Wildlife of Kenya
Kenya is home to a total of 407 species of mammals, 1,103 birds, 261 reptiles, 63 amphibians and 314 birds and 6,506 known higher plants.
Before the Mau forestland rush, the dark- green rain forest was a showcase for the diversity of life. There was hardly a break in the canopy of giant trees, and virtually every acre was alive with all kinds of flora and fauna.
Then, in the mid-1980s came a horde of settlers, both legal and illegal, slashing and burning huge swathes of the forest to create land for farms and infrastructure. They came to enjoy a promised land, full of milk and honey, but in essence produced a trail of devastation.
Sadly enough, their action is replicated in other parts of the country. Economists might not see a problem with the galloping population increase, but with an additional one million new mouths to feed every year, environmentalists have all the reason to be worried.
“The country is losing its biodiversity at an alarming rate due to destruction of the natural resources and we have started to pay the price,” says Dr David Western, a former Kenya Wildlife Service Director.
In the last 40 years the Maasai Mara has lost almost 60 per cent of its large animals, including lions, elephants, buffaloes, leopards and rhinos, according to the United Nations Environmental Programme.
The rapid decline of wild cats is caused by prolonged drought and limited roaming areas. Human encroachment on parks was a major factor in the diminishing number of lions, cheetahs, hyenas and wild dogs.
The earlier study had monitored seven-hoofed species, ungulates, monthly between 1989 and 2003 in the 1,500-square kilometre Maasai Mara National Reserve and concluded that six species — giraffes, hartebeest, impala, warthogs, topis and waterbuck — had declined markedly.
The ILRI said the main reason for the decline is the encroachment of wildlife grazing areas by the local Maasai. “Some traditional farming cultures to the west and southwest of the Mara continue to hunt wildlife inside the reserve for food and profit,” said Dr Ogutu. The team also found an increase of permanent settlements by the Maasai, who for years have been nomadic.
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