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

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.