Environmental issues in Kenya

Loss of lions in Kenya blamed on policy

September 18th, 2009

Researchers from the Kenya Wildlife Service have reported that Kenya is losing about 100 lions each year, and that there are and now just 2,000 lions left in the country. Some observers, perhaps somewhat alarmist, have believe lions might be extinct in the next 10 to 20 years. The cause of the rapid decline of the country’s lion population is conflict with people. They are a threat to people’s lives and livelihoods, and locals retaliate by killing lions, often poisoning them with by a pesticide called Furadan. But this excellent article believes the root cause of these conflicts lies linked to Kenya’s wildlife conservation policies.

Although lions are costly to local communities and private landholders especially those who raise livestock, these renowned predators are very valuable economic assets.

Economists have estimated the value of a single male lion in Amboseli National Park in relation to tourism activities at over $500,000 during the course of the animal’s lifetime. More recent estimates suggest that Kenya’s remaining lions may be worth over $30 million annually.

Certainly, lions are a foundation of a national tourism industry that accounts for up to 10 per cent of Kenya’s GDP.

The fact that lions support flows of revenue and economic activity, yet are rapidly disappearing from Kenyan landscapes represents what economists call a ‘market failure’.

The marketplace, as currently structured, does not translate lions’ economic value into incentives for their production–hence their widespread decline.

At the root of this market failure is the reality that the beneficiaries of lions– mainly the government and private companies such as hotels, airlines, and safari outfitters–do not control the production or maintenance of lion populations.

Rather, the status of lion populations is effectively determined by the rural landholders and communities who live alongside lions.

Those landholders, however, are not the principal beneficiaries of the tourism industry and do not capture most of the revenue that lions generate. As a result, local people generally have incentives to exterminate lions rather than producing or conserving them.

More here

Kenya drought hits elephants hard

September 9th, 2009 The drought afflicting Kenya at present is having a serious effect on the country’s elephants, in addition to the Kenyan population, 3.8 million of whom are are at risk and need emergency food aid. Zoologist Iain Douglas-Hamilton, who founded Save the Elephants, said the drought is the worst he has seen in 12 years and poses a serious threat to the large and majestic animals. “”It may be related to climate change, and the effect is elephants, particularly the young and the old, have began to die”. Associated Press Elephants are not endangered in Kenya, which supports a population of 23,000, and fewer than 100 have died from the drought — but wildlife experts say they are concerned, and are hoping seasonal rains come this October and November. See also: Severe drought hits Kenya

Severe drought hits Kenya

September 5th, 2009 Very worrying article by John Vidal in The Guardian on the effects of continued drought in Kenya and East Africa as a whole “Droughts have affected millions in a vast area stretching across Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Chad, and into Burkina Faso and Mali, and tens of thousands of nomadic herders have had to give up their animals…The great unspoken fear among scientists and governments is that the present cycle of droughts continues and worsens, making the land uninhabitable.” Read The drought caused by three consecutive failed rainy seasons is unsurprisingly seriously affecting Kenya’s wildlife. The Kenya Wildlife Service is having to feed hippos to keep them alive.”In Tsavo West national park hippos are dying in large numbers, and other species are being forced to change their diet.” Wildlife is also coming under increasing strain from livestock encroaching on protected land as in a despearte search for grass by herders for their animals. See Hippos Hurt By Kenyan Drought

African wildlife news 2

August 20th, 2009

African Penguins under threat. Photo: Salimfadhley (Wikimedia commons)

  • The recent catastrophic decline in numbers of African penguins in the wild has raised alarm among conservationists. The bird are declining at all of their breeding sites. The penguins on Robben Island, South Africa, declined by 62 per cent between 2007 and 2008, leaving a mere 2,200 breeding pairs on the island, down from around 8,000 pairs in 2004
  • African village dogs are not a mixture of modern breeds but directly descended from an ancestral pool of indigenous dogs, according to a new genetic study of hundreds of semi-feral dogs. This means that village dogs from most African regions are genetically distinct from non-native breeds and mixed-breed dogs.
  • Pictures released by Conservation International depict a troubling development in Madagascar: the emergence of a commercial bushmeat market for lemurs
  • Six Botswana bushmen found guilty of hunting without a permit on their ancestral land have been set free with a caution, a lobby group says. Survival International said the “attempt by the Botswana government to punish Bushmen for hunting to feed their families has backfired”. BBC
  • 18 new invertebrate species have been described in South Africa, including spiders, snails, millipedes, earthworms and centipedes.
  • Lions face extinction in Kenya within the next 20 years unless urgent action is taken to save them. Every year the country is losing an average of 100 of its 2,000 lions due to growing human settlements, increasing farming, climate change and disease, according to the Kenya Wildlife Service.
  • Eco-Tourism activities have been suspended in Loango National Park, Gabon In 2002, late President Omar Bongo Ondimba put Gabon firmly on the map as an important future eco-tourism destination by nominating more than 11% of the nation’s territory as National Park to protect its vital rainforest and wildlife like the gorilla, chimpanzee and forest elephant. Seven years later, following the death of the President, a disagreement between the current interim government of Gabon and Société de Conservation et Développement (SCD SA) now prevents the country’s main eco-tourism partner Africa’s Eden from continuing its conservation-enabling activities in Loango National Park.

Mara River threatened

August 10th, 2009
Wildebeest migration crossing the Mara river por BrianScott.
Photo by Brian Scott (CCL)

The Mara River is famed for one of most spectacular wildlife events in the world, the crossing of hundreds thousands of wildebeest and other animals on their annual migration. But this year the river is drying up. Parts of the river which were as deep as five feet last year are today just narrow channels. It may be easier for the wildebeest to avoid the crocodiles waiting for them in the river, but the drying up of the Mari could  be a sign of a fast-approaching environmental disaster for Kenya and Tanzania. Further upstream, Kenya’s country’s great lakes are also at their lowest levels on record, threatening agriculture and the flower industry.

The cause of the River Mara’s drying, other rivers, and the general drought conditions, lies upstream in the Mau forest, the largest remaining forest in Kenya. The Mau forest functions as a water supply for the East African country, feeding rivers and helping to regulate rainfall. This year, however,  they have been alarming reports that the Mau forest eco-system is undergoing a relentless onslaught from illegal loggers and land-grabbing farmers, including large and small recipients of political patronage. The result is a devastating fragmentation of what environmentalists call an ecological utility whose services stretch from watering Kenya’s tea estates to feeding the rivers powering its hydroelectric plants, and regulating temperature and rainfall throughout an often arid land. Kenya, meanwhile, has systematically ignored warnings over the importance of conserving the Mau forest, despite being home to the headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme. The veteran Kenyan green campaigner and Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai believes the destruction of the Mau and other forests is possibly more damaging to the region than climate change.”Life is unsustainable in East Africa without these environmental services from forests,” she says. It could also seriously affect the Serengeti leading to the loss of tourism dollars. There is scientific agreement on the importance of restoring the Mau for both Kenya’s economy and environment, but vested interests have so far managed to block better protection.

More in The Independent

On the same story recently

  • Over 2,400 hippos in the Mara River are in danger because of a sharp drop in water levels. The water level, directly blamed on the Mau destruction, is said to be the lowest ever witnessed. All Africa
  • Mau reforestation drive gets boost (East African Business Daily) “East African Breweries Limited (EABL), Nation Media Group (NMG), Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Green Belt Movement, and Equity Bank have commissioned an initiative to raise Sh300 million over the next three years, which will be used in the restoration of Mau forest. The Save the Mau Fund aims at planting one million seedlings in the catchment area as well as mooting campaigns to raise awareness on reforestation.