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Sides Clash in Kenyan Wildlife Controversy

Kenya is home to some of the world’s most exotic wildlife and the country is reliant on its wildlife-based tourism. According to the Associated Press, “a million tourists a year spend more than $580 million” to see and photograph wildlife.

Over the past year, delegates have debated the fate of Kenya ‘s wildlife, as many in the country and abroad are lobbying to end a 30-year ban on hunting.

Wildlife populations in Kenya have decreased by at least two-thirds over the past three decades. According to Reuters, “experts blame poaching plus human destruction of their habitats” on the declining numbers.

A government-sponsored committee was formed last year to address the issue. Last week, the committee recommended lifting the hunting ban. However, there is much opposition to this policy, delaying implementation.

Opponents to lifting the ban include international animal rights advocacy organizations and others. These groups claim locals want to see a greater share of revenue from tourism, more donor-purchased land for conservation and increased compensation for wildlife-related losses – but not hunting.

Many locals are resisting this involvement by outside organizations.

According to Yusuf Ole Petenya, secretary of the Shompole Community Trust, a tribal foundation southern Kenya, “It is not appropriate for foreigners to tell us what kind of laws or policies we should have.”

Proponents of lifting the ban – including hunters, ranchers and some conservationists – claim increased revenue from hunting will improve conservation efforts and provide greater protection for wildlife in the long run. These groups point to South Africa and Tanzania where hunting is allowed. Both countries are seeing increasing wildlife numbers and are prospering from significant revenues from hunters.

Additionally, proponents claim landowners will continue to maintain sanctuaries on their land only if they are able to sell hunting rights, as hunting is seen as more profitable than conservation. In Kenya, only 8 percent of the land is preserved for wildlife. The Associated Press claims “the rest is privately or communally owned and studies show that most of Kenya’ wild animals live there.”

On both sides, the issue is emotional. James Isiche, the East Africa Director for International Fund for Animal Welfare says, “I don’t think bringing back hunting … will enhance wildlife management. If you look at wildlife from the point of view that wildlife can bring in money, you begin to get into trouble.”

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