This paper addresses two concrete issues arising from wildlife conservation and management policy in Kenya. First, it looks at the domain of authority of conservation policy. It provides insight into the legal and institutional framework of the conservation of wildlife in Kenya. The discussion embraces the pertinent provisions of the Wildlife (Conservation and Management) Act 1976, Chapter 376 of the Laws of Kenya, the Wildlife (Conservation and Management) Amendment Act No. 16 of 1989, Chapter 376 of the Laws of Kenya, and the State Corporations Act Chapter 286 of the Laws of Kenya. Second, it addresses the sphere of influence of conservation policy. The sphere of influence defines the ensuing politics embracing the conservation of wildlife in Kenya. It implicitly questions the impact that conservation policy has on the development process outside the legal confines of a National Park or Reserve. The development process in this regard embraces the nature of livelihood activities pursued by the communities that inhabit the fringes of the National Park and whose survival is affected by the implementation of wildlife conservation and management policy. Every domain of authority therefore has a corresponding sphere of influence.1

Wildlife management and conservation policy in Kenya does not singly focus on the conservation of flora and fauna. It focuses on both conservation and non-conservation issues in and outside protected areas. In the non-conservation domain, in particular, it touches on the extent to which institutions and residents of the fringes of protected areas undertake their daily activities as they come into contact with protected flora and fauna in their midst. The study of an institution's domain of authority and the sphere of influence of conservation authorities, therefore, provides an interesting scenario in the analysis of the scope and impact of conservation policy on nature conservation and the promotion of development at the local level.


Wildlife conservation refers to the protection, preservation, management, and study of wildlife and wildlife resources.2 The policy for conservation and management of wildlife defines the domain of authority vested in a variety of institutions that have a stake in the management of wildlife resources. It is primarily, however, a statist management tool for the attainment of wildlife conservation objectives. It provides the legal framework and identifies the arena and agenda of all wildlife management and conservation undertakings. The level of authority it confers on an organization emerges hence as the genesis of challenges with regard to the implementation of the stipulated conservation terms of reference and objectives.

Before Kenya gained independence in 1963, the philosophy behind the planning, establishment and management of protected areas in the country was basically a European-settler affair. The European settlers established National Parks and Reserves primarily to meet their personal objectives and not necessarily to enhance the overall development of the colony. The National Parks and Reserves were marketed in Europe and North America to attract a clientele that was not necessarily interested in conservation but one that had the capability to pay for the various products associated with an African adventure. These products included mainly Safari-hunting and camping, export of wild animals and game trophies, wildlife photography and other recreation-related activities, all of which transformed the protected areas into what has been referred to as "pleasure grounds of the West." What was the role of Africans in this scenario?

For Africans, wildlife was basically a livelihood resource to be utilized (i.e., hunted, picked or gathered) whenever societal need arose. For example, the single-handed killing of a lion by a Maasai moran was a ritual affair that was controlled by the Maasai society to mark the graduation of boys into warriors. Therefore, for purposes of perpetuating Maasai culture and traditions, the lions had to be conserved because they were, so to say, part and parcel of the survival of the Maasai society. This way of life can be discerned in the relationship of the Maasai with other wild animals and vegetation. In the planning and establishment of the protected areas, the Africans as principal stakeholders in conservation were unfortunately not consulted. Instead they became culprits of the protected area policies, which disrupted their livelihood practices by imposing utilization (i.e., settlement, hunting and gathering) barriers in the established protected areas.3 In essence, livelihood practices of the Africans that involved interaction with flora and fauna inside protected areas were criminalized. For example, seasonal hunting of wild animals became poaching and the poachers were to be shot on sight. In the same vein, the gathering of dry tree branches for firewood was restricted and violators were regularly and severely punished. To this day, certain conservation measures in Kenya's National Parks and Reserves comprise a militaristic element that is meant to deal with the livelihood (illegal) practices of the local people. For practical purposes, therefore, the wildlife conservation policy has been more exclusionist than inclusive.

In 1930, the Society for the Preservation of the Fauna of the (British) Empire commissioned an inquiry into the state of fauna in the Kenya Protectorate.4 It was recommended then that permanent faunal sanctuaries be established to preserve the biodiversity in the colony.5 In 1938, the colonial government passed a conservation order, which stipulated the location, extent, characteristics, supervision and management of National Parks in Kenya. In 1945, the Royal National Park Order was passed and a year later, the Nairobi National Park was created. By 1950, the colonial government had established six National Parks, which were managed by a newly created Game Department. These National Parks and Reserves were created, of course, with the approval of the influential Safari hunting lobby groups. A Board of Trustees of the National Parks was also established and comprised solely of private European settlers. Emerging from this scenario is that conservation policy making and implementation, at the time, reflected private European settler interests and not those of indigenous groups, most of who depended on the wildlife for their livelihood.

The creation of more National Parks and Reserves was continued after independence, ostensibly now, in the interest of national development. National Parks-based tourism emerged as a leading sector in national development. The content of the tourism package, however, did not change since it still relied heavily on the bequeathed colonial conservation and management policy. The implication of this policy outside protected areas became a moot and emotive subject, this time, in a political dispensation that was controlled by the African. However, the needs of the pleasure seeking foreign tourist who would contribute to the foreign exchange earnings of the state reigned supreme in the evolution of tourism policy. To the bureaucrats, the rationale and philosophy of wildlife conservation was hinged on its capacity to generate revenue for the state. The more effective it became in this regard the stronger the exclusionist case remained. The local people living in the fringes of the National Parks remained essentially spectators in the tourism sector, derived no direct benefits from the wildlife in their midst as wild animals, in particular, reigned havoc on the adjoining farms and livestock ranches. To the locals, the protected animals were now pests and belonged to the state. It was therefore, the responsibility of the state to tame its wild animals and stop them from interfering with the lives of the locals.