Conservation and Environment in Kenya: Monthly Updates
Kenya Conservation - Monthly Update: April - May 2014
The Rothschild’s giraffe population occurs in Kenya and Uganda with some population in South Sudan. In Kenya they occur outside their natural range, therefore the need of constant monitoring to ensure the survival of this species in the remaining stronghold. The Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) is Africa’s giraffe conservation guide, and puts the population of this sub-species at less than 1100. The species is also classified by IUCN as Endangered and is marked as of high conservation importance on the IUCN Red List.
Projects Abroad Kenya Conservation Project, based in Kigio Wildlife Conservancy (KWC), conducts surveys to monitor a population of 28 individuals, which includes 9 males, 12 females and 7 juveniles (4 being less than one year). In the last two months our team of enthusiastic volunteers have been working on developing a new giraffe ID-kit for our giraffe monitoring and research project. Giraffe populations are monitored using an individual ID-based kit, with each individual giraffe having a photo taken of both sides. This sounds easy but it took us over 2 months to come up with a new giraffe identification kit.
“We now understand more about our Rothschild’s giraffe population, we know when they mate and when they give birth, thanks to the Projects Abroad team’s diligent efforts. This is not only important for understanding the population dynamics, but it is crucial for the survival of this sub-species.” - Moses Njenga (Operations Manager, Kigio Wildlife Conservancy)
The giraffe population is doing well. After we lost one adult giraffe we had two babies born (Leah and Milton), daughter and son to Fiona and Peggy, within one week in late May. The babies are being monitored constantly and they are healthy.
The data from our bird inventory has put the number of species at over 180 species, this makes the conservancy a bird watchers heaven, and with the continued support of volunteers we are getting more and more results. The data from the weekly inventory yields interesting results and each time we conduct a survey there are new discoveries. The continuous monitoring of these species is necessary, since birds are important ecological indicators and they tell us about the state of our environment.
The data from our camera traps yielded interesting information the last few months, which can be used to map the leopard range in the conservancy.
We conducted wildlife census in the months of May in collaboration with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). We counted wildlife in KWC and the neighbouring ranch and the results are as follows: we found that 55% of sightings were Impala (Aepyceros melampus), 14% Warthog (Phacochoerus africanus), 11% Zebra (Zebra), 7% African Buffalo (Syncerus caffer), 5% Thomason Gazelle (Eudorcas thomsonii), 2% Rothschild’s Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi), and Hare (Lepus), Waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus), Blackbacked Jackal (Canis mesomelas), Eland (Taurotragus oryx), Hippo (Hippopotamus amphibius) and Dikdik (Madoqua) each making up 1%.
Our tree planting program is ongoing, but with schools closed in the month of April our efforts were centred more on the community members neighbouring the conservancy. KWC is semi-arid and has been affected by deforestation since mid-1950, reducing the vast land to few scattered trees. Unsustainable tree harvesting coupled by charcoal burning was another nail on the coffin. This initiative is yielding results; with the land being subdivided into small portions Projects Abroad is working closely with community members to increase the percentage tree cover. Each household is receiving a minimum of 50 to maximum of 500 trees, depending on the size of land.
The community members are very happy and supportive with this initiative which is the first of its kind in the area. The number of community members who wanted trees planted on their farms now stands at over 100, and the list is growing promptly, hence more manpower and resources. However the tree planting is not only restricted to outside the conservancy. Acacia xanthopholea, which is one of the native plants in this ecosystem and is propagated in our nursery, we are planting in the conservancy in order to increase the standing biomass for our herbivores, and most importantly for the giraffe whose preferred species is acacia.
The rains falling in the region has spurred the growth of Datura stramonium, which is a toxic plant to wildlife and takes away the pristine beauty of the savannah. With a national strategy and action plan for the management of Invasive species in protected areas being implemented in conservation areas, Kigio Wildlife Conservancy is not being left behind. The volunteers and rangers are involved in the control stage, with the one aim of completely elimination the seed bank of this species of plant. The steps being followed in this program is outlined in the National strategy and action plan for the management of the invasive species in protected areas and is as follows: Identification, mapping their distribution, and then manual removal (also known as mechanical control). Once the plants are completely removed from a spot we conduct follow up monitoring to ensure that there is no re-growth of the plant. The above is important in control and management to ensure habitats are restored to pristine condition.
Hyena population monitoring is ongoing, with the aim of understanding their population dynamics. The census of the hyena has resulted in one clan with 6 adults and 3 cubs (2 being juveniles). Intensive studies will be conducted in the near future to determine the exact number of this isolated population. Plans are underway in collaboration with Kenya Wildlife Service to conduct studies on this species in KWC and the neighbouring ranches.
KWC has a solar powered perimeter fence which not only delineates the Conservancy’s boundary, but also keeps wildlife in. This prevents human-wildlife encounters, which always has negative impacts such as poaching. The volunteers and rangers were very instrumental in patrolling this fence to keep poachers away. Poaching, which is one of the threats to conservation in KWC, has decreased drastically with no incidents reported in the months of April and May. This is attributed to the increased effort of monitoring the perimeter fence by volunteers and rangers.
Conservation volunteers in the month of May visited Bethseida Bridge of Hope, an orphanage in Gilgil, and made a donation of an assortment of playing materials to the children at the orphanage. They devoted an entire Friday afternoon to making a difference with the kids. The volunteers and staff played with the children who were delighted to receive visitors from a different part of the world.
Conservation Manager, Kenya