Conservation education as the foundation of global conservation success

The Goal - 

Learn to conserve for a better tomorrow: Engaging the youth in the conservation of key ecosystems in Kenya.

In December 1968, a group of students approached their teacher to complain of the lack of local participation in conservation activities. The entrance fees to the Kenyan National Parks were too expensive for the local people, therefore they were not visiting the parks to enable them appreciate wildlife. Additionally, Kenyans still associated National Parks with the country’s history of colonization which contributed to Kenyans not viewing wildlife as a valuable resource.  The students decided that for people to develop an interest and desire to conserve wildlife, Kenyans needed an opportunity to visit the National Parks.

The teacher approached the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources who developed a strategy with local and international conservation organisations to educate young people on conservation and enable students to visit National Parks at no cost. These activities led to the establishment of the Wildlife Clubs of Kenya.


The Solution - 

Providing conservation education to the youth and supporting wildlife clubs through training, information sharing, and advocacy

Wildlife Clubs of Kenya (WCK) was established as a non-profit making, non-government, non-political, charitable organization with the mandate to empower the young people of Kenya through conservation knowledge.  The WCK was developed to ensure that future generations care about, and take the necessary steps to conserve nature both within and beyond protected areas.  The objectives of the organisation are identified as:

  1. To share knowledge and stimulate interest on wildlife, conservation of the environment, and biodiversity among Kenyan youth and communities.
  2. To create awareness of the economic, cultural, and aesthetic value of natural resources.
  3. To develop a better understanding of the need to conserve the environment, wildlife, and other biodiversity to benefit present and future generation.

To meet the above objectives, WCK is involved in:

  • Education and awareness raising programs on ecosystems and contemporary conservation issues.
  • Hands-on field activities with schools and organized youth groups (e.g. physical removal of invasive species, park and beach clean-ups, and de-snaring).
  • Production and dissemination of awareness raising materials.
  • Organizing and coordinating youth in campaigns against poaching and advocacy programs that demand action from the government.
  • Empowering the youth with knowledge on parks, protected areas, and ecosystems of importance to encourage them to lobby for policy action.
  • Park visits, games, and bird counts.
  • Youth in tree growing activities – for reintroducing indigenous vegetation in parks and other important ecosystems.
  • Introducing alternative livelihoods in schools and communities adjacent to key ecosystems.
  • Teacher training programs examining the multiplier effect of Kenyans visiting national parks.
  • Art and essay competitions that encourage engagement, interest, and knowledge in conservation.

The Results

  • Over 500,000 students are involved in WCK activities.
  • Most people involved in conservation and tourism are members of the WCK.
  • Over 90% of the employees of Kenya Wildlife Service claim to have found their career path through WCK membership.
  • In 1973, WCK conducted a successful anti-poaching march which led to the ban of wildlife hunting.
  • WCK was elected to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Global 500 Honor Roll and declared as the most effective grass-roots program of its kind in Africa.
  • The WCK and its activities has been an inspiration for other countries such as Seychelles, Uganda, Tanzania, India, Botswana and Nigeria - who have formed similar organizations.

Insider Tip:

  • Free entry into the parks is an incentive which has encouraged membership growth and participation in conservation activities.
  • A good relationship with the Ministry of Education enables WCK to have activities in school.
  • Environmental education adds value to the school curriculum.
  • School-to-home knowledge transfer has ensured parents are supportive of WCK activities.

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