The environment of Kenya and its irreplaceable wildlife heritage is under extremely grave threat
The environment of Kenya and its irreplaceable wildlife heritage is under extremely grave threat. If a catastrophe is to be avoided which will have far-reaching consequences to the future of the country and its citizens, the Government must take action now. Disregard for the environment coupled with global warming, and other factors detrimental to the environment such as the charcoal trade is rapidly turning Kenya into a desert. 60% of all Kenya’s charcoal is exported; forests are being felled, bush and smaller trees converted into charcoal for local consumption as well as export, rivers and lakes are drying as are people in conflict over water in the arid North.
Most sinister of all is the undisputed fact that Kenya is losing its wildlife resource through the affects of what has turned into the severest drought in living memory, but also to an upsurge of elephant and rhino poaching driven by the demands of an increasing wealthy population in the world’s most populous country China. Then there is the unsustainable loss of wildlife through the bushmeat trade, both subsistence and commercially driven.
Large swathes of land within the fragile arid ecosystem of the Tsavo National Park are being destroyed by the illegal intrusion of domestic livestock. Numerous hippos, along with many other animal species have died in Tsavo recently due to the presence of over 120,000 cattle in the Park which have consumed the grass reserves upon which wildlife relies during the long dry seasons. Being water dependent, hippos cannot travel long distances in search of fodder since they have to be back in the water by daybreak.
Wildlife across Kenya as a country is under grave threat. In many traditional wildlife areas such as parts of Samburu district, drought and poaching has already taken a heavy toll of numbers, although some pastoral communities are now turning to wildlife based tourism, and doing their best to reverse this trend, which is cause for guarded optimism.
The overall decline in Kenya’s wildlife threatens the country’s lucrative wildlife based Tourist Industry. Since 1970 wildlife in Kenya is known to have declined by 70% and at today’s loss rate what remains is in serious jeopardy resulting in the loss of tourism revenue. If current trends continue Kenya will not have the capacity to meet the ambitious tourist targets of the 2030 vision. Nor is there a quick fix, for it will take many years for wildlife numbers to recover, and should the habitat be irreparably damaged, then all will be lost forever for future generations of Kenyans.
Since the beginning of 2009 hundreds of elephants have died due to poaching and drought countrywide. 109 since July to date in Tsavo National Park alone. Insoluble environmental factors such as global warming, drought conditions, loss of habitat and an expanding human population all impact negatively on elephant numbers, and in the future these factors, coupled with poaching, will place Kenya’s elephants in grave danger. Elephants are a keystone species whose presence in a given area contributes to a diversity of life. Their extinction would lead to the extinction of other forms of life because it is their presence that determines the flora and fauna of an area. Black Rhino, already bordering on extinction, are likewise being killed even in the Protected Sanctuaries.
The migration of wildebeest that enters the Masai Mara every year suffers a loss of approximately 250,000 animals annually to the bush-meat trade, a figure that is rising. The famous migration of large mammals, which is the last on earth, also has to compete for grazing with hordes of cattle, many brought in from outlying drought stricken regions. Traditionally, the Mara, which enjoys a higher rainfall than the Serengeti, is the dry season lifeline grazing reserves for large herbivores, and as such crucial to their continued survival. Furthermore, the Mau Forest is the water catchment area for the Mara river upon which animals within this Seventh Wonder of the World depend. For the first time the result of the desecration of the Mau forest is indicated in a reduction of the flow of the river. Lack of a protective land-use Policy around National Parks, Forest Reserves, Wilderness Areas and Catchment areas is compounding the serious problem that is exemplified by conditions in Kenya’s prime tourist destination – the Masai Mara.
The wanton and unchecked destruction of the environment has to be addressed urgently, halted and, if possible, reversed. There should be a Presidential decree for the protection of wildlife and its habitat and definitely stiffer deterrent sentencing of offenders. EMERGENCY FUNDING - DONATE NOW