Loved, hated, respected, hunted and feared. When you ask anyone how they view the big cats, either of this words will come up.
Well. This is how this post was to initially start.
We are at a really thick place in this country, let alone a world where Donald Trump is the President. Let’s begin with when did logging of indigenous forests become okay? When did we rule we can use water that feeds towns to build roads is okay? When did we decide that cutting down trees to expand our roads is so very fine? When did we decide it’s okay to fill our water sources with our toxic waste from flower farms, industries and manufacturing plants? When was it okay to build a railway as a loop through Nairobi National Park only to hive off a part of the park for a land grabbers greedy and watchful eye? When was it okay for radio stations to advertise property next to a National Park as prime property? Who said wildlife is bored and needs company from us human beings? Since when was coal clean energy?
We have missed the bigger picture.
When someone says rain comes from the heavens, we fail to understand where he is coming from. Could he be a rain god? When an MP decides to protect loggers from the authority, the CS for Environment and Forestry having authorised a total ban on logging in the country for 3 months, where is he coming from? Could he be owning shares in the logging business himself? Does he not realise that the continued logging on pristine forests will soon result in water shortage issues in his county in the so near future as our rivers continue to dry up. We have immense resources to satisfy every man’s need but never every man’s greed as said best by Mahatma Gandhi.
The issues with our forests are more than we have expected. Because of the internet and social media platforms, we have been able to share the current state of our forest all across the country. For those who can be able to access the internet that is. We have seen maps of depleted forests from our country’s natural landscape, the state of Ndakaini dam today and in previous years, the current state of the snow caps on our beautiful Mount Kenya and images are streaming in of the state of our rivers drying up. The drought our country is facing has led to famine. Yes, in a country where we are spending billions to build a railway over a park, we cannot be able to feed our country, let alone protect our forests.
Then, there is this issue of Human-wildlife conflict and Wildlife- livestock conflict. Do communities actually understand why they are even protecting what they are being told to protect? Is there a ‘why’ in conservation that everyone can understand. Not just the researchers, scientists, conservationists and environmentalists, who deeply understand this concept. Yes, today a community baraza or awareness programme will be held and members will all be shown, with good examples, the benefits of protecting a species or the environment, and everyone will go home satisfied, happy, with hope in their hearts. Then a member of the community, who duly attended the baraza and even contributed positively to the conversation, losses his/her child, crops or livestock (his/her livelihood) to a stray elephant, leopard or lion and even monkeys. What happens next. An animal will be hunted down and killed by the community and sometimes Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). Remember the lions that were killed in Kitengela and the recent case of a leopard in Kericho!
So, it was decided, forest elephants can be moved from their natural habitats in Solio Ranch in Nyeri County to go stay with Savannah Elephants in Ithumba Camp in Tsavo East National Park. Brave move. Apparently, the county government of Taita Taveta was not consulted. Maybe they were, but you know in this country something can be proposed then it is not well read or the main point is not clearly laid out until it happens and a bubble bursts. Seriously though, why remove one problem from a county and take it to another county. We are all Kenyans in the same country in the end, not aliens to each other.
Muranga county then decided to ‘relocate’ monkeys which were causing immense losses to farmers back to the neighbour National park of Aberdares. Monkeys are very mischievous and I will not be surprised if they go back to the farms. Especially, after enjoying bountiful and easy to hunt food. This species of animal has literally relaxed as humans spent hours cultivating their land only to harvest and enjoy the bounty themselves. We need to look for long-term solution, not short-term solutions costing 3 Million Kenya shillings.
See, the “middle class” in most cases, will not understand why communities choose to kill an animal that destroyed all that they had. But, they also do not understand the cost it takes for communities to actually resort to protecting this wildlife for them to see. As they visit posh hotels next to a river, they rarely realise that the main people who protected this area are the community around it, not the authority governed to protect it (KWS) or the county government. It is even more unfortunate that, the community will be chased away from this places when they want to feed their cattle or collect firewood. Sometimes overgrazing may exceed the carrying capacity of the park, but this is why we have community barazas, community awareness and education policies. Isn’t it?
“We are very fond of blaming the poor for destroying the environment. But often it is the powerful, including governments, that are responsible.” – Wangari Maathai
To any white person and even an African who does not believe or understand whiteness exists, maybe you need a wakeup call or a ticket to Wakanda. Have you been to some outlets in Kenya, especially Nairobi where you will be treated like a king or queen while the rest of us wait for ages to be served or even given our attention? Whiteness is not just a conservation problem but a countrywide and even continental problem.
All this is the butterfly effect (Chaos Theory) or the ripple effect. When a butterfly flaps its wings it can cause a hurricane somewhere else. Well, this might be a theory but it is the plain truth. When we began logging our forests legally, someone somewhere thought, ‘Wow, selling charcoal is a big and luxurative business’. This was followed by illegal logging of indigenous tree species as old as 56 years. Technically, a tree, which has lived more than the age of the person cutting it down, is no more. If only trees could speak vocally. We forget they actually do speak when nature decides to become ruthless with us.
As the world all over celebrates World Wildlife Day on 3rd March, we should be in mourning of losing ourselves as our flora and fauna continue to go extinct one species at a time. Let us remember we are a part of nature. Fundamentally, we are all animals. We need nature. When we destroy our forest, we are destroying ourselves. When we are filled with greed, our children and grandchildren will blame us when we thought we were doing it for them. Remember the third generational rule; one may amass wealth, especially, illegally today but it will only last three generations. Be a good steward of the environment and the wealth will last many generations. Wangari Maathai said it best.
We owe it to ourselves and to the next generation to conserve the environment so that we can bequeath our children a sustainable world that benefits all.
Grow a tree and you will grow a child. Also, always ask yourself why you are conserving or protecting even that ant. Why you would choose less plastic. Think of how you can explain this to a five-year-old who will completely understand, then everyone else will basically see the point. The question is the why? Once you find your ‘why’, we are good to go.