Amboseli is one of Kenya’s highest revenue earning parks. Its popularity stems from the picturesque backdrop of towering, snow-capped Kilimanjaro and Amboseli’s elephants – made famous through long-term study, popular books and numerous documentary films. The fees paid by the hundreds of thousands of visiting tourists visiting Amboseli each year helps to cover the cost of running other lesser-known national parks, whose protection is equally essential to biodiversity conservation.
In December, as we were trying to accomplish our playback experiments, we had to take several hundred tourists into consideration. In the evening aggregations of elephants crossed the main road traveling from the swamp to the woodland in a spectacular moving display. Here elephants and people intersected. Tour buses can be very annoying, driving too fast, crowding the animals and leaving their car engines’ running – disturbing the elephants and destroying any opportunity for recordings!
The tourist boom the last few years has encouraged the alarming mushrooming of tourist facilities on the boundary of Amboseli, blocking migration routes and threatening to destroy the small park. Powerful individuals have blocked bringing a halt to these developments.
As the election violence escalated we watched as the number of minibuses declined, until by the time we departed there were almost no visitors left in the park. Tortilis, Amboseli’s high-end camp, was deserted during peak season, its manager left wondering what to do with the smoked salmon and the champagne. With violence continuing unabated, Kenya’s tourism sector won’t be bouncing back any time soon.
A substantial percentage of Kenya’s population survives on the tourism industry. Many camps and lodges will fold and with them the livelihoods of thousands, even millions of Kenyans. With very little income for the parks, one can only hope that Kenya Wildlife Service will be able to continue to do the important job of protecting our already threatened wildlife in the face of the increasing poverty and desperation in the communities surrounding the parks.
While we hope that the people controlling Kenya’s future will talk their way out of the deadlock – we will continue to work for the best for elephants, knowing that the future of Kenya and the planet will be poorer if these amazing animals are not to be seen.
Thank you for your continued support!
Greetings, Joyce & Petter Greeting