By Gilbert Koech
Human encroachment on wildlife territories has become the most serious threat to animals, Kenya Wildlife Service says.Other emerging challenges are the government’s Vision 2030 projects in agriculture, roads and energy that aimed to transform Kenya into a middle income economy before the rebasing.
Speaking recently during the wildlife sector NGOs sensitisation forum at the KWS headquarters, director general William Kiprono said 40 percent of the original wildlife space is gone.
He said KWS is now engaging with the government to get more space.“We do not need to fight these projects as they are for the benefit of this nation. We need to engage on how we can get more land for our wildlife,” Kiprono said.
He lauded former minister John Keen for donating 100 acres for wildlife by signing Kenya’s first voluntary easement deal. Easement means the right to cross or otherwise use someone else’s land for a specified purpose.
Keen’s land is adjacent to Nairobi National Park and the deal adds over 100 hectares of habitat to the park.Nairobi National Park, one of Kenya’s most visited, is dependent on open lands to the south for wildlife movement, habitat and dispersal.
But most of these private lands have been encroached on through sale, conversion and habitat fragmentation, putting the entire park at risk.
Currently, the southern bypass road aimed at de-congesting the city has been proposed to cut through the park, a move activists oppose.
Wildlife Conservation Director Stephen Manegene says a land use policy will be developed, and followed by spatial policy.Manegene adds that wildlife corridors have been identified and mapped to avoid disruption of wildlife movements as huge projects are being put up.
As population and developments spring up, conflict between wildlife and humans have also increased as each competes for survival.Kiprono said the service will seek strong partnerships with NGOs and the public to create public awareness on conservation.
According to a latest report by the World Wildlife Fund, Living Planet Index, habitat loss has contributed to a decline of 52 per cent of wildlife since 1970s across the world.Living Planet Report 2014 says the trend will bring “serious consequences if earth’s resources mismanagement is not checked”.
“We are using more resources than our planet can continue to provide. We are cutting down trees more quickly than they can regrow, harvesting more fish than the oceans can restock, pumping water from our rivers and aquifers faster than rainfall can replenish them, and emitting more carbon than the oceans and forests can absorb,” part of the report says.
The report classifies lions as threatened.“Endangered” species are those in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range while “threatened” are species likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future.
KWS deputy director Patrick Omondi said Kenya has about 2,000 lions, representing 10 per cent of world’s population.The decline in numbers is blamed on destruction of habitat.
A senior KWS warden, Tuqa Jirmo, said climate change has also led to shortage of wild prey forcing carnivores to prey on livestock and as a result, humans retaliate by killing them.
Recently, Maasai herders killed six lions when they attacked their livestock.“The rate at which carnivores prey on livestock has increased and humans in turn retaliate. Livestock have found their way into wildlife areas leading to conflict,” Jirmo said.
The warden, a current PhD student on lions, said the long cycles of drought as a result of climate change has seen ecosystem recovery take long, further compounding the already dire situation.
He was speaking at the KWS headquarters during the eighth annual carnivore researchers and conservation conference that brought together carnivore researchers, conservation managers, community members and students.
Omondi said the yearly conference ensures that carnivores are not only effectively conserved and managed, but also human carnivore conflict is reduced.
In a speech read on his behalf by Dr Francis Gakuya, head of veterinary services, Omondi said the service will evaluate the progress made in the implementation of national carnivore conservation strategies.
“Scientific findings decimated will be used by KWS management to make informed conservation decisions and aid in assessing the state of carnivores in the country,” Omondi said.
The assistant director of species management, Dr Charles Musyoki, said the service is concerned with high rate of wildlife poisoning in some parts of the country.
Musyoki urged conservationists to report incidences of carnivore poisoning to KWS officers for follow-ups to be made.