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Why Kenya risks losing competitive edge in tourism market

George Kebaso @Morarak

Kenya risks losing out in her key tourist markets – that has been showing promising growth results – if efforts are not made to end poaching of the African elephant the country is renowned for.

Despite latest data showing a reduction of elephants killed in the wild for tusks by 30 from 68 in 2017 to 38 last year, the ongoing ivory trade in some European and Asian markets is a concern to authorities.

Tourism Cabinet Secretary, Najib Balala said yesterday that appetite for elephant tusks in some European countries, US and Japan markets, specifically was still fuelling poaching in Africa.

“We have already approached the European Union Commission leadership to help in lobbying for the closure of those markets,” he said at the ministry’s boardroom during a meeting with World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) President, Gloria Guevarra.

Countries that are still selling ivory argue they are doing so because they are keen to clear stockpiles in their possession. However, Balala dismissed this argument, maintaining that it is unethical to sell any part of a wild animal when the world is keen to stop poaching, adding: “Kenya had stockpiles but destroyed them as a matter of principle.”

Witnessed death

In 2013, when Kenya had witnessed death of around 500 elephants at the hands of poachers, the country’s tourism sector lost an estimated Sh100 billion ($1 billion).

Balala said since that year, the government has been putting in place a number of anti-poaching strategies that have seen the number of elephants poached go down.

“But this is not enough. Countries abetting ivory trade should be told to shut down those markets because immediately you open the market you create an interest for the illegal trade to penetrate,” he added.

Today, Balala is expected to meet with heads of delegations from US, Belgian, Spain, Portugal, and Czech Republic on the sidelines of the Fourth Session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA4) meeting in Gigiri, Nairobi, to intensify lobbying for the shut down of the ivory markets.

“These five countries are notorious in supporting ivory trade. We are therefore lobbying through them to influence EU to shut down the ivory market,” he said.

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