Restore the fire-damaged Tsavo National Park using technology

Residents of Mwaktau in Taita-Taveta County help to put out a fire in Tsavo West National Park on Thursday last week. It broke out the previous day. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Bringing back Tsavo is the ultimate investment to the realisation of sustainable water supply in Taita-Taveta and other coastal counties.

In May and July, thousands of acres of vegetation in Tsavo West National Park were turned to ashes. Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) rangers put out the fire but the mutilation of the ecosystem was immense.
Forests help to maintain high water quality, influence the volume of available water and regulate surface and groundwater flows. Bringing back Tsavo is the ultimate investment to the realisation of sustainable water supply in Taita-Taveta and other coastal counties.
Many of the world’s most sought-after and endangered larger mammals, as well as insects that the birds feed on, were roasted in the flames — yet they are pollination agents that contribute to the continuity of the ecosystem. At this rate, the vast herds of dust–red elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion, leopard, hippo, crocodile, waterbuck, lesser Kudu, gerenuk and the prolific birdlife of 500 recorded species risk going extinct.
The Swiss innovation by an environmentalist that entails the use of seed packets that carry seeds — trees, grass and flowers — with manure can save Tsavo.Adrian Zwahlen’s innovation has been proven after many years of testing and research to be a quick way to grow back fresh forest cover and restore biodiversity.
The seed packages, made of biodegradable material, are placed in a water bath before being laid out. The water saturation in these packets reaches eight to 10 times their dry weight. They are soaked with a a lot of water, which guarantees high germination rates.
This is a shift from the time-consuming conventional tree planting that is costly, given all that goes into raising the seedlings in a nursery and transplanting them. Soaked seed packets can be broadcast in the target area using catapults, drones and aeroplanes, beating the threat from wildlife.
According to Zwahlen, KWS will only require to assemble planting teams that can be trained to take charge of the actual broadcasting.

Upon their broadcast, grass seeds germinate first and grow quickly to form a network of roots that anchor the seed packets to the ground.
That means the packets will not be easily washed away by rainwater. The grass also acts as a shade for the rest of the seeds retaining the packets’ water.
Seeds for small flowering plants sprout next. Their purpose is to create a bio-diverse micro-environment by attracting pollinators such as bees, as well as other animals that depend on flowers for food and shelter.

There are two kinds of tree seeds placed in the seed packets; Small tree seeds that grow quickly into a shade for the native trees that grow later. Native tree seeds are the ones this mechanism counts on to repopulate the native forests. They are the main purpose of the seed packet.

Therefore, such technology offers Kenya a practical solution to the problem that has been caused by fires as in the Tsavo.

Joseph Sosi, public information officer, My Forests - Kenya. [email protected]