Nature Kenya alerts Parliament to Energy clause that threatens rivers, parks, forests and all Government land

Nature Kenya appeared before the National Assembly’s Departmental Committee on Energy to present recommendations on the Petroleum Exploration, Development and Production Bill, 2017 and the Energy Bill 2018.

Section 107 (1) of the Petroleum Bill 2017 states: “For the purpose of the production and transportation of upstream petroleum, a contractor may erect, fix, install or lay any oil or gas pipelines, other infrastructure or apparatus in, through, upon, under, over or across any public street, road, railway, tramway, river, canal, harbour or national government property in the manner and on the conditions as provided in this Act.”

Section 206 (1) of the Energy Bill 2018 states: “For the purpose of the production , conveyance and supply of energy, a licensee may erect , fix, install or lay any electric supp ly lines , oil or gas pipelines , other infrastructure or apparatus in, through, upon , under , over or across any public Stree t, road , railway , tramway, river, canal, harbour or Government property, including forests , National parks, reserves and heritage sites, in the manner and on the conditions as provided in this Act.”

These two sections appear to give oil companies a free hand to build oil wells or pipelines on any piece of public land, including those that should be protected for the national good.

“The current versions of the Bills allows oil and gas wells and pipelines to be built on any national government property. National government property of course includes national parks, forest reserves, national monuments and heritage sites,” Nature Kenya executive director Dr. Paul Matiku told the committee during the Bills’ public hearing.

Infrastructure builders prefer to build on government property, because it is less expensive to acquire. And yet most government properties are our most valuable assets. These include national parks, the nucleus of our tourism industry, an important provider of jobs and income; national forests that protect our climate, water and genetic resources; and national monuments that honour our cultural history.

Nature Kenya appealed to Parliament to amend the Bills to safeguard national parks, forest reserves, national monuments and cultural sites.

“Allowing unfettered access by petroleum companies to these critical sites is a dangerous move,” Dr. Matiku said.

Golfers play to raise funds for Mt. Kenya forest restoration

The 2018 edition of “Lungs for Kenya” charity golf tournament brought together 124 golfers to raise money for a good cause: restoration of Mt. Kenya forest, Kenya’s largest water tower. The event, which took place on 23 March 2018 at the Karen Country Club, raised 2.5 million shillings to plant trees in Mt. Kenya.

Unlike previous editions, this year’s tournament was a full day event. The tournament comprised of two tee-off times: in the morning and at noon.

Vivo Energy Kenya was the tournament’s main sponsors for the sixth year running. Speaking during the presentation of trophies Vivo Energy Kenya managing director Joe Muganda announced that his company would sponsor the event in 2019.

“We will sponsor the event next year and possibly see if we can do a little bit more,” said Mr. Muganda.

Other sponsors included Ned Bank, NIC Capital, Lake Turkana Wind Power, Commercial Bank of Africa, Knight Frank, Syngenta, Williamson Tea, REA Vipingo, Prime Bank, Delta Airlines, DT Dobie, Platinum Credit, SGA Security, Water Sector Trust Fund and GlaxoSmithKline. Air Kenya, Angama Mara, Safarilink, Loisaba Conservancy, Hemingways Watamu, Silverstone Air, Andrew Kamiti and Peter Blackwell donated auction items. Karen Country Club, Matbronze Wildlife Art, Serena Hotels, Island Camp Lake Baringo, Salma Watt, Daphne Butler and Alex Duncanson donated raffle prizes. Farmer’s Choice supported in providing lunch for the golfers while Coca Cola provided drinking water.

Nature Kenya Executive Director Dr. Paul Matiku thanked sponsors for supporting the tournament urging them to help Nature Kenya reach out to more corporates. Dr. Matiku also thanked golfers for turning out in numbers for the tournament.

Jane Wambui emerged overall winner while Eunice Koome and Peter Kiguru were the lady winner and man winners respectively. The team title went to the Nedbank team comprising of Jaap van Luijk, Raymond Nyamweya, Vincent Rague and Mbuvi Ngunze.

This was the sixth consecutive year the charity golf tournament was running under the “Lungs for Kenya” banner. Nature Kenya’s “Lungs for Kenya” initiative seeks to engage local communities to plant trees to restore Kenya’s degraded forests. Among the sites that have benefited from the initiative are the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, Taita Hills forests, Dakatcha Woodland and Mt. Kenya forest.

Nature Kenya would like to thank all sponsors who generously contributed towards making the event a success. We would also like to thank the Tournament Director Mr. Alexander Duncanson and the organizing committee, all of our members, special guests and partners who found time to participate in this year’s tournament.

Nature Net April 2018 FINAL WEB -3

NEW GUEST HOUSE IN DAKATCHA WOODLAND

Dakatcha Woodland Important Bird Area north of Malindi is at its best at this season. Thanks to March rains, the trees are brilliantly green with new leaves, many of them flowering. Most of the shrubs are in bloom, some are in fruit. Migratory birds are passing through, and Clarke’s Weavers – birds found only in Kilifi County – are checking out the seasonal wetlands as potential breeding sites.

Now there is a new guest house to stay in, overlooking a great nyari or depression and a sweeping view of Dakatcha woodland forest. This is the Bore Community Forest Centre.

Bore Community Forest Centre is about ten kilometres past Marafa off the Malindi-Baricho Road. It is owned by the community, and has just been officially opened. It has a large traditional central banda where you can view the sunrise or sit in the shade in the heat of the day.

Accommodation offered are basic rooms with one or two single beds in another large new banda. The showers and toilets are currently in the next building nearby. Bring your own food and the staff will cook it. Solar panels provide electrcity and you can charge your phone and use the Bore wifi.

The special introductory offer is Ksh.1,000 per person per night, bed and breakfast.

For more information or to book accommodation, contact Alex Katana of Green Umbrella,

E-mail: alex.katana2013@gmail.com

Mobile: 0728-526449

What’s app: 0711-424635

To book an experienced local bird guide, contact Julio Mwambire of Hell’s Kitchen, Marafa

E-mail: juliohellskitchen2@gmail.com

Mobile: 0725-082464

Vultures still poisoned in the Mara!

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One early evening in February, an alarm was raised of a poisoned vulture at the Paradise Plains in the Mara National Reserve. Stratton Hatfield, a researcher with the Mara Martial Eagle Project, noted that the White-backed Vulture displayed symptoms of poisoning and made a call for action to help save the bird. With the help of the Kenya Wildlife Service veterinary officer, the bird was moved and placed on a treatment program.

The manner in which this news spread was startling: a social platform has been formed called “Mara Poisoning Response”. This platform helps engage people, including rangers, vets, researchers, wardens and managers, to get updates of any other casualties and share information of any other poisoning events in the Mara.

Poisoning accounts for over 60% of recorded vulture deaths in Africa.  In most cases, this happens when predators kill livestock and herders poison the carcass to kill the predators.  Poachers also poison vultures.  Over the past two years, Nature Kenya, BirdLife International, The Peregrine Fund and other conservation stakeholders have been championing and raising awareness on the plight of vultures. It is clearly evident that these efforts are yielding positive results, based on the kind of attention and response the current poisoning event attracted.

Rangers from the conservancies and the Mara Reserve have been mobilized to enhance patrols, especially around thickets and riverbeds since sick vultures seek darkness and shade and also tend to feel thirsty.  From the thorough patrols being conducted, a number of other White-backed Vulture casualties have since been reported: 3 at Naboisho, 3 at Ol kinyei, 1 at Double crossing and we ended up losing the one that had been rescued at Paradise Plains.

At the same time, six lions and 74 vultures were found dead near a national park in southern Tanzania after they were allegedly poisoned.

Timely response to poisoning incidents can significantly reduce resultant wildlife deaths and environmental contamination. In future, we need to have the necessary equipment and machinery in place to facilitate timely response and minimize casualties.

Lake Ol’ Bolossat now protected!

An aerial view of Lake Ol Bolossat. PHOTO: A. WAMITI
An aerial view of Lake Ol Bolossat. PHOTO: A. WAMITI

Lake Ol’ Bolossat, an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area, is now formally a protected area. This follows the recent gazettement of the lake as a Wetland Protected Area. The immediate former Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources, Prof. Judi Wakhungu, made the announcement during this year’s World Wetlands Day on the shores of the lake in Nyandarua County.

The Wildlife Conservation and Management (Protected Wetlands) Regulations of 2015 give the Cabinet Secretary powers to declare a wetland, through a notice in the Kenya Gazette, an important habitat or ecosystem for wildlife conservation upon the recommendation of the Kenya Wildlife Service in consultation with the National Land Commission. The gazette notice will make it clear whether Lake Ol’ Bolossat will be managed as a fully or partially protected wetland or will be subject to conservation by the local community.
Following the declaration, National Lands Commission chairman Mohammed Swazuri, who was also in attendance, said all title deeds for the land stood dissolved. Swazuri noted that according to Sections 10, 11 and 12 of Lands Act 2012, the issuance of a gazette notice means the title deed of the land in question and any others prior to the notice ceases.

Lake Ol’ Bolossat is the only lake in central Kenya. The lake forms the headwaters for the Ewaso Nyiro River, which supports the livelihoods of communities, livestock and wildlife in the dry Laikipia, Samburu, Isiolo and Garissa Counties. Despite its small size (43.3km2) the freshwater lake is known for its rich biodiversity that include hippos and over 300 bird species (both residents and migrants). The lake lies within the central tourism circuit, and supplies Nyahururu town with water. The Ewaso Nyiro River supports the thriving wildlife tourism in Buffalo Springs, Shaba National Reserve, and Lorian swamp in Wajir, where the river goes underground, to re-emerge in Somalia where it joins the Jubba River.

Over the years, Lake Ol’ Bolossat has been experiencing massive shrinking as a result of human activity. In the last one decade, the lake’s  water surface area has gone from about 10,000 hectares to 3,000 hectares, escalating human-wildlife conflict as wild animals, particularly hippos, lose their habitat. As an unprotected wetland, the lake has been battling numerous challenges and threats including water abstraction, overgrazing, human encroachment, deforestation of catchment areas and siltation.

It is hoped that the gazettement will provide the crucial legal framework to guide the conservation of the lake. Nature Kenya has been actively engaged in advocacy and awareness creation activities to help the lake attain legal protection and conservation.

 

Balancing Conservation and Development in Yala Swamp

 

February 2 every year is World Wetlands Day. It marks the date the Convention on Wetlands was adopted in 1971 at the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea. The day is used to raise public awareness about the importance and value of wetlands. Wetlands cover about six per cent of the world’s surface. They provide a range of environmental services, including water filtration and storage, erosion control, a buffer against flooding, nutrient recycling, biodiversity maintenance, carbon storage and a nursery for fisheries among other benefits. Unfortunately, up to 60 per cent of global wetlands have been destroyed in the past 100 years as people search for land to settle on, farm and establish other types of investments.

In Kenya, Yala Swamp is one of the wetlands of great importance. The swamp is the country’s largest freshwater swamp and is crutial to Lake Victoria’s survival. It’s Kenya’s largest papyrus wetland, acting as a filter for rivers flowing into Lake Victoria. And it’s an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) for its large flocks of birds and species restricted to papyrus swamps.

Nature Kenya, in collaboration with partners including the national government, County Governments of Siaya and Busia, non-government organizations and local communities (through the Yala Ecosystem Site Support Group), has been working to put Yala Swamp on a sustainable footing. Three years after the initiation of a project titled “Balancing development and conservation in Kenya’s largest freshwater papyrus wetland in Yala Swamp” the gains are quite evident. Here are some of the achievements

  1. Stakeholders conducted an ecosystem services assessment of Yala Swamp in a highly consultative manner and published a report. The report provides a business case for Yala Swamp, and gives evidence that the conservation of significant areas of Yala swamp is crucially important for the sustenance of ecosystem services that support the economy, biodiversity and livelihoods.
  2. The Siaya and Busia County governments, through Nature Kenya facilitation, have formulated a Land Use Plan (LUP) for the Yala Swamp informed by a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). The Yala Swamp land use plan is a negotiated document which provides a framework on how land within the swamp and the surrounding areas will be used. The LUP/SEA process is at an advanced stage and  is based on the findings of an Ecosystem Services Assessment.
  3. Criteria have been formulated for selection of community conserved areas (CCAs) within Yala Swamp to safeguard crucial wildlife habitats that maintain and stabilize populations of key wetland species. This was done as part of the ongoing land use planning process. Using these criteria, community conserved areas (CCAs) with a total acreage of 8,404ha were selected. Within the CCAs, 443.8ha were identified as degraded areas, out of which 300ha have been restored through papyrus planting. A management plan for the CCAs is under development.
  4. Upstream of Yala Swamp, 14 Community Based Organizations (CBOs) were trained in principles of tree nursery establishment through partnership with the Kenya Forest Service. As a result, farmers have raised more than 186,293 indigenous tree seedlings in nurseries; collected 33,386 wildings; and grown 1,200 bamboo seedlings. Some 70,500 seedlings have been planted in the River Yala riparian area (175.41ha already rehabilitated) and 34,586 seedlings used to establish own farm woodlots.
  5. Energy saving stoves have been installed in 2000 households and 177 schools (with a combined population of 36,915 pupils who are on the government-sponsored school feeding programme). From an assessment conducted in April 2017, the consumption of wood fuel both in households and schools has been reduced by 50%. The reduction in consumption of wood fuel, together with efforts in tree and papyrus planting, has contributed significantly to increased forest cover in the 2 counties.
  6. Through the implementation of various sustainable nature-based enterprises (NBEs), the wellbeing of Yala Swamp communities has improved. A total of 156 households have benefitted through establishment of 11 fishponds. A total of Ksh. 224,950 was earned by 89 households from sale of high value papyrus and palm products. Over the last 12 months, 13 of the trained community guides earned a combined income of Ksh.120,650 from guiding tourists visiting the Yala Swamp.
  7. A sustainability strategy has been developed where proceeds from income-generating activities are divided three ways: among the individual beneficiaries, wider community projects and to support conservation work through a conservation fund administered by the Yala Ecosystem Site Supprt Group (YESSG).
  8. The Yala Ecosystem Site Support Group (YESSG) is now an integral part of this success story. With training and support, they are now the local conservation champions not only within the Yala Swamp IBA but also within the larger Yala Ecosystem.
  9. Capacitated communities, through the Yala Ecosystem SSG, have been able to negotiate and claim for their rights from leaders. In August 2016 when the County Government of Siaya moved to initiate a process to allot land within the Yala Swamp to an Indian company, the leadership of the SSG wrote to the National Land Commission to object to the move and held a media interview featured in a national newspaper. During the media interview, the SSG strongly advocated for the completion and implementation of the land use plan for Yala Swamp, which provides clear guidance on areas to be put under commercial development, areas to be put under subsistence and commercial agriculture and areas to be conserved to continue providing critical ecosystem services.
  10. In June 2017, Yala Ecosystem Site Support Group was awarded a certificate by BirdLife International as “Nature’s Heroes” in recognition of outstanding commitment to conservation and helping local communities work in harmony with nature.

Clearly, there are lots of gains from aiming to strike the delicate balance between conservation and development, as evident in the case of Yala Swamp. However, there are challenges associated with all the progress. Poverty, like in many other parts of Kenya, remains a key driver to environmental degradation at the Yala Swamp. Poverty has driven people to exploit natural resources to fulfill their immediate human needs such as food with little regard to the consequences of uncontrolled overexploitation of resources. Ironically, this threatens their very own future existence and the existence of other biodiversity within the Yala Swamp ecosystem.

All the same, working through the challenges and with concerted efforts, there is still an opportunity of surpassing the gains already made, hence ultimately striking the elusive “balance” between conservation and development within the Yala Swamp.

 

In praise of wetlands and wetland birds

January is the season of the annual African Waterbird Census. It’s a time to meet old friends as volunteers come together to monitor our precious wetlands. The counts are organized by the National Museums of Kenya, Kenya Wildlife Service and Nature Kenya in collaboration with local institutions and volunteers. Thanks to AFEW and others who supported the counts this year.

Lake Bogoria was the first Rift Valley lake to be counted, and some 2,400 Greater and 160,000 Lesser flamingos were estimated. Compared to January 2017, Lesser Flamingos recorded an almost three-fold increase. Contrary to a recent report in the press, there is no water hyacinth in this alkaline water – the water hyacinth is invading neighbouring Lake Baringo.

At Lake Nakuru, the north end of the lake still looks like another world, with part of the acacia woodland still flooded – standing dead trees in the water, fallen dead trees on the land. A wide variety of water birds, including African Darters (and land birds such as parrots, rollers, woodpeckers, oxpeckers) were making use of the standing dead trees.

At its southern end, however, Nakuru seems to be reviving as an alkaline lake: Thousands of Greater and Lesser Flamingos, brilliant in the golden light; Great White Pelicans, including a brown immature, fishing together; a family of Pink-backed Pelicans in breeding plumage, with black “eye make-up” and a little dark crest, also with an immature; a line of African Spoonbills fishing intensively behind the pelicans; rows of silvery gulls and terns on a sandbar; Pied Avocets and Black-winged Stilts foraging in the shallows; and more!

Greater Flamingos still outnumbered Lessers, and both flocks included greyish immatures. Some of the Greater Flamingos were mating. To top it all, a small flock of African Skimmers, also with an immature, flying right in front of us, slicing through the water with their brilliant red beaks.

Elmenteita and Naivasha with its associated lakes were next. The water levels were still high, but going down. The weather featured hot sunny mornings and scattered thunderstorms in the afternoon. Highlights at Naivasha included large numbers of African Fish Eagles, a flock of about 250 endangered Grey Crowned Cranes, an even larger number of Spur-winged Geese, several Giant Kingfishers and again a small group of African Skimmers.

Lake Oloidien at the tip of Lake Naivasha was still fresh water, and teeming with Tilapia. While counting there, an intrepid member of our group waded out into the shallow water to rescue an African Grey Woodpecker that had become trapped in an old fishing net tangled in a flooded low acacia bush.

At Lake Ol’Bolossat in the highlands, the water level was low and the surrounding grassland was dry. There were small flocks of migratory ducks – 20 Northern Pintail, over 200 Northern Shoveler, a few Garganey – and large numbers of some local species: 4,000 Red-knobbed Coot, over a thousand Glossy Ibis, over 500 Yellow-billed Duck. It was encouraging to observe about 450 Grey Crowned Cranes, some with chicks.

 Wetland sites near Nairobi were counted during Nature Kenya’s regular Wednesday and Sunday bird-watching outings. The counts continue as we go to press.

What do the bird counts tell us? They remind us that our wetlands are places of incredible beauty and inspiration. Wetlands also regulate our water, provide food and support agriculture, tourism and biodiversity. However, we noted that our wetlands are under intense pressure – siltation and wastes in Nakuru, invasive species in Baringo and Naivasha, encroachment by settlements on lakes Naivasha and Elmenteita and in Limuru and Kiambu, climate change all over.

 The counts also recorded very few migratory ducks from the north. Was this due to a change in migration patterns because of climate change, a change in food availability in our wetlands, a change in the breeding habitat or increased killing of birds along the migration route? Only further research and monitoring will tell.

 Wetlands desperately need to be given the priority and care that they deserve. 

New guidelines for responding to wildlife poisoning incidents developed

The guidelines seek to enhance the ability of communities and other wildlife conservation stakeholders to respond to poisoning incidents, particularly outside protected areas.

The rapid decline of vultures in Kenya is a serious concern that requires a concerted approach to reverse the trend. Although vultures are caricatured as greedy and selfish, in reality they keep our environment clean by feeding on dead animals. Four out of the eight vulture species found in Kenya are now classified as Critically Endangered (White-headed, Hooded, White-backed and Rüppell’s vultures) while two (Lappet-faced and Egyptian vultures) are listed as Endangered. Poisoning is the leading cause of vulture deaths in the country.

To counter this grim outlook for vultures, Nature Kenya, BirdLife International, The Peregrine Fund and other conservation stakeholders have been championing the protection of vultures through various efforts. One such effort is the development of guidelines on how to respond to incidents of wildlife poisoning. Over the past two years, the three organizations have been working to support Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to develop the guidelines contained in the wildlife poisoning response protocol.

Vultures are usually poisoned when predators kill livestock and herders poison the carcass to kill the predators. Poachers also target vultures with poison. Most wildlife poisoning incidents take place outside protected areas and in remote areas of the country. Thus the protocol is to enable relevant stakeholders to support wildlife conservation in areas where KWS has limited presence. Local communities will help facilitate the implementation and enforcement of the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act.

Timely response to poisoning incidents can significantly reduce resultant wildlife deaths and environmental contamination. The main species targeted for poisoning are carnivores – lions, hyenas and leopards – which kill livestock. Vultures are mainly unintended victims of these poisoning events. Collaborating with conservation institutions that carry out carnivore conservation was critical, for they play a vital role in ensuring the survival of vultures.

The wildlife poisoning response protocol was presented to stakeholders at the 11th Carnivore Research and Conservation Conference convened by KWS in November 2017. The conference brought together various research institutions, conservation NGOs, local communities and researchers from across the country to present research findings and reports that seek to enhance effective conservation and management of wildlife in the country.

Participants were guided through key components of the protocol. These included: how to recognize a poisoned animal, channels for reporting poisoning incidents, precautions needed to reduce further wildlife deaths, and sample collection, analysis and prosecution procedures. One key concern raised by participants was the lack of feedback on postmortem results to stakeholders, especially on suspected poisonous substances found in the samples. This is important to guide those in the field to enhance mitigation measures when dealing with issues of wildlife poisoning.

Following the publication of the protocol, training on how to apply the protocol will be done. Development of the protocol was made possible through support provided by Fondation Segre and BAND Foundation under the ‘Save the African Vulture’ project.

Restoring the Mount Kenya Water Tower


Members of the KBL “Kijani Team”, & Nature Kenya staff , Hombe and Kabaru Community CFAs  during a tree planting exercise in Mt. Kenya Forest
Members of the KBL “Kijani Team”, & Nature Kenya staff , Hombe and Kabaru Community CFAs during a tree planting exercise in Mt. Kenya Forest

The ‘Kijani Team’ of Kenya Breweries Limited (KBL) joined Hombe and Kabaru Community Forest Associations (CFAs) and Nature Kenya staff in planting tree seedlings as part of the Mt. Kenya Forest restoration initiative last month. Two thousand tree seedlings were planted. So far the two CFAs, with support from KBL, have planted 47,000 indigenous tree seedlings during the ongoing short-rains season. Their target is to plant 100,000 tree seedlings to cover 250 Ha of degraded forest. The CFAs will take care of the tree seedlings for the next three years.

KBL has further supported CFAs around Mt. Kenya with seeds and tree nursery implements. The donations will help the CFAs establish tree nurseries to raise over one million tree seedlings for future tree planting exercises.

The Mt. Kenya Forest restoration initiative targets to raise Ksh. 140 million annually from downstream water users including businesses, hydropower producers, crop farmers and water transfer companies as payment for the forest’s ecosystem services. Funds raised will be used to plant 2 million trees to restore 2,000 Ha of Mt. Kenya and the upper Tana catchment landscapes.

In March this year KBL donated Ksh. 8 million towards the Mt. Kenya Forest restoration initiative.

January 2018 Waterbird Counts: Calling all Volunteers

Nature Kenya, the Ornithology Section of the National Museums of Kenya and Kenya Wildlife Service invite volunteers to participate in the 2018 African waterbird counts. Register by filling a Volunteer Registration Form, available from the Ornithology Section or by e-mail from: Oliver Nasirwa <onasirwa@museums.or.ke>

Volunteers with bird identification and waterbird counting experience or with 4WD vehicles will be given priority. Meals will be provided and we will be sleeping in tents.

Provisional Schedule:

  • Lake Bogoria                       Jan   5th  – 6th
  • Lake Nakuru                       Jan   7th
  • Lake Elmenteita                 Jan 12th – 13th
  • Lake Naivasha                    Jan 14th
  • Lake Ol Bolossat                Jan 20th – 21st
  • Lake Magadi                       Jan 27th – 28th

Nairobi and environs (to be conducted during Wednesday birdwalks and Sunday Birdwatch)

  • Limuru/Manguo                   Jan   3rd
  • Paradise Lost / Gigiri           Jan 10th
  • Nairobi National Park/  Lang’ata wetlands   Jan 17th
  • Thika Sewage ponds             Jan 21st
  • Dandora Sewage Works      Jan 24th
  • Kenyatta University,  Sukari Dam      Jan 31st