So the lions have been on the loose from Nairobi National Park again, apparently terrifying urban residents and hitting international news channels. In fact roaming lions amid 6 lane traffic on Mombasa road is the perfect metaphor for the crossroads that Kenya faces. And there are truths that some people are unwilling to face.
Somebody recently pointed out to me that concerns over conservation are the preserve of the wealthy. And wealthy foreigners at that. I half agreed with him but I’m not sure that this is fair because a great many Kenyans, both rich and poor, are concerned about conservation in this country. However, their voices are very quiet in the face of the country’s headlong rush to develop.
And why should the country hold itself back? Historically, other countries destroyed wildlife in their own merciless pursuit of wealth during periods of industrial boom. Once ‘developed’ status had been attained, and after a lapse of 100 years or so, then thoughts gradually turned back to rebuilding the landscape, often too late. We now have problems with global warming.
So what about Kenya?
Is the truth now that conservation, tourism, wildlife and wide open spaces characterise the Kenya of yesteryear? Today, more than 60% of Kenyans are under 24 years old. More than 40% are under the age of 14 and youth unemployment is massive. The country must evolve fast or risk sinking in the mire (and we have some pretty disastrous neighbours in Somalia and Sudan to compare ourselves to).
Real Progress toward the 2030 goals are being made
In spite of corruption, updated the road and rail networks are taking shape at an impressive speed, not to mention the new port in Lamu and oil pipelines snaking across the region. In order to provide employment for this tsunami of young people, and in pursuit of pulling this country into a more developed space, uncomfortable truths must be faced.
Kenya is on a single lane track to becoming an industrial, manufacturing base. A regional import and export hub. A gateway from landlocked countries to the sea, through which goods can be transported along high speed rail links for freight, improved roads. Perhaps a 117 square kilometre wildlife park on the boundaries of a capital city cannot be preserved while pressure from population growth endures? This human/wildlife conflict gone mad and I am afraid that the lions are on the losing side.
Recent Lion ‘escapes’ –
- x4 incidents of lions escaping from Nairobi National Park over the past 4 weeks.
- Lion have wandered into residential areas and onto highways.
- Yesterday the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) shot dead a male lion dead named ‘Mohawk’.
- As the city encroaches, the lion are pushed out to find pastures new.
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