NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 16 – Kenya was Sunday set to celebrate rangers tasked with the protection of the country’s wildlife including the famous big five – lions, elephants, buffalos, the rhinos and the leopards – at an annual event in Nairobi.
The event dubbed the Conservation Heroes Day acknowledges rangers that have been at the forefront in the fight against poaching, the single biggest threat to endangered wildlife species.
Also honored are rangers who have paid the ultimate price in the course of duty.
The celebrations held at the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) headquarters along Lang’ata road comes a day after the birth of a black rhino near Treetops Lodge inside the Aberdare National Park.
The birth is crucial to current regeneration efforts, with black rhino population having plummeted from 20,000 in 1970 to just slightly more than 500, according to Earth Watch Institute, an international environmental charity.
Part of the campaign has involved deployment of rapid-response veterinary teams to respond to cases of injured wildlife.
In one such response, two injured lions were treated mid-November after they were wounded by buffalos at Ngutuni Conservancy adjacent to the Tsavo East National Park during a hunt.
The regeneration campaign was dealt a huge blow in June when 11 translocated rhinos died in as many weeks with an independent inquiry pointing to gross negligence on the part of KWS officials who oversaw the exercise.
Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala suspended six top KWS officials in July following the publication of the investigation.
A six-member probe team found the officials to have failed to coordinate research-line departments at the KWS leading to poor decision-making in relocating the wildlife from Nairobi Nakuru National Parks to Tsavo East National Park.
The independent inquiry shows that there were areas of clear negligence that occurred at the Tsavo which include poor conditioning, poor coordination, and poor communication by KWS staff at the Tsavo,” Balala disclosed.
The independent investigation revealed that the sanctioned KWS officers failed to take appropriate action despite a finding in February that two boreholes sank at the holding area where the rhinos were to be relocated in June had high salinity.
According to the report, the two boreholes drilled by Davis and Shirtliff with the funding of World Wide Fund for Nature had salinity levels of 26,200 and 5,600 parts-per million respectively.
A nearby spring had a salinity level of 6,500 parts-per million, the investigation had shown.
The inquest also reported “starvation, proliferation of opportunistic bacteria in upper respiratory tract (Pasteurella species), gastric ulcers and gastritis” as triggers of the deaths.
In part of measures to safeguard endangered wildlife from extinction, Kenya has in the recent past upscaled efforts to protect her wildlife from poaching with the lion population said to have declined from 2,280 in 2004 to about 2000 in 2014.
The wildlife is distributed in some 23 national parks, 28 national reserves, and four national sanctuaries, occupying about 8 per cent of Kenya’s land mass protected for wildlife conservation.
Kenya also boasts of four marine national parks and six marine national reserves.