Today is the deadline for commenting on the environmental impact assessment of the proposal to route the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) Phase II A through Nairobi National Park. I urge all citizens and people around the world who care about Nairobi Park to communicate their concerns to NEMA’s Director General Geoffrey Wahungu. Here’s why you should write now to demand that NEMA rejects Kenya Railways’ application to run a railway through Park:
Nairobi National Park is a priceless national asset: The new rail line will be boon for the economy. Opponents of the route through the Park all agree that it should be built. Nairobi Park is also a boon for the economy, but it is much more than that. It is a symbol of our national identity and Kenya’s leadership of wildlife conservation in Africa, a wildlife sanctuary of global significance, and a unique and irreplaceable resource for the health, well-being and education of our citizens.
We can’t take the risk: There are those who argue persuasively that the raised construction of railway will mitigate damage to the Park and safeguard its wildlife. But we simply can’t afford to take the risk—and we don’t have to, as there other viable routes available.
Kenya’s reputation is at stake: Just a few months ago, the eyes of the world were on Kenya as President Kenyatta set fire to our ivory stockpiles and declared that elephants are “worth more alive”. This courageous stand was inspired by the understanding that our national heritage is more important than short-term economic expediency. Taking the wrong decision now will significantly damage Kenya’s international reputation as a world leader in conservation, and the image and name of our President as Africa’s number one champion for wildlife.
It will set a dangerous precedent: This decision is about more than Nairobi Park, it is about our vision for the future of our continent. Allowing the railway to go through the Park will make it more difficult to defend all the other parks and reserves, forests and other areas of national heritage threatened by similar development projects. It will also set a precedent for the rest of Africa.
It’s our democratic right and duty: This is about process as well as outcomes. Kenya has procedures and laws in place to regulate decisions about development projects. But governments will only respect these procedures if we, as citizens, show that we care and exercise our democratic right to take part in the process to demand that they do so.
It’s for our grandchildren: As a signatory to the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change, Kenya is legally obliged to pursue forms of development that are compatible with environmental conservation. African nations have a duty to honour these commitments, in order to bequeath a healthy planet to future generations.
With the election of a climate change denier to the White House, it is clear that, in an increasingly uncertain world, Africans can no longer rely on others to fight our battles for us. It is our responsibility safeguard the future of the continent for our children and grandchildren. A courageous decision to adopt an alternative route will establish Kenya’s leadership of efforts to achieve sustainable development for Africa and its people, while protecting wildlife and the environment.
In the 70 years since the Park was gazetted, Nairobi residents have come to take it for granted, and it has been underused. But now and in the future it will be needed more than ever as a refuge from the frenetic pace and stress of city life. Now is not the time to cut the Park in two. We need a new plan for the Park that will transform it into a living resource for the benefit of all our citizens, as those who founded it intended it to be.
Today is the deadline for submitting comments to National Environment Management Authority – Kenya. Please write your note to [email protected] and cc [email protected] so that we can hand deliver a physical copy of your letter today (pls send before 2pm)
On 7th October, the Kenya Railways, Kenya Wildlife Service, and several conservation and research institutions agreed to hold a dialogue meeting on 27th October to address the question, “HOW CAN WE BEST ACHIEVE A BALANCE BETWEEN CONSERVATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT IN SGR PHASE 2A?”.
176 participants engaged in the one day discussion using the Open Space method which was facilitated by London based firm Public Service Works. Participants of the dialogue represented a cross section of stakeholders including industrialists, land owners, community, scientists, park managers, lawyers, conservationists, park users, tourism sector, railway engineers and others. Participants engaged in 17 different meetings and conversations for which the outcomes will be shared in a final report to be circulated this week. Eight major recommendations emerged all of which were urgent and important, and which can be broadly categorized into three groups.
The participants all agreed that Kenya needs the Standard Gauge Railway as it will spur economic growth, poverty alleviation and bring great rewards to Kenya. However, there was overwhelming support that the SGR should not go through the Nairobi National Park which would destroy the park, damage the Presidents reputation as Africa’s greatest conservation champion, and set a dangerous precedent. They agreed that the conservation reputation of the President and the nation could not be compromised and that technical and financial solutions must be found to enable it to be re-routed so that Kenya could enjoy the benefits of both the Park and the SGR. This require engineers to work with the Kenya Railways to conduct technical assessments of alternative routes. Financial considerations to address the additional cost must be addressed.
Participants expressed great concern at the apparent non-compliance with Kenya’s laws and insisted that rule of law must prevail. They agreed that the construction of the SGR must be compliant with the laws of Kenya as well as regional legislation and other environmental commitments. This includes compliance with the Environmental Management and Coordination Act, 1999, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process, the Wildlife Act, the Constitution and Kenya’s commitments to bodies within United Nations such as the SDG’s. This includes ensuring that the construction of the SGR adheres to court orders.
The participants agreed that a major communications campaign through the media houses was needed to promote better understanding and love of the Nairobi National Park and conservation in general. As a first step, they proposed that on 16 December 2016, a major celebration be held for the Park’s 70th birthday through school activities and involving Kenya’s First Lady.
As the convenor of the event, WildlifeDirect CEO said, “I was touched and moved by the level of engagement, the seriousness with which participants addressed the issues, the honesty and the willingness to challenge one another over such a contentious issue”. After the meeting began, it was revealed that the Kenya Railways had published their EIA report in the daily newspaper that morning. The failure of the Kenya Railways to inform the organizers so that this document could have informed the discussion was regrettable and caused huge disappointment amongst participants.
The Dialogue meeting on the SGR and the Nairobi Park illustrated the power of bringing together different stakeholders to share in finding a solution and committing to participating in the actions identified. This method can become a powerful tool towards promoting public participation, building consensus and mobilizing public support and ownership of any future government project. This will accelerate progress and significantly reduce the costs litigation.
On Friday, a Mombasa law court sentenced Feisal Mohamed Ali to 20 years in jail after finding him guilty of illegal possession of ivory worth 44 million shillings (US $440,000). The court also imposed a fine of 20 million shillings.
This landmark ruling by the Kenyan court is the end of a long story that began with the seizure of 2 tonnes of ivory at Fuji Motors car yard in Mombasa in June 2014.
A study by WildlifeDirect of wildlife trials in 18 courts between 2008 and 2013 concluded that Kenya was a safe haven for wildlife criminals because of major weaknesses in the legal chain. This second study examines progress made in the wildlife trials in Kenya in 2014 and 2015, after the enactment of the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, 2013 (WCMA 2013)
NTV Wild Talk, broadcast an interview with Richard Leakey about the past and the present for wildlife and heritage in Kenya. It aired on Tuesday March 15 on NTV at 10 pm.
I also want to draw attention to the new article in SWARA here in which he states
“Parks will only be sustainable if Kenyans want them to be sustainable. Middle class Kenyans who own TV sets watch international soccer, international vanity shows and news but none of them watch wildlife programmes because they’ve never been put on air in this country.”
This sentiment is the reason that we created NTV Wild. For those who have not been able to catch previous episodes, NTV Wild is a partnership between NTV, WildlifeDirect and KWS to broadcast wildlife documentaries made in Kenya and Africa on national Television for the first time in our history to inspire Kenyans to visit our parks and appreciate our spectacular wildlife heritage. The program airs on Saturdays and a discussion program on Tuesdays.
This is the list of all the NTV Wild documentaries so far on Saturday’s at 8 pm
1. Mzima Haunt of the River Horse – Mark Deeble and Vicky Stone
2. The Last Lions – Derek and Beverly Joubert
3. African Cats – DisneyNature
4. Here be Dragons – Alan Root
5. Battle For the Elephants – Nat Geo
6. The Queen of Trees – Mark Deeble and Vicky Stone
NTV Wild Talk on Tuesdays at 10 pm
Launching the series with Jonathan Scott
NTV Wild Talk S1 E1 “The mystery of Mzima”
NTV Wild Talk S1 E2 “Kenya-US relations in protecting wildlife”
NTV Wild Talk S1 E3 “Stopping wildlife trafficking through Kenya”
NTV Wild Talk S1 E4 “Saving Kenya’s big cats”
NTV Wild Talk S1 E5 “Safeguarding Karura Forest”
TV Wild Talk S1 E6 “Wildlife Newbies & Champions”
In this episode: Kitili Mbathi shares the challenges & successes at KWS, Lena Munge tells of how she hopes to transform the Masai Mara, Najib Balala explains why he jumped off a plane for conservation & 12 yr old Luca Berardi stresses the importance of wildlife for future generations.
Both the documentaries and the talk shows have been trending on twitter since we began 7 weeks ago and people are telling us that they are setting their alarm clocks to catch the programs. We are already on week 7 and we have 45 more to go! Enjoy
Africa’s unique wildlife heritage attracts millions of tourists to the continent and contributes enormously to the economy. It is a tragic irony that this wildlife remains unknown to the majority of Africans.
Recently I have been involved in an initiative that aims to change this state of affairs. Launched in January, the TV series “NTV Wild” is a collaboration between NTV, Kenya’s leading TV channel, my NGO WildlifeDirect, and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).
NTV Wild will broadcast two hours of programmes on African wildlife on prime-time TV every week of this year. Screening of an hour-long documentary on NTV and its sister Kiswahili language channel QTV on Saturday night is followed on Tuesday evening at 10 pm by “NTV Wild Talk”: an extended in-depth discussion of the issues by leading film makers, conservationists, politicians and legal experts
The first eagerly awaited programmes attracted record numbers of viewers and provoked huge excitement on social media. Here are some of my favourite tweets:
Not all reactions were positive. Following screening of ‘Mzima – Haunt of the River Horse’, an Emmy award winning film by Mark Deeble and Vicky Stone about the secret lives of hippos (click here to watch a trailer ), one blogger complained that the film was 15 years old. This was stale stuff, he wrote: “You know, a lot can happen in 15 years … in the hippo calendar. Viewers were hooked, but also hoodwinked”.
It’s true that many of the films to be shown by NTV Wild are classics, years – or even decades – old. They are familiar to and loved by hundreds of millions of viewers across the world. So why haven’t Kenyans seen them before?
Economics has a lot to do with it. The sights and sounds of our wildlife are transformed by film makers into products that are simply too expensive for African TV channels to buy – and therefore beyond the reach of most ordinary Africans.
But that’s not the whole story. On last night’s NTV Wild Talk discussion, film maker Mark Deeble revealed that he had offered ‘Haunt of the River Horse’ free to Kenyan TV channels when it first came out. But they had refused, reflecting the widespread (but profoundly mistaken) prejudice that “Kenyans aren’t interested in that sort of thing.”
Whatever the reason, it is scandalous that, for decades, TV viewers in most African countries including Kenya have been denied access to these documentaries made about our own wildlife.
Most people that I speak to about the lack of access to wildlife documentaries in Kenya are aghast and astounded – and one person was even reduced to tears – by the fact that American and European children know the names of our lions in the Masai Mara, and our elephants in Amboseli and Samburu, while ours do not.
This also goes against the avowed intentions of many distributors of wildlife films. For example, National Geographic describes itself as:
… a global nonprofit membership organization driven by a passionate belief in the power of science, exploration and storytelling to change the world. Working to inspire, illuminate and teach, National Geographic reaches more than 700 million people a month through its media platforms, products, events and experiences.
How can National Geographic fulfil this mission if its films are not seen in Africa, where they could be inspiring Africans to save their continent’s natural heritage?
In fact, I know that many producers and distributors would like to make their films available in Africa, but they are locked into a commercially-driven system that is very hard to change.
When I spoke to leading wildlife film makers when they met at last year’s Jackson Hole Film Festival, I discovered that many of them had been unhappy about this situation for years. A group of them, including Mark Deeble, Vicky Stone, Dereck and Beverly Joubert, Lisa Samford and many others got together and agreed to make a concerted appeal to major distributors to make them more widely available in Africa on a non-commercial basis.
The breakthrough came last year, when National Geographic gave permission for one free broadcast of the recently released documentary “Warlords of Ivory” on Kenyan TV. (Click here to see my article about this hard-hitting film that provides direct evidence of links between elephant poaching and terrorism in Africa.) Within five minutes the show was trending on twitter in Kenya.
The experience of that broadcast persuaded NTV to partner with WildlifeDirect for a year to bring world-class award winning wildlife documentaries to Kenyan audiences on a regular basis. We knew then we had an audience, but we didn’t know how hard it would be to get the films.
When I first floated this idea to distributors on behalf of NTV, responses were not encouraging. The following was typical of the replies we received:
I picked up this request and contacted our Africa sales team to run this request by them but they are still exploiting these titles. They are tasked with generating as much profit as possible from content in the African territory so that we can return funding to the [the company] to enable them to make these programmes in the first place.
I’m sorry not to have a more positive response for you.
This provoked the following impassioned response from one of the programme hosts:
It beggars belief that Paula’s current initiative – with its sensitizing and educational rationale – would in any substantial way detract from the [the company’s] licensing agreements. Talk of ‘profit’ at this point is insulting to the very nature of what Paula is trying to do. It sends a very clear message – money rules.
I thinks these sentiments portray [us] in a very poor light and are contrary to my long held belief that [we are] not purely driven by commercial considerations – but educational and inspirational ones too. These are things people like Paula have dedicated their life to doing. I believe we have to find a way to support these kinds of initiatives. Is that not still possible?
Thankfully arguments like these are winning the day. Disney Nature and the BBC World Wide are among major companies that have already agreed to make their films available and we are optimistic that others can be persuaded that they had nothing to lose and much to gain from supporting our proposal. We have written to Discovery and National Geographic as well as smaller production houses.
My fingers are tightly crossed and I make wishes on every shooting star in the Kenyan night sky.
Putting wildlife programs on African TV is not a “nice to have”. It’s a globally important imperative, and change cannot come too soon. The future of African wildlife hangs in the balance, under the impact of multiple threats, including poaching, climate change, habitat loss and land degradation. One of the main reasons why African governments have failed to respond to this unfolding crisis is that few Africans even know or understand what we stand to lose.
Our critic was right that a lot can happen in 15 years. Last night’s “NTV Wild Talk”, shot on location at the iconic Mzima Springs in Tasvo West National Park, revealed how all the hippos in Mzima Springs died in the drought of 2009. The ecosystem collapsed and since then recovery has been very slow, with only a handful of hippos there today.
Moderator Smriti Vidyarti engaged panellists Mark Deeble, KWS Chairman Richard Leakey, and Regional Assistant Director Robert Obrein in an informed discussion of the complex causes of this collapse. They described how drought, fires, and the encroachment of cattle into the National Park had created a ‘perfect storm’ for Mzima’s hippos, and how the loss of the hippos had affected the entire ecosystem.
The panellists also explained how Mzima was also key to Kenya’s economic development as the principal source of water for the city of Mombasa, and the importance of forest conservation in the watershed to maintain continuity of supplies. They discussed threats to the area posed by urbanization and proposed infrastructure projects.
The three panellists did not pull their punches. Richard Leakey described corruption as the biggest threat to African wildlife. Robert O’Brein talked frankly about the problems involved in administering Tsavo’s national parks.
In short, viewers were treated to an informed and intelligent, but by no means pessimistic discussion of key issues for the future of Kenya and global biodiversity conservation – that topped the ratings on prime-time TV!
This is only the start. With the support of KWS and tour operators, the programmes shown on NTV Wild are linked to promotions to boost local tourism to Kenya’s national parks. WildlifeDirect is partnering with local schools to take more students into the wilderness and national parks to do science, art and other subjects (click here to read about our visit with Nairobi school children to Amboseli National Park).
We are also planning to produce our own wildlife reality show, bringing celebrities and Kenyan scientific experts together in an informative and entertaining exploration of our country’s astounding wildlife.
I am sure that initiatives like these can have transformational effect. They will inspire more Africans to go to the parks and witness our wildlife first hand, just as they have inspired tens of millions of international tourists. They will encourage the emergence– for the first time – of a new generation of African wildlife film makers.
Above all, Africans will be motivated to demand more of their leaders, and will possess the knowledge and confidence they need to do so.
Behind fun projects like school visits and reality game shows, our aims are deadly serious, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. The wider aim is to mainstream wildlife at all level of Kenyan life and society: as headlines news and a political priority, as family entertainment, as part of the curriculum in schools and universities, in corporate social responsibility programmes, and in the worlds of sport, music and fashion.
The age-old aphorism states that “knowledge is power”. Only by giving Africans knowledge about our wildlife can we acquire the power to save it.
The objective of this two day meeting was to analyze the proposed Regulations and suggest any necessary amendments to the team of consultants, who drafted these Regulations. Initially the expected number of Regulations was 24 but the consultants reviewed them and came up with 22 Regulations.
Major stakeholders who attended the meeting included KWS Board of Trustees and expert staff, Wildlife Direct, ICIPE, National Museums of Kenya, NACOSTI, Ministry of Agriculture, Researchers and representatives from Conservancies.
The meeting was chaired by Dr. Richard Leakey, Chairman of Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).
Day One the following regulations were discussed:
• Access and Benefit Sharing,
• Bio prospecting,
• Wildlife Research,
• Establishment of Wildlife Data base,
• Wildlife Compensation,
• Community Participation,
• Conservancy and Sanctuary Regulations,
• Activities in Protected Areas.
On day two:
• Licensing of Trade in Wildlife Species,
• Endangered Species Management,
• Implementation of Treaties,
• Game Trophies,
• Joint Management of Water Towers,
• Marine Protected Areas,
• Mining Regulations,
• Protected Wetlands and
• Security Operations.
Several recommendations were made and noted down by the consultant to be included in the next draft of the Regulations. Discussions on Endowment Funds and Security Operations Regulations were deferred until the board seeks further consultation. The Chairman stated that there will be another review meeting after the consultants have incorporated the proposed changes.
It was a pleasure to listen and watch Jonathan Scott LIVE in studio. Many have watched him on Big Cat Diaries but few have ever met him. Along with Dr. Paula Kahumbu, WildlifeDirect CEO and Paula Mbugua from KWS, they talked about the new series #NTVWild that Premieres on NTV KENYA on Saturday January 16, 2016
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