, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 30 – Kenya and Tanzania have recorded an 83 percent reduction of large herbivores over the last three years, according to a new census.
The joint aerial cross-border wildlife census conducted in the greater Amboseli West, Kilimanjaro, Magadi and Natron parks shows that the wildebeests declined from 18,538 in the year 2007 to 3,098 this year.
Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Head of Ecological Monitoring Erustus Kanga said that the results will be used for ecological balancing and the protection of endangered species.
“The beauty of this particular census is that it is historic in that we covered both the areas of Kenya and Tanzania and we even covered a wider ecosystem than the Amboseli,” he said.
He added that the wet season wildlife census covered 25 wild mammals and two bird species.
Mr Kanga said Zebras declined by 71 percent from 15,328 to 4,432 while buffalos dropped by 61 percent from 588 to 231 over the same period in the Amboseli area.
Speaking to Capital News, Mr Kanga pointed out that the results will be used to find ways of improving the tourism sector and boost the country’s economy.
“Eighty percent of the tourists who come to Kenya are actually wildlife viewing tourists, which means that our bio-diversity is actually a resource in driving the economy of this country,” he explained.
“Wherever we are, we are encouraging the communities with our expertise by identifying potential areas where they can be able to create conservancies,” he stated.
“The 2008/2009 prolonged drought led to massive mortalities of zebra, wildebeest, elephants and buffaloes,” said a statement from KWS.
Loss of habitat, charcoal burning, fragmentation of wildlife corridors and dispersal areas and adverse climate change have been listed as major threats facing wildlife conservation.
However, the elephant population in the Amboseli was found to have remained relatively stable with 1,087 in the year 2000, 1,090 in 2002, 967 in 2007 compared to the current population of 1,266.
The census found that wildlife was widely distributed in the entire survey area, a trend attributed to the fact that pastoralists allowed relative coexistence between their livestock and wildlife.
The census underscored the need for cross boundary collaboration in law enforcement, ecological monitoring and information sharing and data exchange.
The census data included observations on habitat conditions, water distribution, livestock numbers, human settlement patterns, illegal activities, and other attributes associated with land use changes in the ecosystem.
The statement said the information gathered from the censuses would be used in planning and preparing park managements for possible wildlife security and human-wildlife conflict eventualities in any ecosystem.
In addition, wildlife census information would also be used to advise communities on areas that sustain high number of wildlife species and were potential sites for establishment of community conservancies, ecotourism and enterprise projects.
Kenya Wildlife Service had been carrying out regular aerial census every three years in the Amboseli ecosystem, the last one having been carried out in 2007.