By Charity Wanja

An environment assessment of the recently concluded global motorsport competition in  Kenya’s wilderness- World Rally Championship (WRC) Safari Rally- reveals that animals were not harmed during the competition.

The Safari Rally routes lied in areas where wildlife conservation, tourism and livestock production are the main forms of land use.These include Kedong, Oserengon, Loldia, Malewa, Soysambu, Longonot National Park and Hellsgate National Park and the Rally Service Park at Kenya Wildlife Research and Training Institute (KWRTI) which is used as a natural laboratory for the wild animals.

The KWRTI principal, Dr Patrick Omondi has assured that all wildlife and environment were protected during the three day WRC Safari Rally event which was held from June 24 to 27, 2021.

” We did a pre-survey of the routes, took all the mitigation measures mapped out all the animal routes, crossing areas and distribution pattern to ensure that no animal was injured before and during the Rally. I’m happy to report that no animal was injured like most had anticipated. Animals are also intelligent they will always avoid where human risk is high,” Dr. Omondi said.

“We made a decision to manipulate this habitat.Where we had opening, we planted grass, the grass that was not there before. Most of the bushes you see are invasive species like at the helipad, we planted palatable grass which the animals are enjoying.”

Dr. Patrick Omondi (middle -in a suit), Director KWRTI

Senior warden at Hells Gate Francis Muchiri, echoed that there was an elaborate line of defense put up from a multi agency team, which was comprised of Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) officers, National Police and the National Youth Service to ensure both the public and animal were safe.

” The animals were also protected from noise pollution to ensure that they do not get stressed during the Rally. They were about eight kilometers from the routes. KWS officers created the first line of defense to protect the animals who were a priority during the event, while the last line of defense was manned by field Marshalls who were in charge of garbage collection and sanitary stations.

” No foreign materials were used to reinforce the roads used for the Rally. The roads were reinforced using natural materials from the parks and conservancy,” said Muchiri.

Senior Warden at Hell’s gate, Francis Muchiri

Speaking on behalf of Soysambu Conservancy Tourism Officer and Administrative assistant at Soysambu Conservancy Elizabeth Monica Njeri, is happy with the number of tourist who have started streaming in the privately owned conservancy.

“Before the rally we used to get 50 – 100 foreign visitors but now after the rally where we hosted about 5,000 spectators more locals are visiting the conservancy. The rally marketed us well and they had an elaborate plan to clean up after the spectators and the event itself,” said Njeri.

The Fédération Internationale de L’Automobile (FIA) action for Environment seeks to develop and improve environmental sustainability across motoring and motor sport. Hence WRC Safari Rally Chief Environment Officer Dr Peris Njoroge added that they have already planted 700,000 indigenous trees as part of legacy of the 19 million trees they are targeting to plant.

” Apart from planting trees we have ensured that the waste that was generated during Safari Rally was carefully managed through separation and recycling of some of the waste. We also took samples of rivers before and after the rally to ensure that there’s no pollution. The flamingoes and other animal species at Lake Elementaita depend on a clean safe environment for them to thrive,” said Njoroge.

In the meantime the Government of Kenya made an agreement with FIA to hold the event in the country till 2026 to help boost the tourism industry and increase funds for animal conservation and research.