NAIROBI, Oct 11 – Kenya’s Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife has reported that it raised 16.5 million Kenyan shillings ($149,000) for elephant conservation during the inaugural elephant naming festival held in Amboseli National Park.

Corporates and individuals were given the opportunity to adopt and name selected elephants after donating funds during the Magical Kenya Elephant Naming Festival designed to boost the conservation of endangered species. The aim is to raise a total of 100 million shillings ($11 billion) over the next one year.

The Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Najib Balala said the initiative would boost public participation in conservation while raising funds for the protection of elephants in Kenya.

The elephants named include baby elephants born in 2020 and 2021, big tuskers and twins.

“This is certainly a great milestone for Kenya, this initiative will go a long way in ensuring that elephants are protected in Kenya not only for ourselves, but also for the future generations,” said Balala. “We all have a role to play in conservation and I therefore commend the team that has worked tirelessly to ensure that this is a success. I urge other like-minded individuals and organizations to join us in this noble initiative now and in the future.

“We have raised Sh.16.5 million so far this year and we plan to hit our target at the close of the financial year. I congratulate all the namers and assure them that the funds will be used to ensure that our majestic elephants are well conserved. We want to look at issues concerning human Wildlife conflict, tracking of the elephants through collaring as well as construction of electric fences and community engagement among other issues”

Kenya Tourism Board CEO Betty Radier thanked the sponsors for embracing the initiative stressing that conservation played a major role in tourism and by extension supports livelihoods.

“I thank the namers and those who contributed for embracing and being part of this initiative. Conservation of our wildlife resources remains key for us to ensure that future generations enjoy our country’s heritage, natural resources and the incredible species that live within it,” said Radier. “With our tourism being largely dependent on our natural resources including wildlife, it is important that we all ensure they are well protected and maintained.”

Kenya Wildlife Service Director General John Waweru said that the goal of the festival is to secure a future for elephants and their habitats in peaceful co-existence with humans.

“As revealed during the recently concluded Wildlife Census, there is an urgent need to conserve our wildlife, especially the species classified as endangered or threatened. While it is important to note that we have made huge progress in this, the continued loss of ecosystems and rising human-elephant conflict continue to derail our efforts in this regard,” said Waweru

The population of African savannah elephants has plummeted by at least 60 per cent over the past 50 years, resulting in their classification as “endangered” in the latest update of the IUCN’s list of endangered species.

According to this year’s Kenya Wildlife Census Report, the country is home to a total of 36,280 elephants, representing a 21 percent growth from 2014, when poaching was at its peak. This increase has been realised thanks to the sustained government crackdown on poaching and illegal ivory trade.

The report also noted that human-elephant conflict has increased in many areas in the country as a result of the increasing loss of habitat and land use changes.

Through the Elephant Naming Festival, which will be an annual event, the government seeks to address these challenges with the hope of increasing the numbers of endangered species.

The 2021 namers included the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), Animal Adoption, Advocacy LLc, Bonfire Adventures, Chandaria Foundation, Digimatt Solutions, East African Breweries Ltd, East Africa Safari Rally ltd, Elephant Cooperation, KCB, Ken and Joana Wakia, Kenya Convention Bureau, Kenya Tourism Board, Mahesh Wanigasekera, Mayleen Corporation, Mediheal Hospital, Oltukai Lodge, Penguins Adventure, Charles Musyoki, Salil Karim, Tour Operators Society of Kenya, Tourism Fund, Twiga Tours and Versatile Photographers.