WILDLIFE LOSSES IN KENYA: AN
ANALYSIS OF CONSERVATION POLICY
Despite massive conservation efforts backed by significant international support,
Kenya has lost some 44% of its large mammal fauna over the last 17 years. This
catastrophic example of resource degradation stems from a mixture of policy,
institutional and market failures.
Policy failures include an over-reliance on Command and Control (prohibition on
consumptive use of wildlife, prohibition on use of resources within Protected Areas)
without the ability to enforce compliance; subsidies to agricultural and livestock
production which, by reducing marginal production costs to below social opportunity
costs, has caused the overconversion of rangelands to livestock and agricultural
production at the expense of conservation objectives and values; and the
establishment of tourism cartels which divert wildlife generated benefits away from
landowners. The fundamental institutional failure is the lack of property rights and
use rights of landowners over wildlife. Fundamental market failures reflect the
absence of financial incentives to landowners to conserve their wildlife resource,
thus setting marginal depletion costs to zero, and competing production incentives.
The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) is reintroducing financial incentives to landowners
by permitting some consumptive use of wildlife, by making substantial direct grants
to landowners and communities who support wildlife and by sidelining the tourism
cartels and encouraging private sector tourism on private land. However, investment
in conservation is still being hampered by the continuing prohibition of high value
activities such as sport hunting, and by over regulation and vacillation.
Furthermore, positive net benefits to landowners from wild-life operations are not in
themselves adequate to guarantee economic incentives to conserve the resource. First,
significant negative externalities are associated with wildlife in that they add
greatly to the production costs of livestock and agriculture; second, opportunity
costs (in terms of foregone benefits of development) of leaving land undeveloped for
conservation are gradually increasing in response to growing populations, expanding
markets and new agricultural technology; and third, some policies are having the
perverse impacts of creating poverty traps.
Wildlife conservation policy must accordingly be much wider in scope and use a much
broader range of economic, financial and market instruments, possibly including
differential land use taxes, conservation subsidies and easements, and lease back
agreements. Simply creating positive net benefits from wildlife is not enough.