x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 23 October 2017

Wild animals should stay in the wild, Kenyan conservationist tells UAE pupils

Children are an integral part of nature conservation, an official from the Kenya Wildlife Service told three schools in the UAE this week.

Mary Kirabui, Kenyan park ranger speaks to pupils about animal conservation at the Emirates Future International Academy in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National
Mary Kirabui, Kenyan park ranger speaks to pupils about animal conservation at the Emirates Future International Academy in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National

ABU DHABI // Children are an integral part of nature conservation, an official from the Kenya Wildlife Service told school pupils this week.

“We’ve come to the UAE because the world is finally standing up and paying attention to conservation.

“The world is turning to the floods, the avalanches, the typhoons that are wrecking the world, and realising that the solution is actually through conservation,” said Mary Krabui, a senior warden and a conservationist from the Kenya Wildlife Service.

She spoke to pupils at the Emirates Future International Academy in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday and Gems First Point School and Gems Wellington School on Thursday.

Kenya is the home of sustainable tourism, Ms Krabui said.

“It’s a different culture in Kenya. Animals live in their natural habitat, unlike other countries where zoos are prevalent.”

Ms Krabui, who oversees a group of park rangers in several reserves in Kenya, was not opposed to zoos, “but nothing beats animals thriving in their natural surroundings”, she said.

Fatma Bashir, Mena marketing manager of the Kenya Tourism Board, hoped that education would change the perception that taking an animal out of its habitat and keeping it as a pet was an act of kindness.

“Part of what we do is to educate children to reconsider. Are they doing the right thing taking an animal away from its natural habitat? By speaking to children and raising awareness of the implications of their actions we might be able to make a difference,” Ms Bashir said.

“The purpose of education, as we explained in our lecture, is to make you see what you can lose. Maybe fewer people will engage with the illegal pet trade when they realise that their grandchildren or great grandchildren might not be able to see a wildcat because they’ve purchased one,” said Ms Bashir, who helped to organise the talks by Ms Krabui.

“When the child sees animals thriving in nature they understand the importance of animals in their natural surroundings and conservation.”

It was essential to sustain populations of the animals in the wild for posterity. It was for the children and children to come, the pupils were told.

“For society to be able to change, it’s important to start with education, and to start with children. Education is the tool for change globally, this is what we are doing here today,” Ms Bashir said.

Ms Krabui also shed light on dangers species faced, such as poaching, and was saddened by the illegal pet trade in the UAE.

“Being a conservationist, and a warden who takes care of animals, it pains me to hear the story of a lioness who was being kept in captivity at a home and ended up on the street,” Ms Krabui said.

“We don’t support the illegal trade in Kenya. There are strict laws against it and measures are taken in case the first step was missed through points of exits. Those actions are intolerable and severely punished.”

nalremeithi@thenational.ae