On the 26th of September, the Conservation Alliance of Kenya hosted Dr. Joseph Ogutu, Dr. Mohammed Said and Mr. Ojwang’ for a round-table talk under the CAK series ‘Voices in Conservation’ to a public audience. The topics covered included:
- Trends of wildlife and historical changes in climate, and its implications for biodiversity,
- Climate projections and climate strategy for wildlife in Kenya,
- Implications for the future of biodiversity—Ngorongoro case study, and
- Reflections on the Kenya Wildlife Corridors & Dispersal areas report.
Dr. Ogutu, who led the first discussion, explained that trend analysis results presented were derived from the Directorate of Resource Surveys and Remote Sensing (DRSRS) data over the last 40 years and highlighted the changes in population sizes for wildlife and livestock from 1977–2016. The wildlife data from aerial counts accurately records species of about 15 kg (the size of a Thomson’s gazelle) and larger.
The study examined for each of the 21 rangeland counties representing 88 percent of Kenya’s land surface, the changes in percentage of the population size of 18 wildlife species and 4 livestock species and the total biomass in each county for livestock and for wildlife. Data on wildlife and livestock numbers and trends per county were presented. They also examined causal factors that can lead to wildlife declines.
The seminal study is published as an open access article via PLOS ONE entitled
Extreme Wildlife Declines and Concurrent Increase in Livestock Numbers in Kenya: What Are the Causes?
Significant findings from this long term and continuing investigation that were shared include:
- Wildlife numbers are on the decline and indeed fit a grim global phenomenon of population decline and species loss
- A general loss of habitat primarily through anthropogenic land use and land cover change is a key factor in the decline of species
- Of special note and concern is that the majority of the 18 most common wildlife species are in serious decline throughout all the 21 rangeland counties, including a sharp decline giraffe, zebra and impala.
- The trends show a decline in wildlife and livestock numbers in areas with high human population density (> 20 people/km2 for most species).
- There is a high increase of camels with the highest being in Laikipia at 5,000 individuals counted in 2011–2013 compared to about 29 individuals in 1977–1980.
- It is important to note that cattle numbers are declining while numbers of sheep and goats are increasing strikingly, likely at the expense of cattle.
Dr. Joseph O Ogutu presents findings of wildlife trends and significant population declines
Climate change is a global phenomenon already showing harmful impacts on local landscapes in Kenya. Dr. Mohammed presented an overview of the global picture with implications for Kenya’s rangeland resources, particularly his work on downscaled modeling of future scenarios on biodiversity effects. Some highlights include:
- Globally there are major temperature shifts, with projected overall increase in mean annual temperatures across Kenya
- Key wildlife areas such as Laikipia, Narok and Kajiado have evidence of increase in average monthly minimum temperatures
- A link has been revealed between increasing temperatures and wildlife declines in Kenya.
Dr. Said et. al’s presentation can be found here:
On rainfall projections, the team shared RCP (Representative Concentration Pathways) projections and Kenya rainfall changes to 2100. Dr. Mohammed and team predict that the shorter rainfall season—generally October to December—is becoming wetter and more important over time.
Dr. Mohammed Y Said speaking on the projections of a changing climate on biodiversity in Kenya
Kenya’s Wildlife Corridors: Mr. Gordon Ojwang’ of DRSRS talked on the important work accomplished on delineating national wildlife corridors. He drew linkages to the flagship project to secure wildlife corridors and dispersal areas that was undertaken as part of the Rapid Results Initiatives (RRI) of Vision 2030. The corridor Atlas was launched on 26th July by the CS of Environment and Natural Resources with the goal of defining Kenya’s Conservation Connectivity Framework. The report identifies 100 wildlife corridors in the Northern and Southern Kenya. Mr. Ojwang’ called on all actors to take the next step of establishing the Conservation Implementation Framework.
Discussions on the presentations highlighted the following:
- Land degradation is a major issue.
- Most of the identified corridors are historical corridors and there is need to verify their viability
- No effective integration between local governments in planning and this has resulted in parceling of land;
- The wildlife corridors of Kitengela are effectively beyond recovery. However Kitengela offers an important lesson for the Mara landscape that is facing the same fate, where many fences are currently being put up and are causing deaths of many wildlife, especially wildebeest and giraffe
- There is a crisis in the conservation and wildlife management career pipeline where there is a shortage of technical experts to analyze the volumes of available data, and generate actionable knowledge for policy and best practices from the national down to the local community level. This includes more formal and nuanced analysis required to understand drivers of species loss in different areas.
- Financing of research, conservation, restoration efforts needs to be locally based to make it sustainable
- Conservation practitioners need to look into trends of predators and how this is impacted by reducing prey base.
- There is lots of data generated over time; Kenya is ripe for a Biodiversity Informatics portal to consolidate key biodiversity data and information. The role of DRSRS needs to be profiled higher, including data quality assurance and credibility. Additionally, the VITAL Signs© project is in partnership with the Environment Ministry with the aim of addressing some of these concerns on access to environmental data.
- Restoration of degraded habitats is key as is spatial planning that incorporates critical spaces required for wildlife
- There is need to increase the benefits to communities through the entire Livestock value chain.
CAK committed to follow up on the key items below:
- Have a forum with media and environmental scientists to share the findings of this study and communicate the key messages. This will help them understand the context and be better equipped on reporting on Kenya’s wildlife
- Disseminate the report on wildlife trends and numbers to tertiary institutions with a view to get more relevant studies at MSc ad PhD that interrogate further these findings and undertake detailed assessments at county level.