Coronavirus Update – Message from the Nature Kenya Executive Director

TO ALL OUR MEMBERS

Nature Kenya – the East Africa Natural History Society – management, staff and Executive Committee hope you all remain safe at this time of coronavirus danger.

In light of the Government of Kenya directives, following the confirmation of Covid-19 infections in the country, we regret to announce the following:

  1. The Membership office and shop is closed until Monday 4th May 2020 or further notice. Membership recruitment and renewal however continues. Those registering or renewing are encouraged to visit http://naturekenya.org/support/membership/ and use cashless payment options such as M-Pesa or credit/debit cards. Your membership cards will be processed and availed to you.
  2. The 110th Annual General Meeting initially scheduled for Wednesday, May 6th, 2020 has been postponed until further notice.
  3. The ‘Lungs for Kenya’ Charity Golf Tournament 2020 that was scheduled for Friday, March 27th at the Karen Country Club has been re-scheduled for Friday, October 2nd, 2020.
  4. Members will receive an electronic version of the Nature Net until further notice.
  5. All museum galleries remain closed until further notice.
  6. The EANHS library remains closed until further notice.
  7. The Wednesday Morning Birdwalks, other field trips and monthly talks have been suspended until further notice. You will be informed as soon as they resume.

Nature Kenya – the East Africa Natural History Society – will continue to update you on any further developments. For any clarification kindly contact us through telephone:

020 3537568, 0780 149200, 0751 624312, 0771 343138

or email: office@naturekenya.org

Threats remain to species and habitats, and conservation work must go on. Please continue to support Nature Kenya, and to observe and enjoy nature from wherever you are.

 

Dr. Paul Matiku,

Executive Director, Nature Kenya – the East Africa Natural History Society

Vulture conservation initiative spreads to Kajiado

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.

Nature Kenya is working with The Peregrine Fund, Kenya Birds of Prey Trust and BirdLife International to conserve African vultures.

Vulture flagship initiative launched

BirdLife International has rolled out a raft of measures to see a reduction of vulture mortality in Africa by 50 per cent by the year 2029. The declining number of vultures and the increasing number of vulture poisoning incidents in East Africa have pushed BirdLife International – a global partnership of conservation organisations that strives to conserve birds – to come up with stringent strategies that are aimed at reversing this downward trajectory.

Statistics from the organisation indicate that seven out of 15 African-Eurasian vulture species are at risk of extinction. The leading threat to vultures in East Africa is poisoning, both intentionally and unintentionally, accounting for 61 per cent of vulture mortality. Energy infrastructure is the next biggest threat, accounting for 9 per cent of recorded vulture mortality in Africa. Other factors driving vulture population declines include habitat degradation and decline in food availability, though vultures face numerous other human-induced threats.

BirdLife is in the process of developing and ratifying the Conservation of Migratory Species African-Eurasian Vulture Multi-species Action Plan (MsAP). Once the MsAP is in place, BirdLife will be collaborating its partners like Nature Kenya in implementing a Rapid Poison Response Mechanism (RRM) to ensure quick, coordinated and effective response to vulture poisoning incidents. They are also working to strategically establish Vulture Safe Zones (VSZs) and expand existing safe zone areas in East and Southern Africa by 2025.

BirdLife is seeking policy intervention at national, regional and international levels for vulture protection. The organisation is forecasting that these collaborations will ease the enactment and implementation of national vulture protection policies and legislations, including mainstreaming RRM and VSZs in at least five African countries in the next five years.

An online vulture conservation communication campaign has been rolled out on social media using the hash tags #Impact4Vultures #ProtectAfricasVultures. The main aim is raise awareness among the public on the importance of vultures to the ecosystem and the need to conserve them.

11,000 scientists warn of ‘untold suffering’ caused by climate change

“The scientists point to six areas in which humanity should take immediate steps to slow down the effects of a warming planet:

  1. Energy. Implement massive conservation practices; replace fossil fuels with low-carbon renewables; leave remaining stocks of fossil fuels in the ground; eliminate subsidies to fossil fuel companies; and impose carbon fees that are high enough to restrain the use of fossil fuels.
  2. Short-lived pollutants. Swiftly cut emissions of methane, soot, hydrofluorocarbons and other short-lived climate pollutants; doing so has the potential to reduce the short-term warming trend by more than 50% over the next few decades.
  3. Nature. Restore and protect ecosystems such as forests, grasslands, peatlands, wetlands and mangroves, and allow a larger share of these ecosystems to reach their ecological potential for sequestering atmospheric carbon dioxide, a key greenhouse gas.
  4. Food. Eat more plants and consume fewer animal products. The dietary shift would significantly reduce emissions of methane and other greenhouse gases and free up agricultural lands for growing human food rather than livestock feed. Reducing food waste is also critical – the scientists say at least one-third of all food produced ends up as garbage.
  5. Economy. Convert the economy to one that is carbon free to address human dependence on the biosphere and shift goals away from the growth of gross domestic product and the pursuit of affluence. Curb exploitation of ecosystems to maintain long-term biosphere sustainability.
  6. Population. Stabilize a global human population that is increasing by more than 200,000 people a day, using approaches that ensure social and economic justice.”

“Mitigating and adapting to climate change while honoring the diversity of humans entails major transformations in the ways our global society functions and interacts with natural ecosystems,” the paper states. “We are encouraged by a recent surge of concern. Governmental bodies are making climate emergency declarations. Schoolchildren are striking. Ecocide lawsuits are proceeding in the courts. Grassroots citizen movements are demanding change, and many countries, states and provinces, cities, and businesses are responding. As an Alliance of World Scientists, we stand ready to assist decision makers in a just transition to a sustainable and equitable future.”

Read if it you haven’t, hear in open-access format at BioScience:  https://academic.oup.com/…/d…/10.1093/biosci/biz088/5610806…

 

Promoting climate resilience in Taita

Communities across Kenya are not only feeling the presence of climate variability and change but also its impacts. Climate change has resulted in prolonged drought, and high incidence of pests and diseases, affecting livestock and crop production negatively. This year the ‘long rains’ were late and short while the ‘short rains’ were long and heavy. Through the ‘People Partner with Nature’ program, Nature Kenya has been supporting initiatives aimed at helping communities in Taita and Kilifi counties adapt to climate change through participatory forest and natural resource management.

 

In Taita Hills, community members are employing various adaptation strategies to counter the effects of climate change. Climate-smart agriculture is one such approach. It refers to agricultural practices geared at sustainably increasing productivity, building resilience to climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Climate-smart agriculture includes the integration of tree planting with crop and livestock production as a package. Six self-help groups affiliated to Dawida Biodiversity Conservation Group (DaBiCo), the Taita Hills forests’ site support group, have embraced this approach.  The groups are Ndiwenyi Community Unit, Ngangao Farmers Group, Mwavunyu Chakiloli, Iyale Angamiza, Wuchichi Self Help Group and Mghange Dawida Mazingira.

 

The groups have established kitchen gardens on which they grow high-value crops. These include vegetables like cabbages, tomatoes, capsicum, courgette, black nightshade – locally known as managu – and onions. Vegetables are preferred because they are fast-growing and yield good returns. One benefit of the kitchen garden model is that it utilizes space efficiently, maximizing productivity.

The communities use hybrid seeds, organic manure and drip irrigation technologies to further enhance crop production. Planting of fruit and fodder trees is another practice being promoted under the climate-smart agriculture approach. The trees planted on farms also provide building materials and fuel wood. Other practices include application of soil and water conservation techniques and use of crop residue as livestock feed.  These practices improve soil moisture and organic matter retention and mitigate the risk of erosion.

The Taita Hills comprise two main mountain massifs, Mbololo and Dawida, rising from the dryland below. The forests that remain on the hilltops are extensively fragmented. Taita Hills forests are part of the Eastern Arc mountains, one of 34 global biodiversity hotspots, and are ranked as one of Kenya’s Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs). Two Critically Endangered birds are only found in these forest remnants: Taita Thrush and Taita Apalis. Severe fragmentation, isolation and decline in quality and extent of indigenous forest cover in Taita Hills pose major threats which affect the breeding success and survival of the two bird species. Helping the community to conserve the forests is therefore vitally important.

The ‘People Partner with Nature’ program is supporting communities living adjacent to the Taita Hills forests to engage in income-generating activities, such as butterfly farming, beekeeping, eco-tourism, climate-smart agriculture, among others, that reduce pressure on the environment. The program is being implemented in partnership with DOF (BirdLife in Denmark) with financial support from DANIDA/CISU. The overall objective of the program is to ‘reduce the destruction of forested KBAs and contribute to the realization of best participatory forest management practices for the benefit of all.’ This program is also running in Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and Dakatcha Woodland in Kilifi county.