RANCHERS in Taita Taveta county have been challenged to convert their ranches into community wildlife sanctuaries if they are to realise maximum economic benefits from the wildlife around them.
The ranch members have been challenged by the Kenya Wildlife Service to shift from livestock and instead use their sprawling properties to invest in eco-tourism due to the potential and availability of wildlife around the area.
Kenya Wildlife Service Taita district warden, Samuel Rukaria pointed out that the expansive ranches have over years proved less productive to the community adding that it was high time the locals exploited the wildlife around them so that they could reap from the eco-tourism sector. “The ranches can turn around the locals’ livelihoods if they convert them to eco-tourism cites and reap from tourists who will come to see a variety of wildlife around here. The KWS is ready to support the community in exploiting the opportunity like it has done in other regions in the country such as Laikipia,Samburu and Isiolo districts among other regions” Rukaria said.
Speaking to the Star during an exclusive interview, Rukaria stated that the availability of wildlife in the region was attracting a lot of tourism investors who were willing to support the community in conserving wildlife and at the same time gain economically. “We want the community to open up their eyes and see the wildlife around them as an investment and not as an enemy as some of them do,” he said.
Rukaria appealed to the local wildlife stake holders who were taken on an education tour to wildlife sanctuaries in Laikipia, Isiolo and Samburu districts early last year to borrow a leaf from their counterparts and apply the same in the region. The warden expressed displeasure that the trip could have been in vain since the stakeholders who were taken on the education tour have not done anything to exploit the wildlife opportunity around them, one year down the line. The tour which was sponsored by the KWS was meant to equip the locals with skills and also make them gain interest in the tourism business and abandon the age-old tradition of rearing cattle.