Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

See Africa's Wildlife While You Can

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

See Africa's Wildlife While You Can

Article excerpt

DOUBT has been cast on the future of East Africa's renowned game parks by the forced resignation last month of Richard Leakey, director of the Kenyan Wildlife Service. As the Jan. 14 Monitor article "Slower, Solo Views of Africa's Game" indicates, Kenya's dramatic wildlife preserves remain some of the world's great tourist attractions.

According to the Jan. 15 New York Times, Mr. Leakey's move points to the "corruption and underlying greed prevalent among powerful ministers in Kenya who have mounted the attacks against him in an effort to get their hands on the money flowing into the wildlife agency."

As the result of Leakey's apparent success in curbing poachers, and his efforts to save the park system's features, Western donors and the World Bank had provided some $150 million to finance the park restoration.

One expert quoted in the Jan. 15 London Daily Mail predicted that in two years there would "not be a single elephant or rhino left, and that Kenya would lose its attraction as a tourist resort."

To someone familiar with the current politics of Kenya, the account of Leakey's problems is fully credible. Those seeking to take over the control of wildlife undoubtedly see the possibility not only of profiting from legitimate outside assistance, but also of gains from illicit trade. The animals are highly prized as sources of medicine, aphrodisiacs, and other wonders - especially by traders in Asia.

But corruption is not the only threat to wildlife resources. As the population grows throughout Africa, people and animals compete for the same land. It is hard for any political leader to take the side of animals against that of farmers and herders. The argument that the game parks are a major source of revenue for the state may well be seen by the poorer peasants as an effort to preserve at their expense a hobby for rich foreigners.

Many Africans do wish to preserve the animal resources of the continent. Tales emerged in the late 1960s of courageous African wardens who sought to maintain the parks in Uganda in the midst of turmoil and threat. …

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