Remarks by U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Robert F. Godec Signing Ceremony for Wildlife Grants through The U.S. Department of State Bureau of INL

At the Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources

Hamjambo mabibi na mabwana.  Habari zenu.

Thank you and good afternoon.

Cabinet Secretary Wakhungu; Distinguished guests; Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is a pleasure to join you at this signing ceremony that underscores the U.S.-Kenyan partnership to help protect Kenya’s wildlife.  Wildlife conservation is a top priority for the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi and for me personally.  It is everyone’s responsibility.  Far too many elephants, rhinos, and other animals are dying at the hands of poachers.  And this senseless slaughter has ripple effects throughout society.

As President Barack Obama has said, wildlife trafficking is truly a cross-cutting issue that undermines security across nations.  Here in Kenya, poaching endangers this country’s natural heritage, but also jeopardizes jobs for the many Kenyans working in wildlife tourism.  Communities are caught in the crosshairs of violence.  Park rangers are killed.  For all these reasons, stopping poaching is critical to Kenya, to the region, and to the world.

In response to this problem, President Obama established a presidential task force that developed the U.S. National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking.  He spoke of this initiative at the recent U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit in Washington, a historic event that has deepened our partnerships with African nations, including Kenya.  At the Summit, American and African leaders held a dedicated session on combating wildlife trafficking, discussing the best practices and next steps.

The agreement we are signing today will enable us to provide a new set of innovative grants to support this critical effort.  In 2013, President Obama announced $10 million in U.S. government funding to support anti-poaching activities in Africa.  He pledged $3 million of that to Kenya specifically.  Teams from Washington and within the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi have since met with government officials and other key stakeholders throughout Kenya, conducting research and interviews to understand what is needed most to address the poaching crisis.  As a result, we have now defined three key areas of intervention that we, and our partners here in Kenya, believe will have the greatest impact on reducing poaching and insecurity.  They are: helping community conservancies build their protection mechanisms; strengthening Kenya’s investigations of wildlife trafficking crimes; and enhancing the judiciary’s ability to process wildlife trafficking cases in court.  The grants we will support, using the $3 million pledged by President Obama, will target these key goals.

Our grants will also build on proven successes here in Kenya.  Kenyans from conservancies to NGOs to the Kenya Wildlife Service are doing great, creative work.  In February, I visited Nasuulu Community Conservancy, a new member of the Northern Rangelands Trust conservancy network.  I saw firsthand an example of how community engagement, coupled with the tools of anti-poaching tradecraft, can protect wildlife while also building peace.  Our new programs will support training for rangers at community conservancies; they will equip investigators with essential skills to find the poachers responsible for these crimes; and they will help Kenya’s prosecutors and magistrates build up their arsenal of legal tools to bring organized criminal networks of poachers to justice.

As a bilateral partner of Kenya for the past 50 years, the United States is fully committed to working with Kenya on conservation.  Together, we can protect this nation’s wonderful wildlife.  Together, we can stop the violence and insecurity that poaching causes.  Together, we can end the scourge of wildlife trafficking.

I want to thank the Cabinet Secretary, the Ministry, the KWS, and others across the Government of Kenya for your collaboration with the Embassy in this endeavor.

Asanteni sana.