Today, on World Wildlife Day, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) have announced a grant to the Kenya Ministry of Environment and the Africa Conservation Centre to support Kenya’s National Wildlife Conservation Strategy. The grant and seven other grants awarded over the past year provide a total of Ksh 103 million ($1.3 million) to support conservation and combat wildlife crime in Kenya and East Africa and lay the groundwork for sustained collaboration between U.S. government and Kenyan counterparts.
Wildlife crime threatens the security, economy, and biodiversity of East Africa as demand for products like elephant ivory and rhino horn continues to rise and poaching methods become increasingly sophisticated. International networks for poaching, transit, and sale of illegal wildlife products target wildlife populations across borders, creating a complex problem that transcends national boundaries. Kenya is currently the number one transit country for illegal wildlife products from Africa.
The conservation and sustainable management of wildlife and habitats is crucial to the region’s long term economic growth and development. The tourism industry, which depends heavily on wildlife and protected areas, brings roughly Ksh 100 billion ($1 billion) to Kenya alone.
Marking the occasion, Ambassador Robert F. Godec said, “By protecting wildlife and the environment, we can create jobs and build prosperity while preserving Kenya’s rich natural heritage.”
In support of the U.S. National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking, USAID is taking action to enhance wildlife management and the enforcement and prosecution of wildlife crime. USAID has partnered with the DOI’s International Technical Assistance Program (DOI-ITAP) on a five-year project that uses DOI’s expertise in law enforcement, investigation, and prosecution to create a strong network of regional actors to combat wildlife trafficking throughout East Africa.
Since March 2016, USAID and DOI-ITAP have funded work with government agencies responsible for managing wildlife, non-governmental organizations fighting wildlife crime, and civil society groups that inform the public about this serious issue. In addition to the Ministry of Environment grant, projects supported include grants administered by Save the Elephants to support the Elephant crisis Fund, regional coordinating efforts and enhanced community engagement to counter wildlife crime by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, high-profile events like the Giants Club Summit, public outreach initiatives by WildlifeDirect, security for rhino protection by the Laikipia Wildlife Forum, and organizational planning to protect wildlife at the Kenya Wildlife Service.