Kenya's First Lady Margaret Kenyatta on Tuesday backed efforts by the country's conservationists to save elephants, urging people across Africa to stop ivory trade to save the wildlife.
Kenyatta also joined other wildlife conservationists in the ivory walk aimed at sensitizing Kenyans and the world to save elephants and other endangered species from extinction.
Speaking at Mount Kenya Academy in Nyeri before embarking on the walk, the First Lady blamed the continued poaching of elephants in Kenya and Africa on countries of the world and individuals who provide ready markets for Ivory.
"I want to appeal to buyers of ivory to consider ending the trade on tusks in order to discourage poaching and save elephants from distinction," Kenyatta said in central Kenya.
Wildlife conservationists said rising demand for ivory and rhino horn in Asia has caused a poaching crisis in recent years across Kenya in particular and Africa as a whole with over 1,000 rhinos having been killed on the continent in the last 18 months.
The poaching menace has brought renewed attention to a crisis that has persisted for decades -- the steady decline of Africa's wildlife due to growing human populations and poverty that has put agricultural communities at odds with wildlife for resources.
Conflict between land for wildlife and land for farmers and pastoralists in Kenya has also reached crisis level with rampant killing of lions and elephants among other types of important wildlife.
The First Lady who was accompanied by two members walked with conservationist Jim Nyamu who is the Director at Elephants Neighbor Center in a race to save elephants for four kilometers from Mount Kenya Academy to King'ong'o GK prison before flagging him off to complete his journey to Nairobi.
Nyamu is on the final phase of his two month walk from Maasai Mara to Nairobi to sensitize the Kenyan communities and the world on the need to save elephants from poachers.
She expressed pleasure at being part of the walk to conserve the Kenyan elephant and reminded the buyers that their continued trade on Ivory increased the demand for tusks and killing of elephants.
Kenyatta, who expressed her solidarity with elephant conservation initiatives, stressed the need for school children to join in the wildlife conservation campaign by composing songs, recitals and dances that discourage poaching in the country.
Kenya says it's at a point where it cannot allow further poaching of wildlife because the animal numbers have been reducing at an alarming rate.
Most recent statistics from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) indicate that the number of elephants for instance has reduced from a high of 160,000 in 1970s to below 30,000.
KWS said between the 1970s and 1980s Kenya lost over 80 per cent of her elephants, mainly due to intensive poaching of elephants for ivory.
The East African nation has also lost 21 rhinos and 117 elephants to poachers since the beginning of 2013. Out of these elephants, he said, 37 were killed in protected areas while 80 were outside protected areas.
Kenya lost 289 elephants to poaching in 2011 and another 384 elephants in 2012. Lion is also one of the most endangered animals not only in Kenya but across Africa.
Kenya has an estimated 1,800 lions, down from 2,800 in 2002. The country had 30,000 lions in the 1960s, KWS data reveals
Speaking during the occasion, KWS Director William Kibet Kiprono said the shrinking habitat, poaching and wildlife/human conflicts are the major challenges facing wildlife conservation in the country.
Kiprono pointed out that KWS was pushing for the passing of the new Wildlife Bill before parliament to provide for stiffer penalties for poachers.