‘Sustainable Tourism and National Parks – Plastic-free National Parks,’ was the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) theme at this year’s Magical Kenya Travel Expo (MKTE) in Nairobi.
KWS was one of the participants (and the only wildlife conservation organisation) at MKTE exhibition – an annual, influential platform for tourism networking and business transactions whose focus is to raise Kenya’s profile as a destination.
The objective of KWS participation at the exhibition that took place from October 2 – 4, 2019. was to create awareness and educate visitors about wildlife and environmental conservation and management, as well as to showcase Kenya’s national parks and reserves as the preferred destination to the global market.
In July, while addressing the opening plenary of a Conference in Vancouver, Canada, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced a ban on single-use plastics in beaches, national parks, forests and conservation areas. This ban will take effect on June 5, 2020.
This means that people visiting beaches or national parks are prohibited from carrying water bottles, as well as plastic cutlery and crockery. Water bottles are a nuisance, with countless ones littering all-important water bodies, forests and drainages.
This ban came hot on the heels of what was lauded as the ‘world’s toughest plastic ban,’ on plastic bags enforced in Kenya by Prof. Judi Wakhungu, the then Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Regional Development Authorities, in August 2017. Karura Forest was declared plastic-free during this period.
Other countries which have since then enforced strictures on varieties of plastics include; Zimbabwe, the UK, Taiwan, Australia, Rwanda, Italy, Morocco and the US states of New York, Seattle and Malibu City.
KWS will continue to push for sustainable tourism and national parks with the objective of achieving a plastic-free environment prior to the enforcement of the ban on single-use plastics mid next year.
To achieve this, KWS launched an aggressive social media campaign to coincide with her theme during this years’ MKTE, featuring various species of wildlife photographed interacting with plastic. Wildlife and marine creatures at times mistake plastic waste for food; this adversely affects them when ingested, due to their indigestible nature. In addition, plastic waste is not biodegradable (capable of being decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms) leading to other forms of environmental pollution.
According to a World Bank Urban Development Series report, Africa currently produces around 70 million tonnes of waste annually. Burgeoning human populations and rapid urbanization of rural areas point to a discouraging forecast: waste production in this continent will be upwards of 160 million tonnes by the year 2025.
Currently, just 10% of the waste generated every day in this continent is collected. The rest ends up in dump sites and the surrounding environment, with detrimental results to flora and fauna.
Examples of the photos employed in the KWS campaign include a baboon brandishing a plastic container/drinking straw, commonly used for fruit juices; a white bird with a tetra pack juice box; a sea turtle with its face partially covered by a large plastic bag, and a lion cub with a can of a popular brand of beer in its mouth.
In addition to popularizing the plastic-free parks theme, KWS’ participation in the Expo translated into myriad other benefits for the organisation and its customers. These included: benefit from pre-scheduled appointments between exhibitors and hosted buyers, listening to latest industry trends, boosting KWS visibility to major global markets, creating awareness and networking.