Young Kenyan leaders call for wildlife protection

Posted on 12/11/2019 by Guest Blogger

Africa is a treasure chest of biodiversity – but its wildlife is in great danger. Thankfully, African young leaders are calling for its urgent protection.

Edith Kabesiime, our wildlife campaign manager presented ‘Exploiting Africa’s wildlife – the Big 5 and Little 5’ at the Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN) conference in Nakuru National Park, Kenya in October.

This influential body, the official platform for youth engagement with the United Nations Convention for Biological Diversity (CBD), was set up in 2010. Its mission is to build a global coalition of individuals and youth organisations to halt the loss of biodiversity and involves nearly 650,000 young people from 140 countries.

Edith told conference delegates how an estimated 2.7 million African animals, ranging from elephants to ball pythons, were legally traded internationally between 2011 and 2015. This number represents the top five ‘big’ and ‘little’ species that are being taken from the African wild or bred in commercial farms for their skin and the exotic pet trade. She gave examples of the horrific cruelty the trade involves.

Trading in suffering

The common hippopotamus is hunted for its skin, teeth and meat. Its thick skin makes it very difficult to kill so it usually dies in agony from multiple injuries. African grey parrots, highly coveted as pets because of their intelligence, suffer immediately from capture. They are typically trapped by hunters who stick a gum mixture on branches to trap the parrots’ feet. It’s estimated around 66% die before they are exported. Many also die in transport and in the care of owners who do not know how to look after them properly. Around 289,006 African greys were exported between 2011 and 2015.

The ‘Big 5’ animals most in demand for their skins and being legally sold are: Nile crocodiles; Cape fur seals; Hartmann’s mountain zebras; African elephants and common hippopotamuses.

The ‘Little 5’ species most in demand for use as exotic pets and being legally sold are: ball pythons; African grey parrots; emperor scorpions; leopard tortoises; and savannah monitor lizards.

Edith’s presentation and the report’s findings inspired GYBN delegates to agree that “animal welfare, and conservation with compassion” must be part of the global biodiversity conservation agenda. 

GYBN Kenya’s next steps are to set up a team to look at the issue and develop a paper and action plans focusing on the connections between the conservation and improved welfare of threatened species. These will be communicated to the global network.

Tennyson Williams, our Africa country office director welcomed the GBYN’s decision.

"Africa’s unique wildlife has been commodified – exploited for money, without full consideration for their welfare or conservation – but it doesn’t have to be this way. "Together, we, as the global community and African nations can work together to be better custodians of wildlife, or we can choose to allow this cruel exploitation to continue – to the point of no return."

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