By Paul Udoto

Two iconic rhinos in Kenya have been ‘greened’ as part of global celebrations to mark St Patrick’s Day. The statues of Kyela and Lankeu, which are names of actual rhinos in Nairobi National Park, were symbolically lit green to draw attention to conservation efforts.

The colourful occasion dubbed #GreenRhinos was presided over by Ireland ambassador to Kenya, Dr. Vincent O’Neill who said the “greening” of rhinos this year was to celebrate Ireland’s presence and influence abroad.

The occasion was also to recognize the fact that rhinos are a “fantastic icon of Kenyan life and heritage” endangered through poaching and that Kenya was responding effectively to the problem.

“In highlighting this, we want to commend Kenya for the huge progress it has made in addressing this global problem,” said Dr. O’Neill “Because of these efforts, the number of rhinos killed by poachers in Kenya has greatly reduced over the years.”

Kenya Wildlife Society (KWS) Director General, Kitili Mbathi, expressed Kenya’s concern over new moves to legalize trade in domestic markets for rhino horn in South Africa, especially proposed partial lifting of the ban in the export of rhino horn by allowing foreigners to export two rhino horns for “personal purposes.”

“We shudder to think of the potential increase in poaching we could be faced with if the South African proposals are approved,” said Mr. Mbathi, adding that the move would “create the sort of increased demand we saw when trade in ivory was temporarily relaxed for a few southern African countries in previous years.”

St. Patrick’s Day is Ireland’s National Day and is celebrated on the 17th of March every year. To mark this day, and recognizing that Green is the national colour of Ireland, Tourism Ireland’s 8th Annual Global Greening initiative will see some of the world’s most famous attractions and sites going Green.

“Through the #GreenRhinos initiative, we are showing our support for the hugely important efforts being made in Kenya to stop the illegal slaughter of these wonderful animals so they can thrive for many generations to come,” said Dr O’Neill.

The Kenyan #GreenRhinos joined Colosseum in Rome, the Statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, equator sign and line in Uganda and Ground Zero in New York in becoming “green” to coincide with the global celebration of St Patrick’s Day.

New buildings and sites which took part this year included One World Trade Center in New York (the main building of the re-built World Trade Center complex in New York and the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere), the beautiful Petit Palais on the Champs-Élysées in Paris and the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc in Barcelona.

This year, the global ‘Greening’ spanned mainland Europe, Great Britain, North America as well as Australia, South Africa, Kenya and United Arab Emirates, among others.

Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, in a statement said: “This is the eighth year of Tourism Ireland’s Global Greening initiative and it’s bigger and better than ever this year, with some wonderful (and unusual!) new additions like the Ethiopian Airlines aircraft in Addis Ababa, The Kelpies in Scotland and the rhino statues in Nairobi National Park. St Patrick’s Day traditionally marks the real start of the tourism season for us; our aim is to bring a smile to the faces of people around the world and to convey the message that Ireland offers the warmest of welcomes and great fun, as well as wonderful scenery and heritage.”