By Judie Kaberia
The rate at which Kenya is losing its spectacular species of elephants and rhinos is worrying conservationists, even as the government plays down figures of the wildlife decimated.
In just three months Kenya has lost 51 elephants. KWS numbers place the elephant population at 38,000. On the last Friday of March, Kenya lost another rhino bringing the total number of rhinos killed in 2014 only, to 19. The country has only 1,039 rhinos alive today.
The country also continues to bemoan the colossal negative impact poaching has on tourism.
Despite the rate at which Kenya is losing the two animal species at the hands of poachers, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) feels it is not appropriate to classify poaching as a crisis yet.
On the other hand, Non-Governmental Organisations, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and other government organs have sharply differed and have termed poaching ‘a crisis.’
Capital FM News caught up with Elephant Neighbours Centre Executive Director Jim Nyamu who has been fighting to conserve elephants and rhinos for decades.
Nyamu feels that Kenya will lose its elephant and rhino population as people simply watch.
According to Nyamu (who commands 17 years of conservation experience) the mortality rate of elephants at the Tsavo National Park – the largest elephant ecosystem in the country – is at 4 percent whereas the growth rate is only at 2 percent.
Poaching in Kenya represents a vast gamut of destruction as it targets elephants and rhinos which are the most important animals classified under the ‘big five’ that are the crust of tourism in Kenya.
“We have seen our population decreasing with over 1,000 within three years. That means in a year a certain ecosystem is able to lose close to 600 elephants. We’re losing more elephants than we are getting new ones,” he asserts.
Nyamu recalls that keen interest in wildlife numbers began in 1979 when the country had 167,000 elephants with Tsavo alone being an ecosystem for 45,000 elephants.
In 1989, effects of poaching took a toll on the Kenya’s elephant population. Over 160,000 of the 167,000 elephants were wiped out leaving some 7,000 elephants.
The shocking statistics prompted the government to establish KWS which was borne out of the former Wildlife Game Management.
After inception of KWS under the leadership of Dr Richard Leakey, the number of elephants increased to 35,000 by 2011, according to Nyamu.
But the numbers started to decline again in 2013 according to the African Elephant Data Base which reported that there were only 26,400 elephants in the country (which differs from KWS figures). Video.