Kenya asks celebrities to save its endangered wildlife

Kenyan conservationists ask celebrities to adopt local endangered animals in order to provide much-needed wildlife preservation funding.

Roberto Schmidt/AFP
World and Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt holds a cheetah cub at the headquarters of the Kenyan Wildlife Service in Nairobi on November 2, 2009. The triple Olympic and world sprint champion in both the 100 and 200 metres events arrived in the land of long-distance running on October 30, ahead of the launch of an environmental charity campaign to preserve local ecosystems. The cub was named Lightning Bolt.

• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

As part of an effort to help protect Kenya’s endangered species, celebrities and others of international renown are being urged to adopt wild animals when they visit.

Last fall, Jamaican sprinter and 100-meters world record-holder Usain Bolt was the first international star to adopt an orphaned animal. Mr. Bolt adopted a 3-month-old male cheetah cub nicknamed Lightning Bolt. He paid $13,700 to formally adopt the cub, and will also pay $3,000 a year to care for him. Lightning Bolt will be raised at an animal orphanage in Nairobi. The money will go to the Kenya Wildlife Service, and some will be used to protect other endangered species in Kenya, says director Julius Kipngetich.

Bolt was joined on the trip by Colin Jackson, a former 110-meter hurdles Olympic champion who adopted a 2-year-old eland, the largest of the antelope species.

Locally, Prime Minister Raila Odinga has adopted a 9-month-old lion renamed “Agwambo,” which means “lion” in Mr. Odinga’s native Luo.

Animals up for adoption are usually those that have been abandoned by their parents or rescued from poachers. Many of Kenya’s wild animals are under threat from illegal hunting, drought, changing land use, and pressure from human encroachment.

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