Background of the Law
The main law governing wildlife conservation and management in Kenya is the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, 2013 (WCMA). Before the enactment of the WCMA, the Wildlife (Conservation and Management) Act (Repealed) dealt with wildlife conservation issues in Kenya. This law was enacted in 1976 and was significantly amended in 1989 but since then no other amendments were made. The Act had very low penalties when compared to the illicit gains wildlife offenders were getting from wildlife. It also did not address modern challenges facing wildlife conservation and management. The process of amending the Wildlife (Conservation and Management) Act began in 1997 when a Bill was drafted to address the prevailing wildlife conservation challenges. This Bill was never enacted and subsequent attempts to amend the Act were made by way of draft Bills in 2004, 2007, 2009 and 2012. All these were never enacted. In 2012 a new draft Wildlife Conservation and Management Bill was proposed and this was debated in Parliament and finally enacted as the WCMA in 2013. The WCMA came into force on 10th January 2014.
Contents of the WCMA
The preamble to the WCMA states that it was enacted to provide for the protection, conservation, sustainable use and management of wildlife in Kenya and for connected purposes. The provisions of the Act apply to all wildlife resources on public, community and private land and Kenya territorial waters. The implementation of the Act is guided by the general principles of devolution, public participation, ecosystem approach, sustainable utilisation and benefit sharing. To ensure proper implementation of the Act, the Cabinet Secretary (CS) for all matters relating to wildlife is required to formulate and publish a national wildlife conservation and management strategy at least once every five years. This strategy should guide the protection, conservation, management and regulation of wildlife resources and the wildlife sector.
The WCMA is all encompassing and addresses most issues relating to wildlife conservation and management. This include the institutional framework for wildlife conservation in Kenya, regulation of the wildlife sector and protection and management of wildlife and protected areas. The Act also addresses human wildlife conflict and its mitigation, incentives and benefit sharing, offences and penalties and enforcement and compliance.
The CS is given power to make regulations which will ensure proper operationalization of the provisions of the Act. No regulations have been enacted under the WCMA. However, the Act provides in its transition clause that the regulations falling within the ambit of the Wildlife (Conservation and Management) Act (Repealed) shall remain in force until replaced by regulations made under the WCMA. The regulations made under the repealed Act are the Wildlife (Conservation and Management) (Recognised Airfields) Regulations, the Wildlife (Conservation and Management) (National Parks) Regulations, the Wildlife (Conservation and Management) (Control of Raw Ivory) Regulations and the Wildlife (Conservation and Management) (Aloe Species) Regulations.
The WCMA was amended in 2018 to address various shortcomings it had that prevented its proper enforcement including minimum penalties, lack of a comprehensive list of protected species and failure to address the provisions of the CITES Convention.