Empowers Africa Awards a Grant to WildlifeDirect

Empowers Africa is proud to announce that a grant has been awarded to WildlifeDirect.
WildlifeDirect connects conservationists on the frontline in Africa with those who care about wildlife worldwide
WildlifeDirect connects conservationists on the front line in Africa with those who care about wildlife worldwide.
WildlifeDirect was formed in 2005 with a mission of connecting conservationists in the frontline with those who care about wildlife worldwide – in essence, connecting donors with conservation organizations doing great work on the ground in Africa.  However, in fact, they do much more than that.  They were behind the 2008/2009 withdrawal of pesticide by its producer FMC Corporation which was the company that made the chemical being used to poison lions in Africa.  The poisoning tragedy was featured on CBS’s 60 Minutes in March 2009.  Recently, WildlifeDirect and its amazing leader Paula Kahumbu, have been working feverously to stop the elephant poaching crisis.  Their work focuses on putting poachers behind bars by enforcing Kenyan laws to be applied properly; mobilizing the people of Kenya to stand up for their heritage of being the home to elephants, rhinos and other wild animals; working to change the existing anti-poaching laws to hold a 15 year jail sentence (current law holds a max 3 year term) and larger fines; running public awareness campaigns; lobbying to have China ban the trade of ivory; and much more.  WildlifeDirect has helped put 6 poachers behind bars in the last month – which is twice as many as in the last 3 years!  They do this by attending the trials to gauge if there is any corruption in the sentencing.  If they feel the law was not properly applied they use social media to start a public dialogue with the goal of securing an appeal.
Dr. Richard Leakey was the former Chair and the organization is now being Chaired by John Heminway.  WildlifeDirect has recently been embraced by President Kenyatta’s wife, Margaret Kenyatta, who is extremely passionate about stopping this crisis.
Empowers Africa is proud to be supporting an organization that is doing such important work to stop the poaching tragedy.  www.wildlifedirect.org Below is an article written by Paula Kahumbu that we thought you might enjoy reading:
Review of the proposed new Wildlife Conservation and Management Bill
By Paula Kahumbu
The passing of the Wildlife Conservation and Management Bill will be one of the most anticipated pieces of legislation in Kenya, this law has been under review since 2004. The importance of wildlife in Kenya cannot be understated, wildlife is the asset that attracts over one million tourists to Kenya each year, which in turn generates 12% of the GDP. Once passed it will replace the outdated law that was enacted in 1989 when the KWS was first formed. Designed to stop the corruption that saw the slaughter of elephants in 1989, the original law created the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) as a unified institution with paramilitary powers to confront poachers. The KWS had enormous political support, and the Director reported to The President and its far reaching powers included authority to shoot poachers on sight and to generate and plough it’s own funds back into conservation. The law served wildlife well and elephant and rhino populations were stabilized and began a healthy recovery. However, so much has changed since then, the KWS is now like any other parastatal and CEO reports to Cabinet Secretary. Today, the provisions of the Wildlife Act are so antiquated that they even work against wildlife conservation. For example, inadequate penalties allow criminals back onto the streets to continue killing wildlife. The inadequate compensation for damages due to human wildlife conflict has pitted communities against wildlife.  And the existing legislation fails to recognize and respond to the needs of communities and private land owners who collectively make up nearly 50% of Kenya’s wildlife real estate.
Once passed, the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act 2013 will be a comprehensive law that regulates all wildlife resources on public, community and private land. This is a laudable piece of legislation which supports the constitution by ensuring that wildlife conservation and management shall be devolved, wherever possible and appropriate to those land owners and managers of land where wildlife occurs. It recognizes wildlife management as a form of land use on public, private and community land and promises that the benefits of wildlife conservation shall be derived by the land user in order to offset costs and ensure that the value and management of wildlife do not decline. The law recognizes the rights of present and future generations by stating that the benefits of wildlife conservation and management shall be equitably shared by the people of Kenya, and that this shall be exercised in accordance with the principles of sustainable utilization and equitable.
Government, politicians, conservationists, tourism players, communities and private land owners have been urging the government to pass this comprehensive law with the hope that it will bring an end to the many problems that threaten the wildlife asset of Kenya. Saving wildlife will in turn protect the tourism industry which depends on healthy wildlife populations.  The new legislation will go a long way towards saving Kenyans wildlife, but it is not perfect and experts fear that in their rush to pass the law parliamentarians may overlook some key areas of concern. WildilfeDirect, Vision 2050, The Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association and the East African Wild Life Society urge law makers to carefully examine the new regulatory structures, provisions for benefit sharing, compensation for human wildlife conflict, and penalties for offences.
Organization: Under the new law, wildlife management will be handled by a variety of institutions. It recognizes existing institutions including the Conservation Directorate, part of the Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, will coordinate policy and the setting of national goals. The Directorate is ultimately responsible for defining priorities and monitoring implementation of the legislation. The Kenya Wildlife Service is the government agency responsible for conserving and managing the parks, conservation areas and sanctuaries. It collects revenues from parks, coordinates matters at the county level and promotes commercial activities for the purpose of achieving sustainable conservation. KWS handles all anti-poaching activities, coordinates wildlife research, and promotes education and community programs. The KWS is managed by a Board of Trustees that reports to the Cabinet Secretary. The Board of KWS comprises representation of the Ministry of Environment, police, the treasury, and conservancies. The Board is responsible for overseeing the functions of KWS and ensuring that the organization is adequately resourced to undertake it’s responsibilities.
The Ministry, Directorate and KWS are all part of the existing structure of wildlife management in Kenya What is worrying in this proposed legislation is the creation of an additional body, the Wildlife Regulatory Council (WRC).The WRC will be responsible for identifying user rights, and managing licenses. The user rights proposed include keeping wildlife as a land use, culling, cropping, research and tourism. The WRC will be the most powerful agency in terms of the management and regulation of conservancies, licenses for tourism or other income generating operations in parks. The aim of the WRC is to regulate KWS, yet the membership of the proposed board overlaps with the KWS Board of Trustees. Thus the creation of a regulator council not only undermines the constitutional principle of devolved government, but it also violates and replicates many of the functions of KWS without providing any regulatory oversight, by creating another layer of bureaucracy. This will not only be costly to Kenyan tax payers, but will create paralysis in the system. The views of many experts is that provision of the Regulator council should be removed from the proposed legislation.
Incentives and benefits: Enlisting Kenyans in conservation is intended through Articles 57 – 63 of the new law which introduce an exciting new opportunity for incentives and benefits sharing. For this to work, it is vital that the new legislation creates an enabling environment for wildlife conservation. However, the proposed law does not define the benefits and simply promises that the Cabinet Secretary will gazette the rules and regulations to govern the regime on incentives and benefits. This lack of detail is surprising given that Kenya is experiencing an ongoing dramatic decline of wildlife numbers which has been attributed to the lack of incentives to those who live with and bear the cost of living with wildlife. Moreover, the role of the Cabinet Secretary in deciding these rule means that the responsibility for approving incentives and benefits is removed from the people’s representatives. This  could be problematic given that the real rights owners are communities and land owners. Incentives and benefits sharing should support the protection of the national wildlife asset by facilitating land conservation to ensure that wildlife corridors and dispersal areas are maintained. This will protect wildlife populations outside of parks and reserves which will enhance the protection of wildlife inside national Parks and Reserves, support environmental services, and the tourism sector.
What land owners and communities want is a share of the benefits generated through the protection of wildlife on an equitable and fair manner. The law could define these benefits to include the sharing of revenues generated from fees, rents and other charges, leases, easement payments, rewards for provision of environmental services, reduction of costs for human wildlife conflict, compensation for opportunities lost, capacity building for improved decision making and benefit flows, and waivers on fees and taxes.
Compensation for human wildlife conflict: People living in wildlife areas will be scrutinizing section 31 on compensation for personal injury, death, or damage to property.  Under the proposed law a person can claim compensation for injury, death or damage to property caused by certain animals listed in a schedule. The claims will be handled by compensation committees established under each county. The committee must verify that the person seeking compensation took reasonable measures to protect himself and his property from wildlife. A payment ceiling of Ksh 1 million has been set under the law which some people will lobby their MP’s to raise to 5 million to ensure that the full costs of losses are recovered.  While the aims of this clause are just, it could backfire badly if there is no mechanism to finance the costs of compensation. Putting this issue under a section called “benefits” is worrying as it may take away revenues available from fees and rents.
Creation of conservancies: Introduced into law for the first time, is the provision for the creation of conservancies which will be welcomed by land owners, conservationists and communities. On the face of it, the law recognizes that the creation of conservancies is probably the most important vehicle for wildlife conservation outside of government protected areas. The legislation however, does not provide details but simply states that ”Any person or community who owns land can establish a conservancy”. Over 130 entities calling themselves Conservancies already exist in Kenya. They range from formal legally registered parcels of land, to informal personal agreements and everything in between. To regulate this movement, the law should stipulate that the ministry develops and gazettes guidelines and regulations relating to the establishment of conservancies within 6 months of passage of this Act. Otherwise the proliferation of “conservancies” will include profiteers who will declare unsustainable properties as conservancies. Even more worrying is that Section 77 under penalties puts conservancy mangers at risk imprisonment for 2 years for failing to implement management plans. While the intention is to ensure that conservancies do achieve conservation results, the risk of imprisonment will discourage potential land owners and communities from taking such a risk. The penalty for wilful negligence should be reduced to a fine and deregistration of the conservancy.
Creation of Parks: Articles 39 – 43 refer to the creation of national parks, and the degazettment, and variation of park boundaries.  Under the existing legislation all such decisions require an act of parliament which is in line with the understanding that the parks are held in trust for the people of Kenya. These measures have protected the parks from misguided efforts by politicians to grab land over the decades. For example, in 2005 the High Court of Kenya revoked an order by President Mwai Kibaki declaring Amboseli National Park degazetted since this decision was not passed as an act of parliament. Earlier this year, the National Environmental Tribunal ruled in favour of citizens against the ministry of roads regarding efforts to take part of Nairobi National Park for the creation of the Southern Bypass. In both cases, citizens were able to demonstrate that the decisions were in violation of the requirement for parliamentary approval. By seeking to transfer the powers of parliament to the Cabinet Secretary for exchange of land, or changing of park boundaries, this bill creates a dangerous opportunity for abuse. Indeed Kenyans recall the devastation caused to our forests when decisions regarding forest degazettement rested on an individual. Given the tensions over land, Kenyans should demand that their representatives in parliament vote to retain parliamentary oversight for such decisions affecting public land and that such important decisions do not get transferred to an individual.
Offences and Penalties: Section ten refers to penalties which have been significantly enhanced to discourage criminal activities. For example, anyone who discharges pollutants into a designated protected area risks being fined Ksh 2 million or a minimum jail sentence of 5 years.
Offences that threaten endangered species or involve trophies of endangered species including elephants and rhino, are liable to a fine of not less than 10 million shillings and imprisonment of not less than 15 years. This is a massive improvement on the current legislation which has maximum penalties of  just 10,000 to 20,000 shillings and imprisonment of 1 – 3 years for each offense. Increased penalties will be a massive disincentive for those who poach elephants and rhino or traffick in their products. To ensure that elephants and rhino’s are given the highest priority, experts recommend that all cases involving these species are referred to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to ensure that additional laws are applied including organized crime, economic crimes and terrorism crimes, which fall under laws that KWS cannot prosecute. To maximize the impact of penalties the public want to ensure that criminals risk forfeiture of their vehicles and equipment, and that they pay for the damages caused. For example if elephants were valued to the tourism economy at 50 billion per year, then each elephant represents approximately 1.5 million shillings per year. Elephants live for an average of 50 years therefore poachers and dealers in ivory should be charged damages for the loss in the tourism economy. In addition, it is recommended that prosecutors demand that convictions include payment of costs including the heavy cost of enforcement, protection, intelligence, investigations and prosecutions. This could generate the funds that the KWS urgently needs to support the protection of wildlife in Kenya.
Kenyans however, must be realistic in their expectations. The new law is no guarantee that wildlife will be protected, the law is only as good as its implementation. Under the current law convictions of wildlife crimes involving elephants and rhino’s can carry sentences of up to10 years imprisonment but magistrates have consistently been issuing small fines. At the end of the day, stiffer penalties will work to discourage poaching but only if the enforcement effort on the ground is enhanced, and the law is employed as it is intended. Given that prosecutors are not pressing for all possible charges and magistrates are generally not giving custodial sentences, effort must be made to monitor the implementation of this legislation once passed to hold all the relevant authorities to account.
What difference will the new law make?
It is likely that in their rush to show support for conservation in the face of massive poaching, parliament will quickly approve the proposed new legislation. It is generally agreed that wildlife in Kenya is in crisis, and that the law must bite those who threaten wildlife, while addressing the wildlife conflict challenges that communities face in wilderness areas. With nearly 70% of Kenya’s wildlife depending on community and private land, the survival of wildlife, especially migratory species, the new law must create opportunities for private public partnerships, encourage nature based enterprises and regulate equitable benefit sharing amongst other creative solutions. By creating incentives and rewards for community and private sector involvement in conservation, private enterprise will make commercial investments in conservation and businesses will lobby to support to the KWS which has been chronically underfunded for years.  In contrast to the tourism sector which lobbies for enabling business  environments through the Kenya Association of Tour Operators, the Kenya Tourism Federation, and the Private Sector Alliance, conservation has been the prestige of NGO’s and KWS. By enlisting businesses and land owners as partners in conservation, the new law could turn all of this around and make communities and businesses the greatest supporters for conservation in Kenya.