Conservation of the archaeological heritage in Kenya's National Parks: a critique of policy and practice in the Tsavo
Busaka, Benard Mahagwa
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The study focused on the conservation of the archeological heritage in Tsavo National Park. Archeological sites in Kenya's National Parks have not been managed as an integral part of the country's historical heritage. However, there have been many efforts directed towards conservation of animal and plant species within the National Parks at the expense of cultural resources in the parks. The study, therefore, examined issues related to cultural resource management in Kenya's National Parks. The assumption is that both plant and animal species and archeological sites are part of the country's heritage and, therefore deserve to be protected. The broad objective of the study was to conduct archeological survey in Tsavo National Park, assess conditions of archeological sites, determine possible threats and examine the management policies relating to them. The study set out to achieve four specific objectives, based on three research premises. To achieve the first objective on physical and contextual conditions of sites, ground survey was conducted with assistance of Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) staff to physically locate archeological sites in the park. I also used the site inventories at National Museums of Kenya to obtain samples of sites for study. Sample materials were also collected from the sites to establish the ages and significance of the sites. Conditions of sites were assessed to ascertain threats to the sites. To achieve this, observation of sample sites was carried out to get detailed description of geo-physical and contextual conditions of the sites. Checklists were also used to assess different forms of threats to the archeological heritage. Two Acts were analyzed, the Antiquities and Monuments Acts which aims at conserving archeological sites in the country, and the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act which governs National Parks. Interviews were also held with both NMK and KWS staff on the enforcement of the two acts. The findings revealed a high density of sites in low elevation areas of Tsavo East along River Athi (Sabaki). The finding also show that Middle Stone Age sites from the largest proportion of the sites found in the park followed by Iron Age sites. The study further established that there are many threats to the integrity of sites. Such threats include tourist activities, trampling by wild game, physical constructions and natural agents. Analysis of the KWS Act and NMK Act, revealed that the two Acts conflict on many issues. For example, the two Acts and have different goals and the KWS Acts precedence over the NMK Act in the park. With regard to threats to the sites, a number of conservation measures have been suggested towards conservation of the archeological heritage in protected areas. Among these are the need for adopting a multi-disciplinary approach involving experts from different disciplines, revising the current legislation, the NMK Act, conducting Archeological Impact Assessment (AIA) before carrying out development projects, creating and up-dating site inventories from time to time and lastly carrying out salvage excavations for the sites that are threatened by destruction. Several recommendations were suggested to minimize threat to the archeological heritage in the park. These include creating archeological reserves in the park (Zoning), setting up site museums, training personnel in cultural resource management, adoption of private and public initiatives in conservation of the heritage and the KWS and NMK to play complementary roles.