Kenya "Anarchy" Threatens Wildlife

Kenya's famed wildlife preserves (and the country's entire economy) are at risk following weeks of escalating political unrest and violence which find the country drifting toward what the opposition leader has called a state of "anarchy."

Tourism to Kenya has dropped more than 80% in the last month, as potential travelers are being actively warned against visiting the country and its wildlife safaris.

The economic blow has already been felt. Hotels are shutting down, charter services have lost 94% of their business, the country's flowers (destined for Europe and Valentine's Day) are going un-harvested, and the Kenya Wildlife Service last week suspended orders on 101 new vehicles it would have used to patrol the parks.

Meanwhile, environmental NGO Wildlife Direct chairman Sir Richard Leakey has warned that this political unrest leaves wildlife preserves in extreme danger of poaching, which he reports has already increased. Hardest hit could be the Maasai Mara Game Reserve, which receives 100% of its funding through tourist entrance fees.

Kenya's loss could be a boon for other African nations. Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa have all reported an increase in tourism as travelers flock to see the wildlife in those nations. But the loss to the world's wildlife would be incalculable if the violence in Kenya continues much longer.

Let's cross our fingers that crisis talks being led by Kofi Annan help do the trick.

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