PAUL UDOTO SPEAKS AT EAST AFRICAN WILD LIFE SOCIETY EVENT IN NEW YORK
(Posted 13th January 2018)
Americans and the international community have been called upon to support conservation efforts in Africa as one way of addressing escalating global insecurity.
Besides wildlife protection being a security issue, Paul Udoto, the Kenya Wildlife Service Corporate Communications Manager said, poaching and international illegal wildlife trade had become a multi-million-dollar criminal enterprise with links to other serious trans-national crimes including human trafficking, proliferation of illegal small arms, drugs and money laundering.
He was speaking during the East African Wildlife Society (EAWS) event dubbed “From Bees to Beasts’’ at the Yearly Meeting of Friends in New York City.
Udoto is based at the Arizona State University’s Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication as a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow, a US State Department global visitor exchange professional development activity administered by the Institute of International Education (IIE).
Udoto suggested that more robust international partnerships and cooperation should be a priority if Africa’s development was to be sustained and global security guaranteed.
He called on Americans to lobby their government to adopt policies that genuinely support conservation efforts, and for them to visit Kenya’s national parks, which he described as “homecoming to the cradle of humankind’. They should also support civil society groups like East Africa Wildlife Society, whose advocacy work has played a major role in policy development and implementation, he added.
Udoto reminded the audience of Kenya’s long-standing historical links from the days of President Theodore Roosevelt’s destructive expedition to Africa to the current support from agencies such as USAID and US Fish and Wildlife Service.
He noted that Americans had rallied to the defense of the bald eagle and the American bison just as Kenyans had protected lions as their national symbol and elephants as a flagship species. “Both nations have played their steward-caretaker responsibilities as humanity with distinction. American agencies had been instrumental in supporting governance and environmental conservation in Kenya for many years, including the recent establishment of East and Central Africa’s forensic and genetic laboratory, which is a great boost to the global fight against illegal wildlife trade.”
He said Kenya, like other countries in Africa, faced challenges of striking a balance and sustainable development in the face of challenges such as fast population growth, adverse effects of climate change, poaching, loss of wildlife habitats, and land use changes. Kenya as a relatively young nation requires international support as it grapples with challenges of development, especially construction of large transport infrastructure projects and inter-sectoral conflicts with other sectors such as agriculture and livestock.
He pointed out that conservation of nature in many countries in Africa contributes significantly to sustainable rural community livelihoods, access to water and pasture, sources of water for people, livestock and wildlife. Therefore, he added, Kenya’s wildlife conservation has a multiplier effect on other sectors particularly tourism, employment, electric power generation, fishing, agriculture and mining.
Other key speakers at the special event hosted by the Quaker Arts Committee 15th Street Monthly Meeting to mark the EAWS 60th anniversary included Dr Daniel Rubenstein of the Princeton University and lawyer Joan Sikand, who read remarks by the EAWS executive director Julius Kamau.
Mrs Sikand said East Africa hosts the last wildlife stronghold and the global economy has played a major role in driving this glorious biodiversity towards extinction. “Is there yet time and opportunity to avoid this fatal and irreversible trend? Can America share its bitter experience of environmental degradation, and also reclamation?” she asked.
Dr Rubenstein, who is affiliated to the Nanyuki-based Mpala Research Centre presented a talk on: “A Connected World: A Bane or a Boon for Conservation and Development in Africa” inwhichheblamed sedentarization for harming the environment by reducing rangeland as well as livestock and wildlife productivity.
“Overall, such sedentarization has not been good for the people, the land, their wellbeing or the wildlife that share the land with livestock,” he said, adding that while lifestyle diversification has increased, the human footprint has grown heavier.
He noted that while many might still view Africa as a ‘Dark Continent’, one that is somewhat remote and separated from the rest of the world, this was hardly the case. “Kenya in particular, is investing in wireless connectivity at an amazing pace. Virtually everyone has smart phones and the use of social media, especially ‘What’s App’, is growing multiplicatively.”
He said that information from news feeds and updates on market prices as well the ability to ‘chit-chat’ with friends and family is as easy to do in Kenya as it the Europe or the Americas.
Yet, he added, “for much of sub-Saharan Africa’s connectivity remains strongest among people, their landscape and their wildlife at local or regional levels: 83% of Kenya is savanna; 24% of Kenya’s agriculture involves livestock; and 10% of Kenya’s population of approximately 45 million people practice pastoralist herding or commercial ranching.”