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More rhino yes, but where is the money?

By Harriet James
Tuesday, October 13th, 2020
Rhinos at Ol Pejeta Sanctuary. Photo/PD/HARRIET JAMES
In summary

As the country plans to increase the population of the endangered species, questions about funding their conservation and breeding have risen.

Harriet James @harriet86jim

Statistics from the Ministry of Tourism show efforts in conserving the rhino have resulted in an increase in population (794 black and 647 white) by end of 2019.

It also shows only four rhinos (one black and three white) were poached in 2019 with no poaching recorded in 2020.  

The birth of 45 rhinos this year has pushed Kenya’s rank to fourth after Botswana, Zimbabwe and Tanzania, showing that these efforts are bearing fruit. However, the country is yet to achieve the average growth.

“We need to address mortality and other causes of rhino extinction such as predation, interspecies aggression and disease, so as to attain the average growth of five per cent per annum,” noted Tourisms CS Najib Balala in a Webinar on World Rhino Day recently. 

Part of measures to conserve the species include giving incentives for private landowners to establish additional sanctuaries and to offer sufficient and dedicated space for breeding.

All these require funding, one of the challenges plaguing both government and private entities dedicated to preserving rhinos. 

Corporate approach

It is estimated that the government requires about Sh434 million annually to pay 1,000 rangers and for technology at the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). Much of this funding comes from proceeds of tourism and donors.  

At Ol Pejeta, the proceeds of tourism support conservation efforts of the rhinos.

Richard Vigne, Ol Pajeta sanctuary chief executive officer. Photo/PD/HARRIET JAMES

Richard Vigne, the CEO at Ol Pajeta, says the pandemic has resulted in a 95 per cent loss, translating to a drop in revenue of Sh380-434 million, a hole they have had to fill to pay for the fixed cost of conservation. 

As a result, they have come up with ways of ensuring that they still have cash for protecting the rhinos. 

“Philanthropy is not something we can ignore. There are people who believe in the power of conservation to have a great social perspective. I believe we need to make it more efficient than how it already is,” he says.

He adds that conservation should include social impact, where part of the donor funds assist in improving lives of local communities, something that is attractive to the donors. 

Establishig  business deals with corporates is another way to find cash for conservation.

The companies would in turn receive exposure in the conservancies’s social media pages and events as a way of marketing their products. 

“We need to think of it as a business, as something which is investable in and that should make profit.

The more money we make, the more people will invest and the more we can spend on building our natural capital,” explains Vigne.

  Though conservationists might not value presence of livestock in natural environment, this is another way some conservancies are using to boost funds.

Livestock too can be important economically or socio politically for food production or as a source for food security. 

“Carbon, too, is another way of raising revenue. Biodiversity offsets and natural-based products such as honey and aloes are small industries, but they can be taken to scale.

Others such as sand can be managed to create great opportunities,” says Giles Davis, founder of Conservation Capital.

Local impact

Giles notes a lot more actors would like to play a part in conservation and it is up to conservationists to give them that chance especially in partnering and contracting.

However, more care should be taken when it comes to the use of donor funds. 

“Generating revenue is one thing; how it’s used is another. It’s important that we get it right as it has not been used right enough,” he says. 

Giles says that such opportunities are the best ways to use donor money to reorganise ownership of these conservation enterprises so that they can be aligned more correctly or have local. 

“We need to think outside conservation as well. There are sectors which are very relevant to conservation as well such as food production,” he argues, saying that  certain disciplines need to be done better and correctly should conservationists desire to partner more with varied actors and revenue streams. 

Having a strategy is an important part of the process, according to Dr Philip Muruthi, African Wildlife Foundation Vice President – Species Conservation and Science  

“Do we have a fund raising strategy? Do we have diverse coordinated sources which include local innovations?

Do we know our constituency well? After we’ve received the money, do we use it to serve the interest of the donor ?

Have a clear expectation and delivery of the funds and also clear communication on how the money was spent,” he says.

He insists  the country needs to maintain current donors and ensure conservation is at heart of people, particularly the youth.

He proposes creation and revamping of a partners forum that works closely with KWS-aligned national actions and recovery plan to mobilise resources.

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