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SOS Rhino : In the News : We Are Squandering Precious Resources By Moving Rhinos
 

We Are Squandering Precious Resources By Moving Rhinos

  The Nation (Nairobi)

OPINION
May 19, 2005
Posted to the web May 20, 2005
www.allafrica.com

Nairobi

Visitors to Nairobi National Park during the recent May Day weekend expecting to enter a peaceable kingdom found themselves, instead, in a combat zone.

Aircraft, helicopters, lorries, and a convoy of vehicles pursued the remaining rhinos in another battle of the war on wildlife. This was one of a series of rhino translocations from the park to remote locations where they have been poached out.

Ten were moved last June to Mugi Ranch in Laikipia. Ten were captured on May Day for Kuki Gallman's Ol Ari Nyiro Ranch. There is talk of more planned for export.

This ongoing rhino capture is another nail in the coffin of the park. Rhino viewing is the last major visitor attraction in the park now that lions are invisible and animal numbers are at an all-time low.

But the remaining rhinos have also become invisible. Is it the intention of the Kenya Wildlife Service to remove all rhinos from the park?

The park is not a rhino factory producing an endless supply. In 1980, rhinos were translocated to the park. The management team used a figure of 75 when this latest transaction was planned. Yet for several years, the bi-monthly ground counts done by KWS have not tallied more than 15. Where are the other 60 hiding?

Surely the primary duty of KWS must be to first ensure the viability of the national parks which are the core assets of Kenya's wildlife heritage and its tourism industry.

Instead of moving the rhinos, the park should be promoted as a world-famous rhino sanctuary on the doorstep of a major metropolis where visitors are guaranteed rhino sighting.

The rhino is a priceless asset in the hands of people who understand business. At the wildlife auctions in South Africa, a black rhino fetches $150,000, today. That is the equivalent of Sh11.5 million for each rhino.

The 20 rhinos caught and delivered at Government expense to each of those private ranches in Laikipia would be worth the equivalent of Sh230 million in South Africa. By any, standard that is serious money.

Many of us Kenyans are still thinking in terms of subsistence hunter-gatherer economics. We tend to think that the value of wildlife lies in the poaching of trophies and the sale of bush meat. This just shows how for we are removed from the modern world, where the value of wildlife is measured by its rarity.

In a world where impressionist paintings fetch millions of pounds, where rare coins and manuscripts are escorted by armed guards, where fashion models' legs are insured for millions of dollars, we are blithely squandering our priceless heritage as if it were worthless baggage from a bygone era.

The KWS rhino management experts who organised these captures should share with us the answers to three questions:

How many rhinos have been removed from Nairobi National Park and who are the beneficiaries? What agreements for ownership and profit sharing are in place with these recipients?

If the KWS ground-count figures are wrong, why haven't they corrected them? How many rhinos are actually in the park?

How many rhinos are too many? What is the criterion for this judgement?



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