Conservationists in the regional entities from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda in partnership with the Association Media in Kenya have called out the media to be deliberate and take a proactive approach on wildlife conservation.
The ‘Increasing E.African Media Coverage of conversation and wildlife issues’ project, seeks to equip journalists with firsthand information on biodiversity conservation, wildlife trafficking and how to cover the environment more effectively.
Speaking during a webinar exchange AMWIK’s Executive Director, Patience Nyange, said that, conversations around wildlife conservation need to be sustained.
“We as the media partners need to dedicate our time, collaborate and bring a human face to this matter. There is need to be deliberate in covering and diligently conducting follow ups on wildlife conservation stories,” she noted.
In 2022, WWF, in their Living Planet Report revealed that there was a staggering 69% average decline in global wildlife populations which is a crisis. Kenya is known for iconic wildlife, but many of these species have been under threats especially for illegal trade.
Wildlife conservation practice has over the years, been limited to the big five leaving the other species endangered. According to a report by WUP there is increasing concern about the commercial trade in marine species and their products originating in East Africa going to Asian countries.
Martin Andimale, Research Manager from TRAFFIC International East Africa underscored by saying that unsustainable fishing is leading to the depletion of key reef and other marine species.
Additionally he noted that compliance with the marine regulations is low and there are reports of catching and trade in endangered, protected and threatened species such as sea turtles and black teat fish among others. “Rescuing, protecting and creating awareness of endangered marine species which are already facing extinction is of utmost importance,” Martin reiterated.
Project Manager, TRAFFIC International East Africa, Allen Chad Mgaza, also noted that consumption of wildlife meat is high in the region. He continued by stating that local sale of wild meat is common in Uganda compared to Kenya and Tanzania.
“KWS in 2020 were able to impound 800kg of bush meat in Burma market sold as beef. Most vendors sell within their trusted sources in fear of law enforcers,” he added. Allen further observed that curio souvenir shops continue to sell products from the wildlife while supermarkets are selling marine products like sea cucumbers. “Illegal hunting for this products threatens many species like the elephants, rhinoceros and even buffaloes. There is need for more intervention from law enforcement to combat this trade” he said.
During the exchange webinar, Dr. John Kioko, Amboseli Chyulu landscape coordinator WWF-Kenya noted that conservation issues are complex and that coordinated approach is critical.
He further spoke by saying that they engage games scouts to man the sanctuaries by combating illegal wildlife trade through paying and facilitating their participation. Further asserting that illegal trade has a great connection with climate change.
“We need to understand the inter-relationships of how the eco-system works and how it is connected to the illegal trade. The media sector, therefore needs to get involved by informing and creating awareness to the local communities on wildlife conservation,” he emphasized.
Shedding more light,Kiundu Waweru, Project Manager, Internews, urged the media sector to take advantage and tap in to the local community and inform them on the importance of conserving these animals. He also noted that there are loopholes in how the media covers issues on conservation.
“We tell these stories when the country has been struck by a disaster but not deliberately doing investigations and thinking more on solution-based stories. There is need to connect with the experts like KWS, WWF and other resourceful persons to voice on these environmental problems,” he added.
Patience Nyange concluded by saying that the media is a key aide in conservation efforts and that how biodiversity and conservation issues are portrayed in the media can influence behavior change and encourage action. It is imperative that we conserve our wildlife.
Partnerships with stakeholders in the East Africa region and the media sector can inform policies, shape opinions and drive economies around wildlife.
Story by Arasha Soila, KBC Digital