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

Bringing the Tana Delta Land Use Plan to action

The Tana River Delta (130,000 ha) is one of the most important wetlands in Africa. It lies on the Kenya coast between Malindi and Lamu. The delta is the second most important estuarine and deltaic ecosystem in Eastern Africa and a Key Biodiversity Area. Recognition of the delta as an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) and a designated Ramsar site further underscores the ecological importance of this ecosystem. (A Ramsar Site is a wetland site designated of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.)

The delta supports a number of endangered primate, marine turtle and plant species as well as rare fish, amphibians and reptiles. A vast number of migratory and resident waterbirds are dependent on seasonally flooded grasslands and Borassus palm savannah that covers some 70,000 ha in the heart of the Tana Delta. The delta’s mangrove forests provide important spawning grounds and nurseries for fish and shellfish.

The delta is also a source of livelihood for communities, providing dry season grazing areas, fertile farmlands and rich fishing grounds. Despite its immense importance, the delta is threatened by resource use conflict between pastoralism, farming and conservation.

Nature Kenya in 2011 led a collaborative effort of various stakeholders in the development of a Tana River Delta Land Use Plan that was guided by a Strategic Environmental Assessment. The process was concluded in 2015. The land use plan has since been approved and adopted as a policy by the Lamu County government. In May 2016, the Tana River Delta Land Use Plan won the Royal Town Planning Institute’s International Award for Planning Excellence.

The land use plan seeks to promote a balance in the use of the delta. It involves regulated access, wise use and improved rangeland management that will lead to improved sustainable livelihoods, security and equity, and biodiversity conservation. The success of the award-winning land use plan is dependent on its effective implementation. Implementation includes enhanced capacity of government, communities and the private sector to drive policy change, and to balance the rights, responsibilities and benefits of sustainable land management and conservation.

Nature Kenya has now moved to the implementation phase of the Tana Delta Land Use Plan. This is made possible with funding from the Darwin Initiative for a project called “Balancing water services for development and biodiversity in the Tana-Delta”. The four-year project started in April 2017 and will end in March 2021. It promotes the Community Conservation Areas (CCAs) approach which is perhaps the most practicable way in which Kenya’s vast natural resources can be conserved and a pathway out of poverty for the poorest of the population. This approach puts Kenya on course to deliver both key articles of the Convention on Biological Diversity and also many of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The project’s overall objective is to support 45 villages and two County Governments to balance water use for development and biodiversity by establishing a community conservation area of over 95,200Ha at the Tana River Delta. The desired outcome is to demonstrate how communities and county governments can use natural resource governance to reduce conflict amongst communities and conserve biodiversity. Key activities for the project include an ecosystem services assessment for the CCA, livelihoods activities targeting 200 households within the CCA, and establishment of a community led governance structure for the CCA. Conservation areas within the CCA will be identified and management plans developed in consultation with all stakeholders. The project also seeks to explore sustainable financing options to generate carbon-credits and expand incipient ecotourism ventures to complement the Tana River and Lamu County Governments’ revenues.

The project will directly benefit 35,000 and indirectly benefit 120,000 people dependent on the Tana Delta. In the long term it will benefit 1.12 million people, as the Government of Kenya plans to replicate the Land Use Plan process at Yala Swamp, Lake Naivasha, Lake Turkana, and the Nyando and Nzoia River Basins.

The project implementation partners include the Tana Delta Conservation Network (TDCN) and Tana Planning Advisory Committee (TPAC), who are local beneficiaries. These two partners act as grassroots agents for change towards sustainable land management; and also the ‘voice of communities’ for engaging and negotiating with the county governments, national government and other partners. Other local partners include Community Forest Associations (CFAs), Water Resource Use Associations (WRUAs) and Beach Management Units (BMUs).

 

Site Support Groups inspire communities to tackle climate change

Climate change has many negative impacts on natural ecosystems, agriculture and food supplies, human health, forestry, water resources and availability, energy use, and transportation. Nearly all rural communities’ livelihoods are directly linked to natural resources and are therefore vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. For example, prolonged dry spells have frequently resulted in food insecurity, displacement of communities and intercommunity conflicts.

In September 2012, at a workshop for Site Support Groups (SSGs), participants presented evidence of the impacts of climate change in different Kenyan Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs). The negative impacts included: loss of most of Mount Kenya’s permanent glacier, extreme weather conditions including frost being observed in some of the IBAs such as the Kinangop Grasslands, unpredictable or erratic rainfall, increased mean temperatures, prolonged drought and perennial flooding in some of these sites.

During that workshop it was noted that most rural communities’ livelihoods were directly linked to natural resources and hence they were vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. As a way forward, each SSG was asked to identify the impacts of climate change on livelihoods, ecosystems, habitats and biodiversity within their area of operation, and hence assist to plan for the adaptation strategy that needs to be employed. The discussions on climate change also led to the development of a climate change strategy for SSGs in 2015.  (SSGs are local conservation organizations working with Nature Kenya to conserve IBAs while helping neighbouring communities.)

Since the development of the climate change strategy, several SSGs have undertaken measures to counter the effects of climate change in some of the IBAs. These include reduction of deforestation, restoration of degraded habitats, reforestation and on-farm forestry. To date, over 6 million tree seedlings have been raised and planted by members of SSGs in various parts of the country to assist in protecting and restoring water catchment areas. In addition, over 300ha of papyrus have been planted to rehabilitate degraded areas around Lake Kanyaboli, Bunyala, Usenge and Bar Olengo areas of the Yala Swamp.

SSGs have been in the forefront in promoting the use of energy-saving cooking devices amongst communities as a means of reducing firewood and charcoal use. Through the SSGs, over 5,000 energy-saving ‘jikos’ and slightly over 1,000 ‘fireless cookers’ have been installed at various sites in the country. The SSGs have also been encouraging the use of biogas as an alternative source of clean energy.

On livelihoods, the SSGs have adopted sustainable income generating activities such as bee keeping and butterfly farming. These activities are friendly to the environment and enable communities to earn a living sustainably. To date over 1,400 beehives have been supplied to communities through the SSGs, enabling communities to earn over eight million shillings annually from sale of honey and other hive products.

The climate change strategy for SSGs recognizes the need of establishing partnerships between SSGs, national and county governments and other stakeholders. As part of implementing their climate change strategies, some of the SSGs are working with their respective county governments and other stakeholders in implementation of their activities. Good collaboration with other stakeholders has been reported in Baringo, Kitui and Siaya counties, providing a good platform for the SSGs to achieve their climate change strategies.

Not all Aloes are Healing!

In Kenya, we have almost fifty species of Aloe, including three exceedingly poisonous species. Many people have heard of Aloe vera, the so-called wonder plant, and mistakenly call all aloes Aloe vera.

This has caused not just misunderstandings but has had serious consequences. Applying the wrong Aloe on a wound or eating the wrong Aloe can have fatal consequences.

There are three poisonous Aloe species – Aloe ballyi, Aloe elata and Aloe ruspoliana. These species have leaf sap that gives off a strong ratty odour. Fortunately the first two species are relatively rare and not widespread but it is important to know your aloes before attempting to use them medicinally.

Following a presidential ban on the collection of wild-growing aloes, commercial harvesting of aloe sap has taken its place. There is the danger that due to lack of knowledge, this sap could actually be sourced from poisonous aloes.

It’s true that the leaves of several species of Aloe are used medicinally. And the roots of Aloe volkensii, for example, in combination with other plants, are a significant ingredient for many local brews. But beware! One of our missions in Succulenta East Africa is to raise public awareness that there are dangers out there and that not all aloes have medicinal properties!

Not all Aloes are Aloe Vera!

The plants called Aloe include many different species. Most of them have succulent, spiky leaves and colourful flowers. You can see several Aloes on the grounds of the National Museums of Kenya. There is a very famous Aloe called Aloe vera. It does not grow wild in Kenya, but it is planted and used medicinally. The Aloes that we see in the countryside and on safari are not Aloe vera. They belong to different species of Aloe. Sue Allan tells you more about them … 

Scientists in efforts to save frogs in Kenya

The National Museums of Kenya (NMK) and a US university are working together to develop technology that will help track amphibians with a view to protecting them. The project targets amphibian species (frogs, toads, newts and salamanders) listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as endangered.

Researchers have expressed concern over the rapid decline of frog population in Kenya and Africa in general, citing disease and destruction of natural habitats have been cited as major threats. The situation has been further compounded by lack of information on the species. Data from IUCN shows 1,800 species of amphibians across the world face extinction.

Human activity such as logging and agricultural expansion, climate change and alien species invasion have been blamed for the decline of frog population in Kenya. Poor waste management leading to pollution of water bodies, home to amphibians, has also been contributed to this population.

The first major goal of the project will be to collate information about amphibians in Kenya. This information will be built from existing records. A digital inventory will then be created and updated from time to time.

Using cutting-edge technology to detect the presence of species in the environment, researchers hope to come up with a better documentation method that will enhance the protection of amphibians that live in the soil, water and any other habitats.

Four Critically Endangered African vultures to get global protection

Four critically endangered vulture species  found in Africa are set to get a new hope for survival from a 12-year multi-species coordinated action plan set for tabling at a United Nations (UN) summit this month. The critically endangered White-backed, White-headed, Hooded, and Rüppell’s vultures are among 15 vulture species from 128 countries set to get collaborative international protection under the Multi-Species Action Plan to Conserve African-Eurasian Vultures (MsAP).

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of species threatened with extinction has listed a majority of these vulture species as critically endangered, indicating a very high risk of extinction in the wild. Three endangered vulture species — the Cape, Lappet-faced and Egyptian vultures; and two near threatened — the Bearded and Cinereous vultures, found in Africa, are included in the action plan. The plan also covers the Red-headed, White -rumped, Long-billed and Slender-billed vultures, all critically endangered and mostly found in Asia.

Vultures are considered nature’s garbage disposers, as they feed on the carcasses of dead animals that are often infected with diseases such as anthrax, cholera, botulinum toxin and rabies that would be lethal to other scavengers. They therefore play a critical role in maintaining healthy ecosystems. Despite their vital role in nature, vultures are often portrayed as greedy and unprincipled in popular culture. In the field, they are under extreme pressure from a range of human activities. Drastic and widespread population declines in recent years in Africa and Asia have seen some vulture species sliding towards extinction.

In Africa, poisoning is the leading cause of vulture deaths. These deaths occur when people try to kill mammalian predators of livestock (and in some areas feral dogs), with poison-laced carcasses or baits, accidentally attracting vultures. Elephant and rhino poachers also poison vultures in an attempt to mask their tracks, which would otherwise be revealed by the birds circling overhead. The strategic action plan seeks to address threats facing vultures through promoting concerted and collaborative international conservation actions. Among the objectives of the Vulture MsAP are to:

  • Rapidly halt current population declines in all species covered by the Vulture MsAP;
  • Reverse recent downwards population trends to bring the conservation status of each species back to a favourable level; and,
  • Provide conservation management guidelines applicable to all Range States covered by the Vulture MsAP.

The Vulture MsAP will be tabled at the 12th session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention  on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS COP12) slated for 23rd to 28th October in the Philippines capital Manila. Representatives from more than 120 countries will be in attendance.

New online database could reduce poisonous threat to wildlife

The use of poisons to kill wildlife in Africa has rapidly accelerated over the past decade, and is having a devastating

effect on the populations of many species. In Kenya there has been as escalation in the use of poisons due to various reasons. Highly toxic     pesticides are used to lions and hyenas in retaliation for damage to livestock. Monkeys and elephants are targeted due to conflicts with farmers. Very concerning is the use of poisons to harvest animals as a food source where fish and waterbirds are frequent targets. Due to the indiscriminate nature of poisons, there are almost always unintentional consequences that affect a broad range of terrestrial and aquatic species, including humans. Vultures are the most severely afflicted, as they are typically the first to arrive at a poisoned carcass, and they feed in large numbers. There are also serious issues involving contamination of lakes, rivers, and waterholes whenever toxic pesticides are sprinkled into these water sources to harvest fish or other aquatic species.

The Peregrine Fund has been collecting data on wildlife poisoning since 2005 and has now joined forces with the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) based in South Africa to assess the scope and impact of this critical threat to vultures and other wildlife species across Africa. In partnership with the Vulture Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission and The Gadfly Project, the Peregrine Fund has collated all historical and current incidents of wildlife poisoning into the African Wildlife Poisoning Database or AWPD, www.africanwildlifepoisoning.org

So far, the database contains records of 272 poisoning incidents that have killed over 8,000 animals of 40 different species, from 15 countries. Although records of poisoning date back to 1961, in the past decade there has been a sharp escalation in poisoning incidents, with most of the deaths occurring during this time. Aside from vultures, species affected range from large carnivores, such as lions, leopards, and hyenas, to elephants, impalas, cranes, and storks. However, by far the most deaths are of vultures, comprising ten different species, including two species that migrate to Africa from Europe. Poisoning is the most significant threat to vultures in Africa and Eurasia and, over the last 30 years, has contributed to declines in excess of 80% in some African species. Currently, the IUC N Red List of Threatened Species lists four species of African vulture as Critically Endangered and three species as Endangered.

The AWPD is designed to facilitate simple, effective capture of relevant data, either by using a mobile device at a wildlife poisoning incident, or by inputting data via the website. Users can access basic information on poisoning incidents and mortalities, and view these on a map of Africa. The AWPD will contribute to gathering better information on poisoning incidents, as well as on the drivers of wildlife poisoning

Mainstreaming Biodiversity: A key component to Sustainable Economic Development

GROUP

The economic survival of various production sectors, and of the people depending on those sectors for their livelihoods, is intricately connected to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. As such, biodiversity is considered as part of the functioning of the productive sectors.

However, over the years we’ve witnessed the rapid decline of biodiversity. One of the major challenges in preventing this decline has been finding ways of addressing the issue where it matters most; the production sectors that exert the greatest pressure. It is out of this realization that a forum was convened in Nairobi in July to deliberate on mainstreaming biodiversity into sectors of the economy.

The forum dubbed the “National Dialogue on Biodiversity Mainstreaming into Sectors of the Economy” was organized by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources as part of the National Forest Program (NFP). Stakeholders from various sectors of the economy who attended the forum at the Laico Regency Hotel on July 25 were in agreement that biodiversity conservation is a pre-condition for achieving sustainable development. As such, it needed to be integrated into all sectors and across sectors: biodiversity needed to be mainstreamed.

Addressing stakeholders during the forum, the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Prof. Judi Wakhungu explained that forests hosted the bulk of biodiversity in addition to providing water, sequestrating carbon, providing a base for renewable energy, hydro generation and supporting other sectors of development.

“In spite of the centrality of forests in environmental stability, forest ecosystems are increasingly under threat from the ever growing pressure to meet human needs,” noted Prof. Wakhungu.

Major threats to Kenyan forests include competition for land due to agricultural expansion, settlement and urban development, excessive extraction of forest products, unsustainable charcoal production and overgrazing.

Prof. Wakhungu informed stakeholders that the government was developing a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) and also the first National Wildlife Conservation Strategy. She added that implementation of the strategies and programmes would require substantial budgetary allocation and called for a creative mix of resources from all stakeholders including public, private sector and local communities.

Participants in the forum were drawn from government agencies, the private sector, civil society and community forest associations (CFAs).

Nature Kenya in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources is organizing a similar forum to discuss implementation of conservation initiatives and biodiversity mainstreaming in the Taita Hills and Tsavo conservation area.