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 <>

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.