be ambassadors of the animal when they return to school. They now understand what a rhino is and its importance."

The park, located a few kilometers from central Nairobi, includes one of Kenya's key rhino sanctuaries. Rhinos can be seen roaming an area of the 29,000-acre (11,700-hectare) park. At the end of 2017, Kenya was home to 1,258 rhinos, including 745 black rhinos, 510 southern white rhinos and three northern white rhinos.

Critically endangered

Three of the five species of rhino are listed as critically endangered. Their numbers have been decimated by the poachers who are after rhino horn, which is used in traditional Chinese medicine or as a supposed aphrodisiac.

Rhino numbers declined in Africa during colonial times, when the animals were hunted for sport and meat. The demand for rhino horn has since shifted to Asia and the Middle East, where one kilogram can fetch up to $60,000 (€52,700) on the black market.

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