Kenya on May 7, 2021 launched its first ever National Wildlife Census covering both land and Aquatic wildlife.
The two month exercise is fully funded by the Government of Kenya and will be executed by the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, Kenya Wildlife Service and the newly created Wildlife Research &Training Institute.
The census will be carried out in Kenya’s Conservation areas and key wildlife rich counties. Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife Hon. Najib Balala presided over the census official launch at Shimba Hills National Reserve in Kwale County. Speaking during the Launch Hon. Balala said, “The information generated during the census will support implementation of Government of Kenya conservation and tourism policies and support tools for adaptive management.”
The Cabinet Secretary said the number and distribution of rare and threatened species listed in Schedule Six of the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, 2013 require regular monitoring using standard methods. Hon Balala noted that Kenya has never undertaken a one-off national survey to establish a baseline of the wildlife status and distribution in the country. “It is therefore important to undertake this National Survey to establish a baseline data on wildlife population status and distribution for future use to understand wildlife population trends and shifts in their distribution,” he said.
Kenya Wildlife Service Director General Brigadier (Rtd) John Waweru assured that the KWS and Wildlife Research & Training Institute teams undertaking the census are professional and up to the task, and promised that the exercise will be undertaken with the highest level of professionalism. Brigadier (Rtd) Waweru further stated that the resources allocated by the National Government through the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife will be used prudently, following relevant laws and regulations.
The Acting Director of Wildlife Research & Training Institute Dr. Patrick Omondi said the census will follow standard methods to count different species of Terrestrial and Aquatic wildlife.
The Launch was attended by the Principals Secretaries of State Departments of Wildlife and Tourism Prof. Fred Segor and Safina Kweke respectively. The acting chairpersons of KWS Board of Trustees and Wildlife Research & Training Institute Ms. Betty Maitoyo, and Dr. Winnie Kiiru respectively also graced the occasion.
Kenya starts its first national wildlife census
Kenya began its first national wildlife census on Friday, aiming to aid conservation and identify threats to its vast but threatened wildlife populations.
The census will run until July, with rangers, researchers and community members counting animals on land and from helicopters.
It will focus on counting rare species such as the pangolin, which has been identified as a potential intermediary species for COVID-19, and the Sable antelope, of which fewer than 100 remain in Kenya.
Expanding human settlements, a changing climate that makes resources scarcer, and poaching have contributed to declines in wildlife populations. Giraffe populations in Kenya have fallen about 40% over the last three decades, according to the Africa Wildlife Foundation.
The 250 million shilling ($2.3 million) project was launched by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the tourism ministry at the Shimba Hills National Reserve, the coastal home of Kenya’s last population of Sable antelopes.
Some of Kenya’s most vulnerable animals, including rhinos and elephants, are counted periodically. But it will be the first time animals are counted systematically in all areas of the country.
“We know there are major gaps. We probably don’t know much about what is going on in northern Kenya,” said Winnie Kiiru, acting chairperson of the Kenya Wildlife Research Training Institute.
Detailed information about wildlife in northern Kenya’s less populated and less visited parks is limited.
The aim is to better understand population sizes and their distribution, to identify threats to animals and suggest conservation strategies.
Tourism accounted for 8.2% of Kenya’s GDP in 2019, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council, much of it from visits to nature parks, but has fallen drastically during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The plunge in international travel has also had some benefits. Last year was the first since 1999 in which no rhinos were poached, the KWS said.