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Private Lands to Be Conserved in Kenya

  • Monday, May 16, 2005

(Nairobi, Kenya) The African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) today announced an important milestone in the race to save habitat for wildlife in this east African country renowned for its elephants, lion and other large wildlife. Kenya's Minister for Housing and Lands has granted incorporation to a new national body which will allow land to be privately held for conservation, thus supplementing the traditional government parks and reserves. AWF has advocated the newly registered Kenya Land Conservation Trust for several years as an important step to protect conservation lands from development and increasing human pressures.

"This is a major victory for conservation in Kenya," said Patrick Bergin, President of AWF. "The Trust creates a flexible new mechanism for private initiatives to supplement Kenya's parks, some of which are too small to be viable on their own."

The Trust will enter into various types of agreements with landowners to ensure conservation of wildlife and wild lands. These agreements include land purchase, easements, leases, and management agreements. AWF expects a large number of ranches, farms and other areas to be protected and managed under the Trust in the coming years.

"If wildlife could talk, it would take humans to court," said Nyokabi Gitahi, an AWF lawyer who helped design the legal framework for the trust. "Humans have been infringing on their space throughout Africa. This trust uses a new provision in Kenyan law to ensure some space for wildlife in the future of our country."

"Kenya depends on wildlife-based tourism as one of the important sectors of the economy," said Dr. Helen Gichohi, AWF's Vice President in Nairobi, "and yet our wildlife resource will not be secure without putting more land and habitat under some form of conservation management. The Trust will help Kenya to achieve this goal," she said.

The Founding Board of Directors of the new Trust, including AWF, the Kenya Wildlife Service, and the Ministry of Lands and Housing, will manage the Trust through a Secretariat based in Nairobi. Other leaders from the private sector and civil society and landowners are expected to be recruited to the Board. "This Trust is of, by and for Kenya," said Dr. Gichohi. "It is going to help us to reach our goals as a nation with a sustainable system of protected lands, and will also help build our economy."

Kenyan conservation has been in the news this year since another Kenyan woman, Wangari Maathai, won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work advocating for the environment.

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