When dramatic falls in international tourist arrivals and revenue occur owing to global financial crises as well as local political events, KWS has sought ways to cushion conservation activities from the variability of the tourism industry without compromising the core business of managing and conserving wildlife.
It established an Endowment Fund for conservation activities to provide predictability in budgeting and operations. The Kenya Wildlife Service Fund is an endowment fund dedicated to wildlife. About 75 per cent of wildlife conservation operations in Kenya are supported through revenue generated from Tourism. But tourism is notoriously volatile. The Fund is designed to provide reliable, consistent funding, despite the fluctuating tourism income, unpredictable national political environments, or the vagaries of international economics.
The endowment fund’s goal is to raise Kshs 8.5 billion ($100 million) over a decade. Therefore at an assumed interest rate of 10 percent a year, Kshs 750 million (about $9 million) will then be available per year for conservation activities. That sum is but a fraction of the cost of countrywide conservation today—but will still be invaluable, particularly when tourism dips. A total of $1 million (Kshs85 million) has already been raised towards the endowment fund kitty. New initiatives are being put in place to raise more funds for conservation including having fund raising arms both locally and internationally in the important source markets.
The Fund is meant to serve as a mechanism through which Kenyans and the rest of the world can contribute to the conservation of wildlife and their habitats against vagaries of international economics and trends in tourism. The initial success of the fund is a clear indication that both local and global communities value their natural heritage, of which KWS is privileged to be the custodian. It’s this human charitable nature that KWS is tapping into to enable it to discharge the mandate of protecting wildlife for the current generation and posterity. Through the Fund, KWS seeks to boost its financial ability to avert both natural and illegal depletion of the world’s inventory of biological diversity.
Fund raising events
The Kenya Wildlife Service also undertakes other fund raising initiatives to support the Fund as well as create public awareness on conservation. These include “To Hells Gate on a Wheelbarrow” in Hell’s Gate National Park, Naivasha, “Cycle with the Rhino” in Lake Nakuru National Park, “Kisumu Impala Boat Race” on the shores of Lake Victoria, Boda Boda Cycling Race in Kakamega and the “Kenya Wildlife Animal Adoption Programme” in Kisumu and Nairobi.
Kisumu Impala Boat Race
The inaugural Kisumu Impala Boat Race was held to create awareness and raise funds to conserve the rare Sitatunga antelope found at the lake shore animal sanctuary. The proceeds of the annual event will be used to erect a 3-km perimeter wall fence at a cost of Kshs 28 million ($330,000). The boat race was organised by KWS in conjunction with various local and national stakeholders.
This has created a public-private sector partnership which will serve as a launch pad for future boat races and other tourism-related events in this region. The Vision 2030 development blueprint envisages development of water-based tourism activities on Lake Victoria; visitation of under-utilised parks and reserves e.g Ruma, Mt Elgon, Kakamega Forest, Ndere Island, development of hotels, resorts, conference and business facilities in the Western Kenya Tourist Circuit. The boat race also acted as a tourism promotion venture for the Western Tourism Circuit players. Through an exhibition, the race gave participating stakeholders a chance to showcase their products and services as well as highlight the potential of the region as a tourism investment and attraction destination.
Hell’s Gate on wheelbarrow
To Hell’s Gate on a Wheelbarrow is a thrilling and exciting sports-cumfundraising event held annually at Hell’s Gate National Park in Naivasha. It provides an avenue for engagement between KWS, other state agencies, private organisations and the surrounding communities. The wheelbarrow race held for the past three years seeks to raise funds for the construction and equipping of a conservation centre which will be used to mobilise and sensitise communities in Naivasha about wildlife conservation.
The general Naivasha area has over 67,000 wild animals, but only five per cent of these are enclosed within the protected area of Hell’s Gate and Mt. Longonot National Parks. The other 95 per cent of the wild animals roam freely on land belonging to the local communities. As a result, there has been an increase in illegal game meat trade, human encroachment and loss of habitat, conflict in land use, land sub division and fencing, leading to human-wildlife conflict. The need for an education centre is therefore urgent.
Cycle with the rhino in Lake Nakuru
The Cycle with the Rhino is a spectacular and unique cycling event held every September at the Lake Nakuru National Park and parts of Nakuru Town. The money raised is used to rehabilitate Lake Nakuru National Park’s 74-km baboon-proof electric fence around the park as well as to support community projects in conservation. So far, 18 km out of the 74 km of the baboon-proof electric fence has been rehabilitated since the cycling event was started in 2003. During this period, Kshs25 million ($294,118) has been raised. The event aims to rehabilitate the electric fence and undertake community conservation education around the fragile Lake Nakuru National Park ecosystem.
Nakuru town and the Lake Nakuru’s National Park’s sustainability is highly threatened by the increasing urbanisation, pollution, land degradation, decrease in quality and quantity of water in the lake and loss of biodiversity, as a result of deforestation in Mau, Eburru and Bahati forests. Consequent research has shown possible danger in losing this important ecosystem within the next eight years, if matters remain the same.
Lake Nakuru National Park was designated a bird sanctuary in 1961, extended up to 6000 ha in 1964 and the 63sq km gazetted in 1968. It was extended to its current size of 188sq km in 1974 through funding from the World Wide Fund for nature (WWF). Due to a rise poaching, it was established as the first State-managed rhino sanctuary in 1984, later granted rhino sanctuary in 1987 and declared Ramsar site (protected wetland) in 1990 for the protection of migratory water fowls.
The park’s chain link fence was erected in 1976 and the electric fence in 1987. On August 10, 2005, the park was branded as a “Bird watcher’s Paradise” famous for its display of millions of flamingos under a KWS-driven national park branding programme. The park has also won international recognition as an Important Bird Area and World Heritage Site.
Animal adoption programme
The Kenya Wildlife Service Animal Adoption Programme gives an opportunity to individuals or corporates to sponsor an animal at the Nairobi Animal Orphanage. The orphanage is famed for its efforts in caring for abducted, abandoned, and injured wild animals. The adoption programme is based on the fact that every animal at our orphanage has specific needs. The support goes directly into the upkeep of the animals by providing food, medicine, toys, translocations, cage construction, maintenance repairs, and supplies. Out of every sponsorship received, 50 per cent goes directly to the Kenya Wildlife Service Fund whose objective is to provide a sustainable source of funding for wildlife conservation and its habitats to benefit present and future generations.
KWS has also partnered with private organisations to save endangered habitats like the Nairobi National Park, which is under siege from the growing metropolis. To address habitat degradation, a Kshs40 million ($470,588) Nairobi Greenline Project, an initiative of Kenya Association of Manufacturers and KWS, was started to act as a green buffer zone protecting the park from the growing town. The 32-km long and 50-metre wide of trees project brings together industries, conservationists, corporate organisations and the public.
On the conservation front, a number of management and conservation plans were developed for large carnivores like spotted hyenas, lions and wild dogs as well as marine species like sea turtles. Indeed, Kenya is the first African country to develop national conservation strategies for large carnivores. The strategies recognise not only the existing and potential geographical range of the species and their threats, but also provide guidance to efforts aimed at improving their conservation and management.
These new strategies are expected to help ease the pressure facing large carnivores due to the fast human population growth. Kenya’s population has risen from one million at the turn of the last century to 10 million in 1963 to an estimated 41 million in 2012. In addition, task forces on large carnivores, sea turtles, bongo, roan antelopes, sable antelopes, sitatunga antelopes, giraffes, primates and management committees on hirola antelopes and grevy’s zebra were set up.
Remembering George Adamson Kora National Park hosted celebrations to mark the 22nd anniversary since the death of renowned British wildlife conservationist, George Adamson. The purpose of the annual event organised by KWS and partners in conservation was to remember the conservation works in the Kora National Park pioneered by Adamson. The event brought together people from all walks who have interest in history and conservation. Adamson moved to Kora National Park in 1970 to continue the rehabilitation of captive or orphaned big cats for eventual reintroduction into the wild. On August 1989, the 83-year old Adamson was shot dead at Kora National Park by Somali bandits when he went to the aid of a tourist.
Kora National Park was gazetted in 1973 as a reserve and as a park in 1990. It comprises of an area of a little over 1,700km square. This triangle of dense woodland and scrub is limited along its 65km northern boundary by the Tana River, which rises in the highlands between Aberdares and Mount Kenya, before commencing its 700km passage to the Indian Ocean. Its major attractions include pristine wilderness, Inselbergs, Tana River with Adamson’s Falls, Grand Falls and Kora Rapids, a diverse bird life and the George Adamson’s grave.
The safety of local and international tourists within wildlife protected areas and other areas is ensured through enhanced visitor security patrols and operations. KWS, in close liaison with the Tourist Police Unit, keep vigil in wildlife protected areas as well as on important roads linking protected areas. The organisation also works closely with other stakeholders especially the Kenya Tourism Federation (KTF) and Kenya Association of Tour Operators (KATO), to ensure that Kenya’s parks and reserves maintain their world class standards by remaining safe and secure.
KWS was one of the most enthusiastic supporters of the country’s Vision 2030. It is well on track with fulfilling its undertakings especially cultivating the concept of ‘Premium Parks’ at Lake Nakuru and Amboseli, with the aim of attracting a small number of high spending tourists; expanding accommodation facilities and improving law enforcement. Through the premium parks initiative, an increase in pricing has been effected. KWS has been able to increase revenues and also prevent over crowding at these parks. Furthermore, development of facilities including upgrading of self-catering accommodation is underway. In line with Vision 2030, KWS also undertook the following:
The underutilised parks initiative saw the less visited parks in the Western and Coast conservation areas packaged and promoted to the local communities through use of local tour operators. Sales blitzes and familiarisation trips increased tour operators’ product knowledge and provided product trial opportunities.
Development of tented camps in Ndere Island, Kisumu Impala Sanctuary and Ruma National Park is underway with Kisumu Impala ecolodge completed in June, 2012. The other two should be operational by June 2013. This will provide an additional 72 beds targeted at the high-end market. The new accommodation in areas such as Ndere Island and Impala Sanctuary will attract visitors to these underutilised parks.
Improved road infrastructure has resulted in a renewed interest in Marsabit National Park in Northern Kenya. Furthermore, KWS is renegotiating the lease of Marsabit Lodge with a view to reviving it as well as turning the old warden’s house into a modern guesthouse inside the forest. This will cater for domestic tourists.
Niche tourism products
Therapeutic tourism at the Hell’s Gate Geothermal Resource Centre at Ol Karia in Naivasha is being undertaken in partnership with KenGen to utilise the hot springs and geothermal resources within Hell’s Gate National Park. This centre is expected to be ready for use by December 2012 and will include a health spa, sauna and swimming pool. KWS has continued to receive government financial support for implementation of Vision 2030 flagship projects for infrastructure and accommodation development, security of wildlife and visitors, research and marketing.
KWS has also:
- Enhanced partnerships with customers and stakeholders
Sponsorships and partnerships with local media to leverage the KWS brand through sponsorship of Travel Diaries and the Samantha Bridal television programmes as well as a long-term working relationship with Capital FM has increased KWS presence in the target market. Media familiarisation trips to Nairobi National Park and the Western Conservation Area resulted in coverage in the dailies as well as feature articles in True Love and Homes Kenya magazines.
Events in national parks and reserves have also increased through a partnership with Laugh Industry to host “Kid’s Festival Goes Wild”. Marketing Society of Kenya’s “Mtandariko” and annual gala dinner have increased the number of first time visitors to the parks.
Through Private Public Partnership, KWS embarked on development of additional accommodation aimed at the domestic and international market. A total of 27 sites were offered for construction and lease in 2011-12. The new lodges are expected to boost visitor numbers to undeveloped parks such as Mt Elgon, Chyullu Hills, Sibiloi, Meru, Ruma, Aberdares and Mt Kenya. This will provide an additional 204 inland beds. One site in Aberdares National Park and one site in Hells Gate National Park were taken up in 2011 with construction set to be complete by December 2012. One 24-bed capacity high end ecolodge was opened in Kisumu Impala Sanctuary on the shores of Lake Victoria.
- Increased customer satisfaction
Account management including sales visits to the travel trade to furnish them with marketing collateral and information packs has empowered the trade to be able to sell KWS parks and reserves as part of their itineraries
3. Increased revenue and customer spending
KWS reviewed its conservation fees in 2011. The rise in the number of premium and wilderness parks helped to increase revenue through higher gate charges. This will help avoid overcrowding due to fragility of the environmental and the high demand for the sites. Harmonisation of the reservations function at the headquarters in Nairobi through liaison with the field staff for real time updating of bookings to promote and increase occupancy of self-catering accommodation has also been done.
4. Enhanced use of e-business
A greater focus has been placed on the use of information technology to promote national parks and reserves extensively through database marketing and social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and You- Tube. These give KWS a virtual presence of followers, fans and friends and the number of reposts of the organisation’s content. The growth of the KWS online presence has partly been enhanced through engaging bloggers in familiarisation trips for experiential marketing and product trial.
5. Enhanced use of marketing intelligence
Customer feedback questionnaire forms have been used to gather insights from customers and improve product and service offering based on customer needs. Questionnaires, focus groups and online-questionnaires have been used to get information and better understand customer needs and buyer behaviour.
6. Increased product and service awareness
Intensive consumer contact has been achieved through attending local exhibitions including Samantha’s Bridal expo, Getaway and Holidays Expos to boost the KWS profile among domestic tourists and International exhibitions and road shows: India road show & outbound travel mart, Indaba (South Africa) and International Tourism Bourse (Germany) aimed at positioning KWS parks and reserves as the preferred tourist destination in Kenya and Africa. KWS’ image, brand awareness and recognition were significantly increased through the branding of buses at the headquarters and highway signage in Mt Kenya and Shimba Hills.
Furthermore, branding of Mt Kenya, Shimba Hills and Mombasa Marine National Park and Reserve improved their profiles and sparked renewed interest by various stakeholders. Targeted marketing collateral was also developed including park specific posters for the travel trade, ‘Wed in the Wild’ for prospective brides and grooms and webshots for use in online marketing campaigns.
Tourism product offering within national parks has been developed, including:
- The via ferrata climbing trail on Mt Kenya.
- Improvement of campsites and visitor facilities in Tsavo West, Tsavo East, Lake Nakuru and Amboseli national parks.
- Refurbishment is underway of guest houses – the process of refurbishment of six houses in Lake Nakuru, Amboseli, Shimba Hills, Kisite Marine Park, Tsavo West and the Aberdares.
- The old Kinna Warden house in Meru National Park has also been renovated.
Beach management programme
Kenya Wildlife Service received Kshs150 million ($1.8 million) from Treasury to carry out the Beach Management Programme which entailed seven strategic objectives: enhancing beach cleanliness, enhancing visitors’ security and safety, reduction of social vices on the beach, improvement of the beach environment for marine species, enhancing partnership with hotels and communities, enhancing the image of the North Coast Beach and Mombasa Marine Park and Reserve and reduced management conflicts among beach users.
Tourism industry players had observed that while the overall tourism sector was flourishing, the Coastal segment was declining and had been perceived as tired. It badly needed urgent revitalisation. Therefore, the Government invested money in restoring the competitive edge of the coastal area as a tourism destination while ensuring that marine and beach tourism products were sustained.
The programme marked the beginning of the implementation of the Ministry of Tourism’s beach strategic plan, which recommended the re-introduction of a beach management programme. It has boosted the coastal tourism fortunes which had been declining over the years despite steady recovery of the overall national tourism sector. According to the Ministry of Tourism records, the tourism sector had grown by 18 per cent and 15 per cent in revenues and arrivals to Kshs73.7 billion ($867 million) and 1.1 million respectively in 2010 compared to the previous year yet beach tourism had declined by 16 per cent even when it is known to be the best bet for relaxing visitors.
KWS continues to ensure that the beaches along the marine park are clean and safe for visitors. Local boat operators have been trained in tourism and customer care and their boats refurbished and equipped with life saving equipment. Park signage and visitor information has been improved and beach amenities for local tour operators are being put in place. The programme has successfully been implemented jointly with tourism industry stakeholders and the local community toward restoring the competitive edge of Kenya’s coastal area as a tourism destination.
The programme also ensures that the marine and beach tourism products are sustained. As a result, the improved quality of the beach along the Mombasa Marine National Park and Reserve has met the acceptable standards required of a globally competitive beach destination.
Hope for rare northern white rhino
Northern white rhinos flown from Czech to Kenya in a last ditch effort to save their subspecies from extinction in 2009 have given hope that they might just survive by mating for the first time in many years. Najin and Suni mated twice at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Laikipia to the excitement of their fans across the world. This vindicated rhino experts who believed they would reproduce in their natural habitat and save their subspecies. Four northern white rhinos were flown in December 2009 on a cargo jet from the Republic of Czech to Kenya for eight hours in wooden crates that read “Last Chance to Survive”.
Only seven of them are believed to remain in the whole world. The subspecies historically ranged over South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, and Chad. The mating provided a glimmer of hope for the critically endangered rhino subspecies, especially as Najin has great breeding potential – having given birth before. The Czech zoo where the rhinos came from, Dvůr Králové, is the only zoo in the world to have bred the subspecies in captivity, the last time in 2000. Wildlife experts say the Northern White Rhinos haven’t bred in zoos because they form sibling interactions with the opposite sex.
The only other two northern white rhinoceroses in captivity, which live at the San Diego Zoo, in the US, have not reproduced. Like other rhinoceros species across Africa, the Northern White Rhinos have been decimated by poachers and have not been spotted in the wild since 2005.