Marsabit National Park is expecting a major facelift after the French Ambassador to Kenya, H.E. Etienne de Poncins, announced the new plan for Marsabit over the weekend during a 2-day tour of Meru National Park projects that France has been funding with great success.

Back in the 1980s and 90s, Meru National Park was at the height of its fame and success. Known for its richness in wildlife the park was to suffer a heavy blow in visitor number because of the high incidences of banditry and poaching witnessed.

Today, it is beginning a journey of self-healing through concerted efforts by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to re-position it as a high-end tourist attraction through funding by the French Development Agency (AFD) and other partners.

The park has since shown remarkable improvements in tourism facilities, staff welfare, wildlife protection, visitor experience and infrastructural development as a result.

A total of 71 elephants, 1,376 Burchells zebra, 24 Grevy’s zebra, 64 reticulated giraffes, 15 leopards, 54 rhinos and 1,427 impalas have been brought into the park to improve biodiversity and enhance the visitor experience. The rhino population has shown impressive growth necessitating the expansion of the rhino sanctuary from 48 KM2 to 84 KM2.

The investment has also seen improved park management relations with the local community, reduced wildlife conflict incidents and better cooperation with the public and other law enforcement agencies in curbing poaching.

KWS is optimistic a similar initiative at the Marsabit National Park, well-known as the home of the famous jumbo Elephant, Ahmed, will have the same impact. Ahmed, also known as the King of Marsabit was a unique tusker who possessed enormous tusks such that in 1970, in order to protect him from poachers, the late president of Jomo Kenyatta, placed him under his protection by presidential decree.

Marsabit National Park is experiencing a problem of a different kind from the one Meru had though. Besides hosting critical wildlife, Marsabit has an endangered forest that neighbouring communities rely on for their livelihoods, water, wood fuel and timber, among others.

With the completion of the Isiolo-Moyale highway, the forest is likely to face even greater pressure. Preliminary studies are being conducted to determine the funding needs of the Marsabit project.