COVID-19 – Calling For Help!

Please see the bigger picture.

No, we do not mean “click on picture to view on full-screen!” (Though you can also do that!) We would like you to really SEE the bigger picture.

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a huge negative impact on economies of the whole world. It will likely continue to do so in the foreseeable future. Particularly hard hit are the poorer sections of society. Some of these are daily wage earners who starve if they are unable to work that day. But equally hard hit are those who depend on smaller business enterprises who cannot afford to pay their employees when they have no income. And then, there is “collateral damage”. Let us explain.

A number of countries that depend wholly or largely on tourism income are hard hit with zero income to this sector. One such country is Kenya.

We have been on safaris often in Kenya. We love the bush – the flora and fauna. We love the local people. The land is unexplainably special.

We always stay in camps on “conservancies”. What are conservancies?

Briefly, each conservancy property is land leased for an annual rental fee from the local tribes who are hereditary owners of the land. The owners also get an “occupation fee” for each “guest” in each camp on the conservancy. Of course, the local folk are also employed directly and intensively trained as staff in each of these camps. This ensures a healthy and fair income for each family.

Conservancies are unfenced buffer zones which help protect the main game parks from being destroyed by human encroachment. They are safe zones for animals where the human footprint is minimised to the maximum possible extent. Thus they have become very critical habitat for wildlife with many species showing marked improvement in population size. Ensuring a steady and healthy income for the owners has led to reducing the conflict between human needs and the continued existence of wild ecosystems.

The delicate balance here can be understood if we realise that these are not agricultural lands. These are wild virgin grasslands. The owners were traditionally nomadic, pastoral people, though lately some of them have begun fencing small tracts and turned to subsistence farming and other small commercial activity. This has a dual negative impact – fencing destroys migration paths of wild-life and significantly increases human-animal conflict to the detriment of both. 

No tourism equals no guest equals no funds to pay salaries. In other words, no employment. On a much deeper level, this also means no funds to pay the lease fee for the land – which implies no income at all for the landowners. The people, to put it bluntly, will starve.  In the current scenario and the immediate future, this is a direct threat to the very existence of the conservancies in Kenya. And ultimately to the parks themselves. The land will soon be up for grabs to the next avaricious, short-sighted “developer”. One cannot blame the people for trying to earn some money to feed themselves. They are not part of the privileged population that can afford to consider conservation and “the greater good of the planet”! Not when they are starving and their children have no access to basic health services and education, never mind the other niceties of life!

To come back to the tourism industry, most bookings for the year 2020 have been cancelled. There is no expectation of business picking up any time soon. But land lease has to be paid, salaries to staff have to be paid. The show MUST go on! 

To this end – the saving of these people while saving conservancies, and thus, the game parks and wilderness – a fundraising effort is being made seeking donations to the Wildlife Habitat Trust. Adopt-An-Acre. Please consider donating generously – or at least the very bare minimum of 35$ for an acre.

This will be an ongoing endeavour to improve the life of the local people even after tourism resumes. We appreciate that you may be overwhelmed with other more immediate causes just now. But, please consider this, even if at a later date.

Please click here to learn a bit more about the wild beauty you would be helping to protect. One of the few remaining bastions of wilderness on this planet.

You can learn more about the conservancy movement in Kenya here. Donations can be made via the Gamewatchers Safaris website here.

Please do NOT let this happen!

Yes, please do see this picture on full screen – it is a beautiful photograph by a very, very talented Kenyan photographer – Gurcharan Roopra. The name sounds Indian, as indeed he is – of Indian origin. But, first, he is a vociferous voice for the conservation movement in Kenya. A true-blue Kenyan! You can see more of his beautiful photographs here. This photograph is not taken in a zoo. It is taken in Nairobi National Park. Nairobi is the only city in the world that has a natural wildlife park on its doorstep – a park whose very existence is severely threatened. It tells a very sad story of habitat loss for the last of earth’s most beautiful creatures – so many species on the verge of extinction within the next decade or less. All thanks to human “civilization”.