NAIROBI (January 11, 2005) – Kenya has amended its 28-year old ban on big-game hunting to allow limited sport hunting on private land, as well as the killing of problem animals that stray onto ranches and farms.

The move drew immediate criticism from conservation groups in the country, who said it threatened both wildlife and the tourism industry, which depends heavily on game-viewing. Critics accused the government of “sneaking” the changes through parliament on behalf of farmers, and said the move could “spell the doom” of wildlife in Kenya.

Hunting was banned in Kenya in 1977 by the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, largely at the urging of international animal-welfare groups. Since then, populations of game animals outside national parks has plummeted, at the same time as animals on private land have become a growing problem. The new law would allow landowners to control their own game populations, and also sell trophy hunts on a limited basis.

Days after the law was changed, a new head was appointed for the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), a government body formed in 1989 at the height of the elephant poaching crisis. Since then, the KWS has been wracked with controversy, and has seen three directors fired within the last ten years.

The new head of KWS is Julius Kangogo, 38. He replaces Evans Mukolwe, who was suspended in late 2004 amid accusations of graft in the department’s recruiting.