Wildlife Challenges

Today, wild animals and their wild spaces need our help more than ever

In Kenya, we are tackling challenges ranging from poaching to habitat destruction through our pioneering field projects so that humans and wildlife can find balance and live in harmony for generations to come.

Global Challenges Facing Wildlife

Human-wildlife conflict
Ivory and rhino horn poaching
Habitat destruction
Drought
Bushmeat poaching
Illegal logging and charcoal production
Infrastructure & Development
Animals and humans are increasingly coming into conflict over space and food, especially on community-wildlife borders.

As human populations expand, communities are moving into habitats previously home to wildlife. Whether it's farms built on traditional elephant migratory routes or increasing numbers of livestock and livestock grazing within wildlife territory, the result is key resources like water and land are becoming more scarce and incidences of crop raiding, livestock predation and conflict have grown. As the population of Kenya is projected to be more than 50% higher by 2030, which will further stress relations between humans and wildlife, human-wildlife conflict is set to become an even bigger issue.

Crop raiding is an issue facing many communities on the borders of national parks. Though many elephants can navigate through the patchwork settlements, some opportunistic elephants find their way onto farms and are capable of flattening entire crops in a matter of hours. Farmers can lose crops, property and even lives - it’s said that some 500 people are killed each year by elephants and wild animals including elephants can killed in retaliation.

The predation of livestock by lions, leopards and hyenas or movement close to community lands as predators follow their prey on migratory routes can also cause retaliatory attacks. The poisoning of bait, shootings and the spearing of animals are some of the cases the SWT/KWS Vet Units have treated.

In the dry season, elephants move between Protected Areas and community land in search of food and water. Hand-dug, steep-sided wells and watering points used for human consumption and livestock can trap young calfs who fall in or get stuck, who may later be abandoned by the herd if efforts to free them are unsuccessful or disturbed.

Projects that address this threat

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The demand for ivory and rhino horn means wild elephants and rhinos are being slaughtered daily for their tusks and horn.

In some countries of Africa including Sierra Leone and Senegal, elephants have been driven to extinction by ivory poaching whilst the population of rhino has fallen to just 20,000 white rhino and 5,000 black rhino.

Since 2008, ivory poaching across Africa has increased to levels not seen since the 1970’s and 1980’s. As a keystone species, other animals, plants and entire ecosystems rely on elephants for survival whilst communities across Africa are dependent on elephants for an income through tourism. Saving the elephants also means preventing poverty, sustaining livelihoods and protecting entire ecosystems.

Bows and poisoned arrows, weapons and guns are among the deadly tools used by poachers to kill or maim elephants and rhinos for their tusks and horns, to traffic and sell illegally. In Kenya, our Anti-Poaching Teams dismantle and destroy poachers’ hides, shooting platforms, traps and blinds – work that has contributed to a 50% drop in poaching between 2012 - 2015.

Projects that address this threat

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In the last 25 years, the world lost a forested area the size of South Africa.

As the population in Kenya continues to grow, human encroachment through settlement, farms and infrastructure on wildlife territories is a serious threat to animals that live and wander through these areas. In many places, the degradation of natural habitats can include corridors as well as buffer zones that previously keep human settlements apart from wildlife. For elephants especially, who can roam up to 80km a day, the impact of losing important forest cover and increased traffic in wildlife areas can be huge and animal casualties are on the rise.

The loss of Kenya’s biodiversity and habitats can cause habitat fragmentation and disruption to traditional migratory routes, bringing wildlife into increasing conflict with humans and communities.

Projects that address this threat

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Over the past 10 years, East Africa has experienced severe droughts impacting whole ecosystems

Climate change is altering long established weather patterns leading to less frequent and less predictable rainfall. With rains failing, dry seasons tip into droughts, leading to already limited natural water sources like aquifers and rivers to dry up.

Lack of food and drinking water, habitat destruction, migration of wildlife and loss of wetlands can have a devastating impact on wildlife populations, especially species already endangered or facing extinction. In Kenya, hundreds of elephants died in the 2009 drought, whilst hundreds more perished in the Southern Sector of Tsavo East National Park during 2017. In areas where humans and wildlife coexist, drought can also lead to increased conflict over scarce resources.

Projects that address this threat

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The hunting and snaring of wild animals for the consumption of their meat is a serious threat facing Kenya’s wildlife.

As well as leading to widespread local declines of species in Africa, in areas where hunting is organised on a commercial scale to supply the demand of a growing bush meat trade, bush meat poaching reduces the numbers of seed dispersing animals, impacting forests and biodiversity.

Snares, aimed to trap and kill wildlife, come in all sizes and are made of metal wires, nylon line or vegetable fibres, acting as a deadly noose around a wild animal’s leg or neck. They can cause severe injuries, slow suffering and excruiating pain to trapped animals, which can include primates, antelope including forest antelope (duikers) and dik diks, though the indiscriminate nature of snares mean any passing animal from birds to elephants can become trapped.

Snares continue to be set every day across Kenya’s National Parks and with as little as a 5% success rate, 1,000 of these snares can capture 18,250 animals in a year.

Projects that address this threat

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Illegal logging for fuel and the charcoal trade, poses a big challenge to wildlife that call forests home, including birds, plants, insects and mammals.

In Kenya, charcoal is used as a cooking fuel for millions of people with regulation and permits controlling the trade. As urbanisation and population increases, the demand for charcoal is expected to triple at least in the coming three decades. However, the large scale loss of trees and forests poses a huge threat to fragile ecosystems, especially on a commercial scale. Cutting down trees to make coal, which is then burned in kilns, charcoal burning can destroy forests in a short space of time, contributing to deforestation, desertification, pollution and climate change and cause bush fires that can ravage thousands of acres.

In 2014, a UNEP and Interpol report found in East, Central and West Africa, the net profits from dealing in and taxing unregulated, illicit or illegal charcoal combined is estimated at US$2.4 to US$9 billion.

Projects that address this threat

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A growing human population means more infrastructure to support it, often at the expense of wildlife and the environment.

Roads and railways can split habitats and close critical migratory routes for vulnerable and endangered animals. Vehicles that use these roads and railways can negatively impact air quality, pollute local ecosystems and lead to the death of animals in road, rail and traffic accidents. So much of this can, and must, be avoided and mitigated in the design and planning phases of future projects, but the threats are real where structures already exist.

In Kenya, one of the most obvious and destructive examples of the impact of development on wildlife is the Single Gauge Railway (SGR). The SGR links Mombasa with Nairobi, passing in-between Tsavo East and West National Parks and currently being built through the protected Nairobi National Park.

This project has failed to consider environmental factors in its development. There are minimal underpasses created to allow elephants and other wildlife to safely cross between Tsavo East and West National Parks. A poor quality fenceline has also been constructed to keep people and animals off the track itself. 

The construction of the railway through Nairobi National Park has rightly caused considerable alarm due to the detrimental impact the construction will have on the ecosystem, as well as the long term impact of a raised railway travelling through the protected area.

There needs to be a balance and extensive consultation that considers the need for development against the environmental impact of development before ‘mega structures’ are built, which threaten the very existence of wildlife

Projects that address this threat

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