Nature Kenya has been pushing the vulture conservation agenda in many ways with the hope of seeing vultures flying freely in Kenyan skies.As part of achieving this goal, Nature Kenya in 2019 expanded its vulture conservation activities to the Amboseli and Kwenia regions in Kajiado county.
Amboseli presents its unique set of challenges not experienced in Maasai Mara where the vulture conservation programme was initiated. For starters, Amboseli is a national park under the jurisdiction of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). Areas bordering the park are considered human-wildlife conflict hotspots. Community conservancies in that area lie on vast tracts of land which cannot be fenced off as this will interfere with wildlife migration corridors. Owing to this, wild animals freely roam in and out of the conservancies into neighbouring villages, sparking off human-wildlife conflicts. Cases of wildlife poisoning are rife in these areas.
To achieve its vulture conservation goal, Nature Kenya has resolved to engage community members living near or within the conservancies in the implementation of its strategies. Mosiro in Kajiado north and Kwenia-Kaputei in the southern part are the target areas.
Nature Kenya has enlisted volunteers from local communities to engage in vulture conservation work. The idea to recruit community volunteers was informed by the fact that they were better placed to respond to wildlife poisoning incidents within their localities. Serving as the bridge between local communities and Nature Kenya, the volunteers are also engaged in awareness creation.
“Recruiting volunteers and training them isa novel idea as it engages people who are at the heart of the wildlife poisoning crisisin coming up with a solution,” says Paul Gacheru, Nature Kenya’s Sites and Species Manager.
Nature Kenya has recruited 34vulture volunteers who are distributed in Kajiado North, Kajiado Central and Kajiado South. The volunteers work under the supervision of the two Vulture Liaison Officers who are based in Kimana and Kajiado town.
Before being dispatched to the ground the volunteers were taken through a two-day training on awareness creation, communication techniques, response to poisoning and vulture monitoring techniques.
The first big assignment for this group, which also tested the effectiveness of this approach, came in January 2020 where four White-backedVultures died after consuming a poisoned cow carcass at Oldonyo Sampu in Kaputei area. The volunteers informed relevant authorities of the incident and were actively involved in the search for other affected vultures.The second incident was reported in the last week of January in Ilmarba village, Amboseli, where 17 White-backed Vultures died after feeding on a poisoned calf. Luckily, one vulture was rescued and rehabilitated due to the quick response and collaboration between the volunteers the ranches.
To enhance their efficiency, the cohort has been equipped with field essentials such as smart-phones and a pair of binoculars.The volunteers also collect monthly data on human-wildlife conflict incidents and vulture sightings.
Working closely with the Vulture Liaison Officers and the local administration, the vulture volunteers are conducting community awareness market outreaches, Barazas and Manyatta meetings, educating the public on the dangers of wildlife poisoning and its impact on vultures. The public is also being urged to support vulture conservation activities.