Wildlife is the backbone of tourism, the second largest sector in Kenya’s economy, an essential source of foreign exchange and a major contributor to the GDP.
Most wildlife is found on 8 per cent of the total land area (11 million acres), which is gazetted for conservation. Kenya’s wildlife is one of the richest and most diverse in Africa, with several protected areas and wetlands internationally recognised as world heritage and Ramsar sites and Man and Biosphere Reserves.
It also constitutes a unique heritage that is of great importance nationally and globally. Wildlife resources contribute directly and indirectly to the local and national economy through revenue generation and wealth creation.
A number of factors have made Kenya ecologically rich — variability in climate and topography; diversity in ecosystems and habitats, ranging from mountain ranges to semi-arid and arid areas to marine and fresh waters.
The Kenya Wildlife Service ( KWS), the first-ever conservation agency in Africa to be ISO 9001:2008-certified, manages 27 national parks, 28 national reserves, six marine reserves and four national sanctuaries, which account for 75 per cent of the tourism product. The KWS has embarked on a rigorous programme to raise the profile of parks to world-class standards. It has also identified sites for investment in lodges and hotels to increase accommodation in the parks.
Security in the parks and reserves has been boosted with the introduction of helicopter patrols at night. The completion of the 400km-long Aberdares Forest fence has boosted conservation efforts. Other projects have been initiated to fence off water catchments areas and to block human encroachment.
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Efforts in wildlife conservation date back to 1898 when laws controlling hunting were enacted. They regulated hunting methods and trade in wildlife.