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Thread: the big five soon to be absent from Kenya

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    rattler's Avatar
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    the big five soon to be absent from Kenya

    Kenya on the brink of recording big five extinction

    By Joe Kiarie

    The big five, the symbols of the country’s wildlife diversity, could soon be no more if current statistics is anything to go by.

    Data from Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) shows the population of four of the big five—Elephant, lion, buffaloi,, rhino and leopard—has reduced to a trifle, down from hundreds of thousands back in the 1960s.

    And while KWS officials acknowledge the country has been fortunate not to have recorded a single case of animal extinction, they concede this is the reality we are staring in the face if measures are not taken.

    You do not need to go far for evidence as events that have transpired in the past 10 days best illustrate the devastation.

    Eight days ago, five lions attacked and killed four cows at Oloolaimutiak within the Masai Mara National Reserve. Irate villagers chased away the beasts, then laced the carcass with poison, leaving it behind as bait.

    And the trick worked. An eight-month-old lion was later found dead 100m from the carcass. Some 36 vultures as well fell prey and lay lifeless around the carcass. The fate of the other four lions remains unknown. Three days before, a poacher was shot dead after he was caught removing a horn from a black rhino in Laikipia.

    These incidents involved two of the big five animals, and it is not a surprise that of the five, only the buffalo is not endangered.

    KWS Head of Species Conservation and Management Patrick Omondi says Kenya had more than 20,000 African lions in 1963. It dropped to 2,749 in 2002 and stood at 1,970 last year, showing the danger facing the proverbial king of the jungle. The African elephant is also not safe. Their number stood at 167,000 in 1963 before dropping to an all-time low of 16,000 in 1989. It now stands at 32,000.

    One of the 51 elephants killed by poachers this year.

    [PHOTO: FILE/STANDARD]

    Black rhinos too have declined drastically. Their population stood at about 20,000 in 1970 but had reduced to 391 in 1997. Today the number stands at 603.

    Leopards have not been spared either and are today reeling from the devastation of the 1980s and 1990s, when they were widely poached for their valuable skin and body parts.

    Kenya has also been famed as a haven for cheetahs and wild dogs, which roamed the bushlands in tens of thousands in the 1980s. But today, according to KWS, there are only 1,160 cheetahs and 800 wild dogs.

    Vast space

    "These two animals have particularly been endangered because they need vast space for movement, and people continue to encroach on their land," says Omondi.

    And that is not all. Various antelopes are also walking the extinction line.

    The KWS data shows the country has only 100 roan antelopes, which are confined at Ruma National Park in Nyanza Province. The number has dropped from more than 20,000 in the 1980s.

    Sable antelopes have also been reduced from 10,000 in the same period to less than 200 today, while the population of the Hirola antelope has fallen from 14,000 in 1970 to 600 today.

    Sable antelopes are now only found at Shimba Hills while the Hirola are almost exclusively found in Ijara District.

    The Grevy’s Zebra, only found in Kenya and Ethiopia, could soon be rendered extinct. Its population has fallen from more than 20,000 in 1970 to 1,800 today.

    Out of these, 150 are in Ethiopia, and the rest in northern Kenya, near Lake Turkana. And so dire is their survival status that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species has listed them under Appendix I, which offers them the highest form of protection against poaching. Spotted hyenas are also facing extinction. Mr Omondi notes that despite efforts by KWS to protect these species, poachers are still getting their way.

    "Last year was one of the worst as we lost 98 elephants to poachers. This year alone, we have already lost 51," he states.

    Wrong signal

    He blames the upsurge on the recent partial lifting of ivory trade that allowed South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia to sell their ivory to Japan and China in 2007. "It was a one-off sale but sent the wrong signal to the traders, and that is why Kenya was opposed to the decision. It opened up the trade and it is not a surprise that not so long ago, we seized five tonnes of ivory being smuggled to Tanzania via Loitoktok," says Omondi.

    At the moment, Kenya has the fourth largest African Elephant population in the world after Botswana, Zimbabwe and Tanzania.

    On the remaining African Rhino, Omondi says KWS has been forced to monitor them day and night since the demand for their horns is too high in the Far East.

    "But we are still overwhelmed by the poaching menace and are about to boost our aerial and ground surveillance. At Tsavo Conservation Area, we have four light aircrafts patrolling daily, but we still record poaching cases," he notes. Kenya has 19 light aircrafts for wildlife protection and boasts the best anti-poaching unit in Africa. At 603, the number of African rhinos is the third largest in the world.

    And while singling out human wildlife conflict as the main cause for the decline in the lion population, Omondi laments that poisoning of the carnivores is emerging as a leading way of killing them, particularly among the pastoral communities.

    Roam outside

    "This is because lions often roam outside the national parks during drought," he explains.

    And in a desperate effort to conserve the remaining animals, KWS has established programmes to save them. A similar programme to save Bongos is also underway.

    The programme targets to raise the elephant population to 50,000 by 2050.

    But Omondi says Parliament must enact land policies to assist clear key animal migratory routes that have been encroached by human beings.

    "Today, there are 2,000 elephants in the Mara. But they cannot stay there the whole year and need the area around the park. Migratory corridors are vital and the issue of land has to be addressed swiftly since the Mara and other parks cannot survive without dispersal areas around them," Omondi warns.
    it should be noted that Kenya outlawed big game hunting in 1977 and has had a steady decline in wildlife ever seance......all other countries that allow hunting in the area such as Tanzania and Mozambique have seen an increase in these animals, infact several countries have far more elephants than the land can sustain....the southern white rhino has made a remarkable come back and may be hunted in several countries according to CITES and in one country the black rhino is now back to the point that very limited hunting is allowed(i believe the quota is 2 bulls a year)........PETA and similar groups like to praise Kenya for not allowing hunting yet they are the only country seeing a steady decline in wildlife....
    cervid serial killer
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    swords's Avatar
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    There is a lot of smuggling into/out of Kenya via Somalia with the warlord/pirate groups attaching themselves to nomadic caravans traveling between Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia. This according to my Somali co-workers. It's likely many of these animals are being killed on the large land reserves and the ivory/valuable parts going eastward through Qatar (the Somali pirates eastern landing port) since Cites is well enforced in the west. Nice to have the parks but without anyone to watch them, a rather impossible task I grant you, this will probably continue.

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    War. War never changes. Est's Avatar
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    Honestly, I don't know much about the political/social factors involved in these cases. However, I can agree that a kneejerk reaction against hunting isn't always a positive thing. There are certainly cases where hunters are some of the best conservationists.

    But I think it'd be oversimplifying the matter to say that hunting equates to healthy animal populations. There are certainly cases where hunting had a deleterious effect and unforseen consequences. One example, using one of the big 5 mentioned, was when hunting of adult male elephants was allowed, as a response to increasing populations. Unfortunately the adult males play a role in keeping the younger males in check. With the adult males removed from the picture, the younger males came to sexual maturity and became quite aggressive, leading to some unfortunate incidents involving testosterone-pumped elephants rampaging through human settlements.

    Same thing applies to logging. Clearcutting is, obviously, a bad thing. But selective cuts can be not only profitable but benefit the entire forest. That's certainly the case where I live. There're businesses making big bucks and the only reason you can tell that the forests are ever logged is because of periodic infrastructure upgrades.
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    rattler's Avatar
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    in every other country in Africa where the game animal are doing very well....where the rhinos have made great comebacks it is directly because of hunters because it is hunter dollars that pays for the anti poaching patrols.....i am not aware of a single government only sponsered anti poaching systemn that works on the whole continent....it takes the local ppl interested in kkeeping the animals around because they are worth money alive to hunters....hunters employ the locals, excess meat from the animals killed goes to the local villages.....without healthy game animal population there are no hunters, with out hunters dollars the locals have no interest in keeping around animals that will destroy their crops....the most effective antipoaching patrols on the continant are run by proffessional hunters who make their living taking hunters from other countries out to shoot a small quota of the entire population.....in the off season they are still teir patroling their leases making sure no poaching goes on......asnd yes while only the large mammals are targeted to be shot it also sets aside the chunck of country for the entire ecosystem to function instead of the locals running cattle on the same land.....
    cervid serial killer
    Know guns, know peace, know safety. No guns, no peace, no safety
    I didn't get stimulated but he kept his promise on change, that's about all I got left!
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    The remnants of colonialism, followed by never-ending economic & political meddling by outsiders (including us) is behind just about every problem in Africa. Add in all the different ethnic groups and different levels of stability and animosity between bordering countries and it's an incredibly complicated place that is not conducive to simple solutions. I don't have any first-hand knowledge, but a friend has a Ghanian wife and he's over there 1-2 times a year helping grow the education system in one area.

    That said, legalizing hunting and relying on hunter dollars & euros to fund anti-poaching patrols might be a band-aid that maintains populations of some wild critters until some hypothetical time in the future when there is less dysfunction. However, I don't think any of us would be happy if the only law enforcement we ever encounter is there to threaten us with death to protect animals for Whitey to shoot.
    Bruce in CT

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    rattler's Avatar
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    as ppl ive chatted with who spend a good deal of time the problem with Africa is the general attitude of the majority of the natives.....they live for today with no care about tomorrow.....you can kind of see why this attitude has developed living some place where tomorrow morning yah might get eaten by a croc getting while getting water for your breakfast......the black africans are only interested in keeping the critters alive if they are worth something to them.....if money isnt coming via hunters they will just kill the critters for ivory, hides and for bush meat to sell at market......an animal is only going to get saved in africa anytime in the near future is if there is a price on its head.......the price hunters pay is much more than what they get for the animal at market.....so its not only worth it for the natives to keep the big trophy animals around but to keep a solid breeding population going......for this they need wild country which in turn sets aside land for all the lesser critters hunters arent interested in.....

    short of waving a magic wand and changing the attitude of all the natives hunting is about the only way to do any good on a large scale short of wiping out all the natives.........
    cervid serial killer
    Know guns, know peace, know safety. No guns, no peace, no safety
    I didn't get stimulated but he kept his promise on change, that's about all I got left!
    http://www.wolfpointherald.com/--http://www.safety-brite.net/

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    I was in a not-so back street shop in Kowloon (Hong Kong) back in 2007; and the various exotic animal parts and even meat (elephant in a can -- no ****) still openly for sale throughout most of Asia (many fetching thousands of dollars -- for rhino horn, bear gall bladder, and various penises and paws) are testament that, where there is an oh, so creepy demand, there is always a market . . .
    “Sì perché l'autorità dell'opinione di mille nelle scienze non val per una scintilla di ragione di un solo . . ."

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    Here’s a great white hunter bit from William Burroughs take from it what you will, I think it's hilarious (in a dark comedy way)…

    “…Kim had just read a juicy story about African medicine men who blind hyenas with red hot pokers and burn out their vocal cords. Slowly binding the tortured animals to their will, to fashion a silent and dedicated instrument of death. Kim looks speculatively at Jerry’s dog Rover…

    The English colonel fills his pipe.

    “Saw a boy go down hamstrung, next thing I know, his throat is ripped out. I couldn’t see what was doing it, it was like a ghost attack. But the boys knew, and the cry went up “Schmun! Schmun!” That’s the native word for hyenas blinded by the beastly medicine men.

    "I had intended to capture a gorilla of the mountain species, they’re somewhat smaller than the lowland breeds. I had this cage just so big and big enough, that I managed to nip into it and lock the door. I’ll never forget them pleading to be let in as the hyenas tore them apart…. Couldn’t chance it you know, one boy wedged in the door and that would’ve been it… With their last breath some of them threw curses at me - in their blind animal panic they just couldn’t understand my position. “

    “Well, what can you expect of people with no breeding?” Kim put in.

    “Ah yes, Kipling, the writer chap, talks about the “Lesser breed without the law“. Awfully depressing all that…””


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