Vultures still poisoned in the Mara!


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.