Naretunoi Conservancy

In October Nature Kenya’s Sunday Birdwatch spent a delightful day at The Wildlife Foundation on Naretunoi Conservancy – across the Mbagathi River from Hippo Pools in Nairobi National Park. We drove in from Kitengela town, watched birds in the acacia woodland, and ate our picnic in the cool of The Wildlife Foundation centre on the site of the former School for Field Studies.

Naretnoi Conservancy is a group of households who may be farming or herding livestock, but commit to allow mammals to migrate in and out of the National Park. The Wildlife Foundation looks forward to establishing joint studies with museum scientists or Nature Kenya members. In particular, they would like to record the traditional Maasai names of birds. If you are interested, please contact Jacob Tukai <>

The bird we ringed is back from North

A single bird can “make the day” for ringers at the ringing exercise at the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) Nairobi. This might be through re-trapping an exceptionally old bird or having an unusual visitor or even having a migratory bird using the same site over years. Last month the ringing group welcomed back a Common Nightingale which was ringed at the National Museums on March 2018 and was re-caught on 11th November at the same ringing location.

Common Nightingale is an insectivorous species that breeds in forest and scrub in Europe and in Asia as far as north-west China. Assuming this bird didn’t go further south and that it went to breed at its nearest breeding grounds in Turkey, moving in a straight line through the well-known migratory route for passerine birds through Egypt, then it would have travelled a journey of at least 4500 kilometers one way and 4500 km back to Nairobi.

Bird ringing entails tagging of birds using individually numbered metal or plastic ring to the leg. The exercise is done every Tuesday at the museum ground by the Nairobi Ringing Group under the leadership of the Ornithology Section staff through the support of Nature Kenya. The birds are caught using specialized nets called mist nets, measured, ringed and released to continue their life, hoping they will be caught again.

Birds migrate to escape harsh winters in the North, and go back to their breeding grounds in summer. It’s phenomenal for tiny birds like a Common Nightingale to travel thousands of kilometers and find its way back into the same nets months later. As the threats to birds including loss of habitat, climate change, poisoning and illegal trapping increases, we hope our Common Nightingale will be able to make more journeys back and forth. We wish the Nightingale an enjoyable stay here at the tropics.

Informed communities to protect vultures and wildlife

Vultures and other scavenging birds play a critical role in maintaining healthy ecosystems. Their decline can have serious unforeseen effects on other species and the many benefits provided by nature. The main cause of the drop in African vulture populations is poisoning. When predators kill livestock, herders may take revenge by lacing the carcass with poison. Vultures are particularly sensitive, and may die in large numbers after feeding on a poisoned carcass.

While it is difficult to prevent wildlife poisoning, rapid response and immediate action can significantly reduce resultant wildlife deaths and environmental contamination.

In Maasai Mara ecosystem, Nature Kenya, the Peregrine Fund, BirdLife International and the Kenya Bird of Prey Trust, under the ‘Preventing Poisoning to Save Africa’s Vultures’ project, have been testing various approaches aimed at reducing poisoning related wildlife deaths. One such approach is sensitizing the community about the negative impacts of wildlife poisoning. Community meetings at villages and manyattas within the Greater Mara ecosystem have been taking place to raise awareness on the plight of vultures and the impacts of illegal wildlife poisoning. The meetings seek to ensure that the public is aware of the value of vultures, threats facing them and the need for their conservation.

Most wildlife poisoning incidences are retaliatory in nature. The poisoning mainly occurs after pastoralists lose their cattle to predator attacks. The pastoralists then lace cattle carcasses with poisonous substances such as pesticides. The poison not only ends up killing the targeted predator but also scavenging animals such as hyenas and vultures. A single poisoned cow carcass can end up killing 150 vultures! It is therefore extremely important for communities to understand the dangers posed by wildlife poisoning.

In October, 10 community meetings were conducted within Maji Moto and Olkinyei areas which border Olarro and Olkinyei conservancies respectively. Continued interaction with the communities has helped to identify conflict prone areas, leading to directing more efforts to such areas. During such interactions, community members are engaged and the effects of poisoning are discussed. Focus is directed to the poisoning cycle where a single poisoned carcass may affect many other species within an ecosystem, including humans. Measures to mitigate human-wildlife conflict are also discussed. The emphasis here is the importance of maintaining a healthy ecosystem in which all species can thrive.

Actions that have been agreed upon by the communities in these meetings include stopping the baiting of livestock carcasses with poison. Instead, community members agreed to report predator invasions to village elders to help mobilize local support for affected households, and to take such cases to the relevant authorities.

So far 20 large villages and 16 large manyattas have been reached out to, in addition to 15 market outreaches across Maasai Mara, reaching up to 30,000 community members.

Other initiatives undertaken to reduce wildlife poisoning include training of rangers from the Maasai Mara National Reserve on how to respond to poisoning incidents. Sixteen rangers have been trained. Another 45 rangers from 15 community conservancies have also undergone the training.

One notable impact of the anti-poisoning campaign is a recorded increase of Critically Endangered White-backed Vultures’ nests in Maasai Mara.

‘Preventing Poisoning to Save Africa’s Vultures’ is financed by Band Foundation. This initiative in Kenya is also supported as part of a program to tackle vulture poisoning running jointly across Kenya, Botswana and Zimbabwe, funded by Fondation Segré.