Friday, June 4, 2010

Kenyan wildlife endangered

Kenya Wildlife Service wardens prepare a tranquillised black rhino for ear notching at the Lake Nakuru National Park on March 27, 2008. KWS is electronically tagging endangered black rhinos for individual identification and policing purposes. Photo/REUTERS

Kenya Wildlife Service wardens prepare a tranquillised black rhino for ear notching at the Lake Nakuru National Park on March 27, 2008. KWS is electronically tagging endangered black rhinos for individual identification and policing purposes. Photo/REUTERS 

By JACOB NG’ETICH

The world celebrates the World Environment Day on Saturday. This year’s theme, Many Species, One Planet, One Future rings true for Kenya, where more than 10 animal species are on the brink of extinction.

The Kenya Wildlife Service is worried by the dwindling numbers of the country’s wildlife.

The International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Species Survival Commission (SSC) report last year ranked the Kenyan black rhino, hirola, Grevy zebra, cheetah, Macow’s shrew, Tana River red colobus, and ultimate shrew as some of the species that are endangered.

The KWS director, Dr Julius Kipngetich, agrees with the Red List report and fears that some species are on the verge of total disappearance.

“There are some critically endangered species like Roan Antelopes in the Ruma National Park. There are only 56 remaining, and if a disease strikes, they would be gone forever,” said Dr Kipngetich.

The KWS has put up a spirited effort to save the black rhino. The country currently has 610 black rhinos out of a total of 4,230 in Africa. In 1969, there were 65,000 black rhinos in Africa.

The conservation efforts will receive a big boost next week when KWS begins fitting tracking gear on all black rhinos.

The fitting at Maasai Mara, expected to last one week, will ensure that all black rhinos, which migrate to Serengeti in Tanzania, are monitored wherever they will be. Some Sh3 million will be spent on the exercise.

Efforts to tag the black rhino in the 14 rhino sanctuaries with the tracking device have been successful, with an unprecedented surge in the animals’ numbers.

While the future of the black rhino looks assured, the future of other species like the Macow’s shrew, Ultimate shrew, cheetah, bongo, and hirola remains bleak.

The hirola, also known as the Hunter’s hartebeest, is one of East Africa’s most endangered species of antelope.

There are only 90 hirolas left in Kenya. The antelope species is found in Garsen, Bura, Galma and Galla in North eastern Kenya and south west of Somalia.

There is a small translocated population in Tsavo East National Park, outside the species’ natural range. The animals were moved from Garissa in 1963.

Five antelope species are at a critical stage. They are the Dama gazelle (Nanger Dama), Aders’ duiker (Cephalophus Adersi), the Saiga antelope (Saiga Tatarica), hirola (Beatragus Hunteri) and Addax (Addax Nasomaculatus).

The scimitar-horned oryx is already extinct in the wild, but there are ongoing efforts to reintroduce it.

The Grevy zebra that entered the endangered species category in 2006 was declared critically endangered last year with an estimated total population of 2,600 in Kenya. There were 15,000 in 1970.

“Basically, we are the only ones remaining with the main population of Grevy zebra because there are only 120 in Ethiopia.

They were decimated by anthrax and the 2007 drought,” the KWS boss said.

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