With our last article, we publicised the fact that, once again, Kenya has an authoritative document governing the nation’s response to elephant conservation. The old Elephant Conservation & Management plan ran between 2012 and 2021.
Thereafter, we were without a directing document. That was until the new National Elephant Action Plan (NEAP) was released at the Magical Kenya Tembo naming festival on the 3rd of March.
Now, with our new NEAP, we are able to look back on the results that came about from the last policy-informing document. Both plans were informed by extensive stakeholder interviews and through the collaboration of national, international, government and non-governmental organisations.
The new document has, where the old did not, something other to work against or in comparison with. Resultantly, we are now capable of seeing what was done well between 2012 and 2021 and what was handled poorly.
Criticisms of the old Elephant Conservation & Management Plan 2012-2021
We have made much of the heart-warming recovery of elephant populations in this country. Between the late 1970s and 1980s, there was an estimated 16,000 elephant extant in Kenya. At the end of the Elephant Conservation & Management Plan, in 2021, Kenya’s first national wildlife census put the population at 36,280.
For observers watching this limited recovery of elephant populations, the temptation was to accredit the recovery to the old Elephant Conservation & Management Plan. Indeed, this writer has, in the past, made positive evaluative comments on the results that the previous plan brought about.
The new NEAP, however, offers some clarifying comments that better frame the influence of the former plan. That the elephant population has recovered is undoubted. However, the majority of that recovery happened before the old plan was implemented.
Between 1989 and 2012, the Kenyan elephant population grew from that low of 16,000 to an estimated 35,588. That represents an average annual growth of 5.3%. During the years in which the Elephant Conservation & Management Plan informed national strategy, the elephant population was largely stable.
Now, that is, of course, a result in and of itself. The maintenance of wildlife populations over a period as changing as 2012 to 2021, is laudable. However, it does put the results of the old plan into perspective.
In the new NEAP’s report on its preceding document, we learn why results were so staggered.
According to the new document, “implementation of the previous plan was generally delayed until the last half of its cycle”. Active implementation was apparently not started until after 2015 when elephant management committees were formed.
The new NEAP suggests that there were also complications that arose from the COVID-19 pandemic. Resource constraints held back the implementation of the old plan also as did the fact that KWS activities were conducted in an “ad hoc manner”.
A graphic that the new NEAP report lays the problems bare: “the plan was poorly understood … [by] stakeholders and partners”, the “strategy had [too] many planned activities” which made it hard to implement those activities and confine them to a specific timeframe.
A lack of coordination, reduced access to resources and proper understanding, and therefore implementation of the plan seem to comprise a big theme in the criticisms of the old plan.
Positives of the old Elephant Conservation & Management Plan, 2012 – 2021
Despite the above criticisms the report section of the new NEAP makes clear that the old Conservation & Management Plan accomplished much that is praise-worthy.
During the period of it’s technically being implemented, there were great successes in anti-poaching measures. Elephant poaching was obviously a huge part of what brought the elephant population to such a deplorable low in 1989.
Since, Kenya’s elephant conservation-related agencies have managed to stem the expression of this practice. The report notes a “drastic reduction of [elephant] poaching incidences”. It also commends the old plan for creating “multi-agency platforms to enhance anti-poaching operations”.
Prosecution of this illegal activity was also given greater strength between 2012-2021.
Other positives that the new NEAP links to the old plan are in establishing greater rangeland for elephant. It praises “[t]he creation of over 100 conservancies across the nation … [that] won more space for elephants”.
Reporting on wildlife numbers has also been improved, as has data-collection systems and capacity. The report commends improved use of modern technology including the use of GPS in data collection.
Lastly, there are plaudits given to the old Elephant Conservation & Management Plan for boosting awareness for the plight of elephant and the complications inherent in protecting them.
For access to the new National Elephant Action Plan, click the link below.