Economics of Wildlife Conservation: Case Example of Kenya Rangelands

Post Date: 29 February 2020   |   Category: Economic Development   |   Hits: 4833

In the midst of raging public debate, what is the economic importance of Rangelands? We know from evidence since time immemorial that Rangelands produce substantial products such as forage, wildlife habitat, water, minerals, energy, recreational opportunities, and some wood products. For scientists, they sustain plant and animal gene pools. Primarily for the northern Kenya, Eastern Kenya and some of the Rift Valley communities who are pastoralists they use Rangelands to graze livestock. 

Rangelands also produce intangible products like aesthetic value such as natural beauty and open spaces. They also offer the opportunity for the ecological study of natural ecosystems and wildlife conservation. Regional Center for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD)  estimates that the Kenyan rangelands through livestock production, contribute to over 12% of the 40% Agricultural GDP with further contribution through the tourism sector. Last year, the agricultural sector total contribution to the GDP was 3.05 trillion hence the rangelands contribution to GDP amounted to Ksh 360 billion (KNBS 2019). This blog aims to show that Rangelands exists because they offer economic benefits to society and focus on the wildlife conservation policy within Kenya’s rangelands. 

Given the returns from agriculture and other forms of productivity, there's a shift from wildlife conservation to other forms of production. In economics, this is a shift in production possibility frontier. Over half of the most productive rangelands in Kenya, which used to hold the great majority of wildlife, are now supporting agricultural production with an associated rapid evolution of property rights from large land parcels under communal or group ownership to small land parcels under private ownership.

From data declared by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics, we see a considerable number of animal species kept in Animal Conservancies. They play a bigger role in Kenya’s conservation story. The top five animals kept in Kenya’s Rangelands are Wildebeest, Burchell’s Zebra, Grant’s Gaz, Impala and Thomson’s. Across all the species, the numbers have been fairly stable. Most of the animal species have remained within the same rangeland. 

Table 1: Wildlife Population Estimates in the Kenya Rangelands, 2014 – 2018(‘000)

Source: (KNBS 2019)

The Wildlife Conservation and Management Regulations, 2017 gives power to the Wildlife service to maintain status and components of listed species in ecosystems in Kenya. For that to happen, the regulation efforts must be accompanied by resources because not all wildlife ecosystems belong to Government. Other ecosystems are managed by the private sector. Therefore, wildlife conservation policy should be alive to that by providing incentives. Otherwise, rangeland owners will shift to other highly productive areas and governments policy of wildlife conservation in the rangelands will fail.  

KNBS. 2019. Economic Survey. Nairobi: Kenya Bureau of Statistics.

The Wildlife Conservation and Management Regulations. 2017.

KNBS. 2019. Statistical Abstract. Annual Statistical Abstract, Nairobi: Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.