Kenya’s first wildlife census report: 5 species critically endangered

The report recommends a population survey every three years and annual budgets for monitoring and management of wildlide

By Madhumita Paul
Published: Thursday 02 September 2021

Kenya’s black rhino, sable antelope, hirola, Tana River mangabey and roan antelope are ‘critically endangered’, according to the country’s first national wildlife census report

There are just  897 black rhinos, 51 sable antelopes, 497 hirolas, 1,650 Tana River mangabey and 15 roan antelope remaining in the African country, according to the survey.

The population of some large herbivores such as elephants and rhinos has increased slightly since 2014, according to the report released August 31, 2021. 

The number of elephants in Kenya grew by 12 per cent to 36,280 in 2021 from 32,214 in 2014, the survey found. The pachyderm became the victim of massive poaching in 2014, resulting in a fall in the population to 32,214 elephants in 2014 from 35,588 in 2012. 

Since then, the government efforts to curb the menace helped in increasing the count.

The three-month survey began in April 2021 and covered over 30 species of mammals, birds and marine wildlife in various ecosystems, using the geographic information system (GIS), camera traps, helicopters, vehicles and boats.

It was undertaken by the tourism and wildlife ministry, Kenya Wildlife Services and the Wildlife Research and Training Institute (WRTI) to establish a national baseline of the wildlife species.

Among other iconic species, the researchers counted 41,659 buffalo, 13,530 Maasai giraffes, 121,911 common zebras, 2,649 grevy's zebras and 57,813 wildebeest. 

The country has 340 sea turtle nests, 9 whale sharks, 63 humpback whales, two blue whales, 354 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, 29 great white sharks and 17 tiger sharks, according to the report. 

As many as 97,805 lesser flamingos, 748 greater flamingos, 523 great white pelicans, 963 Egyptian geese, 57 African fish eagles and 720 yellow-billed storks were recorded among the waterfowl. 

Livestock incursions, logging, charcoal burning and illegal settlements near major wildlife sanctuaries were observed during the survey period. 

Other threats to wildlife are habitat loss, land-use changes and exponential human population growth, according to the census report.

Uhuru Kenyatta, President of the Republic of Kenya and commander-in-chief of the defence forces, said:

As we continue to uphold our sacred duty of protecting our wildlife for current and future generations, I call on all players within the Government as well as in our private sector to make this report a central cog of all plans and actions within wildlife conservation and management.

Efforts to develop spatial plans by county governments will help separate humans and wildlife or promote human-wildlife co-existence programmes thereof, said the authors of the report.

The paper recommends the following to manage Kenya's wildlife resources:

  • The National Wildlife Census to be conducted every three years in line with wildlife ecological cycles
  • An annual budget is required to support active monitoring of rare and endemic species 
  • An immediate budget support is required to establish status of species currently threatened by illegal trade and bush meat 
  • There is need for review of legislation to recognise community conservancies as protected areas as they constitute important wildlife range 
  • To improve the ecological integrity of dormant parks and reserves, there is need to enhance public-private partnerships 
  • A budgetary support is required to establish a data portal and access mechanism at the Wildlife Research and Training Institute to inform wildlife management as part of its mandate
  • For the endangered, rare and endemic species, there is a need for budgetary allocation to support development and implementation of their recovery plans. 
  • Investment in new innovations, modern census equipment and software to improve efficiency in undertaking wildlife censuses  
  • County governments should incorporate census findings in the development of the County Integrated Development Plans and spatial plans.
  • A national classification of species with low populations should be undertaken in consultation with the International Union for Conservation of Nature

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