Conservation politics aside…
It’s the cause that mattered. It was the gathering of Kenyans, especially young people.
I have attended all Global Marches in Kenya since 2014 when it was just called Global March for Elephants and Rhinos, which is maintained at the international level, to now Global March for Elephants, Rhinos, Lions and other endangered species. This name keeps changing depending on the more than 100 cities where the Global March is held.
I had doubts at the beginning. Why am I doing this? Is it even important? Should I let organizations use me ‘as cosmetics’ with my abundant energy to market their work? Is it worthwhile? What is the impact of these marches anyway?
Conservation awareness. This was my why (whenever I do anything I need a why or else it will be a waste of my time). My entire ‘noisiness’ online has always been about creating awareness on wildlife conservation in Kenya. So, why not! The Global March was a great opportunity to be part of a large gathering on raising awareness on our endangered wildlife species.
This year’s theme being No Market No Trade, the species in focus here in Kenya were elephants, rhinos, lions, giraffes, Grevy’s Zebra and the pangolin. This was aligned to Kenya’s proposal to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) CoP18 happening on May 23 to June 3 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Many Kenyans have no idea what CITES is and what it does. The Global March was thus an opportunity to offer insights on this, although not hugely articulated during the march, it will offer a back drop when Kenyan delegates head to Sri Lanka in May.
For a long time, the elephants and rhinos have always being in focus. With the inclusion of pangolins, being the most trafficked animal in the world, the march is able to highlight a species not well known, or even seen by many. I included. Just this month, tones of pangolin scales have being seized in Singapore from just the 4 African pangolin species. Habitat lose may be driving the species to extinction, but the biggest threat today is the illegal trade of their scales and meat. Focus seems to have shifted to this species as countries closed their ivory markets thus alternatives are being sourced. Compared to the elephant or the rhino, the pangolin is very gentle and harmless and does not need to be shot down. Their protective mechanism – curling up in a ball, is also a weakness as humans can easily carry them, thus ‘aiding’ in their own trafficking.
The Global March in Nairobi, was also a call to action for countries that still have ivory, rhino horn, and lion teeth and bone markets to close them, especially in Japan and the European Union. Closing these markets will close the demand, thus countries in Africa that still consider trophy hunting profitable will see no need to continue with this practice.
Highlighting the giraffe, which is facing silent extinction, will bring the species into focus and also encourage research. The Grevy’s Zebra, which was hunted in the 70’s but is now facing threats due to habitat loss and trade in bush meat raises awareness on the plight of the species.
For young people, the Global March is a great eye opener to see the opportunities in wildlife conservation which are immense. To realize the need to even go ahead and start their own initiatives to solve the challenges that face wildlife in Kenya. To know they should not let themselves be used, or feel used, but stand up to what they believe in. To be the voice of the voiceless. To be brave enough to champion for accountability from conservation NGOs and the government. To champion for laws that have the communities’ interests at heart. To be the change they want to see in the world. It begins now. The impact may not be felt today, but with the right intentions from here on, are forthcoming. Let’s hope it’s a positive one.
Every individual has a reason to why they chose to attend or not attend the Global March. What is yours?
Photo Credits: Ken Gitau