UNEP PRESS RELEASE
Early Recovery of Nature-Based Tourism Good for Kenya And Good for
Biodiversity, Says UNEP Head
Achim Steiner Backs Kenya Tourist Board and Kenya Wildlife Service Push at
Berlin Tourism Fair
BERLIN/NAIROBI, 6 March 2008 -- Tourism can play a key role in restoring
economic activity and employment in Kenya and in doing so play its part in
bringing peace and stability to the East African country, the head of the
UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said today.
Achim Steiner, UNEP's Executive Director, was speaking on the eve of his
departure to Berlin, Germany which this week is hosting one of the world's
biggest tourism fairs.
"Tourism, based in the main around Kenya's fabled wildlife and natural
landscapes, has historically been a centre-piece of the economy and for job
creation. The income generated is also vital for the country's conservation
effort and for maintaining Kenya's important network of National Parks and
other protected areas", said Mr. Steiner.
"Sadly, visitor numbers have crashed since the post-election instability of
late December 2007. 25,000 people directly employed in tourism-related
industries and countless more indirectly employed have been laid off and
revenues to parks and reserves have plummeted, putting at risk countless
conservation initiatives carried out by the Kenya Wildlife Service and
others", he said.
"The newly signed peace agreement, brokered by former UN Secretary-General
Kofi Annan and his team, now provides an opportunity to bring stability to
Kenya and its people. Tourism can play a central role in this. In doing so,
it can also play an important role in conserving important wildlife and
ecosystems -- from charismatic creatures like elephants and rhino to whale
sharks and some of the most dense and diverse birdlife on the planet", said
Mr. Steiner, also a UN Under-Secretary-General.
According to official statistics, to be presented in Berlin this week by
the Kenya delegation, 2007 saw a record number of over a million
international tourists arrive in the country by air and by sea---a rise of 10
per cent over 2006.
But since the disputed election result in December 2007, numbers have
fallen precipitously and it is forecast that an average of 9,000 visitors
will come each month over the first quarter of 2008---a drop of over 90 per
cent and an expected loss of 5.5 billion Kenya shillings.
Conservation Challenges from Revenue Declines
The Kenya Wildlife Service, which last year posted record revenues of $28
million, is also suffering and an order for over 200 vehicles needed for
anti-poaching patrols and other important conservation work has just been
The decline in tourism-related revenues may also damage important
conservation work, according to experts.
These include a captive black rhino breeding programme launched six months
ago aimed at boosting the number of animals to 700 in five years, up from
Widespread poaching reduced the country's rhino population from an
estimated 20,000 in the 1970s to below 350. But anti-poaching and other
initiatives including rhino sanctuaries have brought the number back up to
Other pioneering initiatives that may be at risk include community
projects, species translocation schemes and one to test new ideas to reduce
human-animal conflicts in and around the Amboseli National Park, home to
some 1,500 elephants.
These include chili tobacco ropes which can help deter elephants from
spoiling farmland, simple but ingenious alarm systems for farmers using
trip wires that ring bicycle bells in the farm house and fireworks that can
scare animals away.
Mr. Steiner said: "Indeed it is an overall measure of KWS's success that
elephant populations in Kenya have risen recently by four per cent
following years of successful anti-poaching and other management. This rise
comes at the very moment when revenues are suddenly suffering as a result
of the post-election crisis."
Wider Environmental Impacts
The African Wildlife Foundation is also concerned about the impact of
falling tourist numbers on a string of recently established conservancies.
The case of the Ol Pejata Conservancy in Laikipia underlines the challenge.
Established in 2004, it is the largest private-run conservation project for
the black rhino in Africa with 77 animals.
Richard Vigne, the Conservancy's chief executive officer, said the project
employed 600 people many of whom are drawn from the local community.
He said running a conservancy with rhino cost 2.5 times the cost of
managing the same area of land without the animals.
Mr. Vigne said the decline in tourism was affecting some 60 per cent of the
not-for-profit conservancy's revenue, alongside important community
Ol Pejata has raised over $1 million for local community work over the past
three years from donors and there is concern that future support may now be
Notes to Editors
Around 8% of Kenya's land area is held in protected areas. Nairobi National
Park (117 square km) was the first to be established in 1947.
Kenya Wildlife Service is a State agency mandated to preserve Kenya's
wildlife and its habitat and display it in its natural form. Kenya depends
on non-consumptive uses of wildlife resources, especially in the form of
In the financial year 2006/2007, tourism accounted for 20 per cent of
government income. Under Kenya's Vision 2030 economic blueprint to make the
county a middle-level economy, tourism will play a central role.
Wildlife-based tourism accounts for about 75 per cent of all tourist
visitors to Kenya.
Kenya's wildlife plays a central role in the economy, especially in the
support of livelihoods. KWS manages four of the country's five major water
towers, the sources of hydroelectric power, protects fish breeding sites,
protects forests which are a source of rain for agriculture, protects
invaluable biodiversity in protected areas
Tourism is also the main source of revenue for Kenya Wildlife Service.The
revenue is used to manage wildlife, its habitat, wildlife research, support
community projects, among other activities.
Recently, the general election dispute in Kenya caused a sudden drop in
tourism activities in national parks and reserves by about 80 per cent.
UNEP's work on tourism is carried out through its Sustainable Production
and Consumption Branch, see http://www.unep.fr/pc/tourism/home.htm