Over the last thirty years populations of most large mammal species have declined significantly in Kenya. In the twenty years between 1977 and 1997 wildlife declined by 38% nationally in all areas surveyed and by 36% within nationally protected areas. Trends reported more recently (1997-2007) suggest an even higher rate of loss between 5% and 8% per year depending on the species.
Generally speaking, for many large mammal species in Kenya there has been an estimated 50% decline in the last thirty years. The declines for most species are beyond expected losses due to drought and land use change alone with over-hunting being an identified contributor. During the same time period, Kenya’s human populations have increased dramatically from 14.5 million in 1977 to an estimated 40 million by the end of 2009. Human needs for protein, income, and land for farming and development are not only very high but increasing annually.
Thirty years ago in Kenya wildlife was twice as abundant as it is today. Kenya is dependent upon its wildlife not only for important revenue from tourism but also for important cultural, social and ecological services. Studies on wildlife declines have focused on climate (drought cycles) and land-use changes as well as trade (ivory and other wildlife products). Studies on bushmeat are relatively limited in the country but indications are that commercial bushmeat trade is increasing nationwide.
BEAN founders in Kenya are working on several fronts to address this decline in wildlife, including teaching environmental educators , working with law enforcement agencies and wildlife rangers, and bringing together the to address bushmeat.
Law enforcement development
A law enforcement workshop was held in the Masai Mara/Serengeti Ecosystem. The workshop was funded by United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), Mara Conservancy, Mara Siria Camp & Beyond, Care for the Wild – Kenya, and the Frankfurt Zoological Society. In Kenya 25 participants representing 11 institutions, including the police, magistrates, KWS, the Wildlife Division, Kenyan conservancies, and several NGOs. The partners recommended the need for further intensification of collaboration, coordination and networking among law enforcement partners. Maintaining that momentum, a second workshop to be held in 2011 was held to forge ties between the various partners, and address cross-border crime and capacity building of law enforcement agencies .
Research in the Tsavo and Masai Mara ecosystems in 2008-2009 demonstrated high numbers of households consuming bushmeat (up to 68%), which have devastating implications for Kenya’s wildlife and tourism revenue. To address this, bushmeat training modules and educational materials have been developed for over seventeen wildlife clubs and environmental educators in the Tsavo and Masai Mara ecosystems to address increasing hunting for local and regional consumption of wildlife. Today these materials are being shared with counterparts in Uganda to address bushmeat issues in the national parks. In addition, BEAN affiliates organized Kenya’s first ever bushmeat symposium which brought together wildlife professionals to share the latest information on bushmeat challenges with the goal of starting a collective dialogue on addressing the problem. A follow-up symposium will be held in 2012 to examine progress made and where efforts within the conservation community should be focused.
Through law enforcement workshops and discussions with conservancy leaders, an assessment of needs in the Masai Mara was conducted with institutional and financial support from BEAN, Wildize and the Museums of Kenya. Two main challenges were a lack of a formal database of poaching information, and the need for training of community scouts. To address this a training manual and brochures for community scouts were developed and subsequently an informal training on monitoring, record-keeping, and reporting of bushmeat hunting sites and incidents for eight game scout groups (24 men in total) was held from January–July 2010. Working in wildlife dispersal areas with GPSs, the scouts are now tracking data including the number of snares, number of carcasses, estimated weight of dried meat, volume, confiscated poaching equipment, active snaring sites, active and inactive poacher camps, data entry and mapping of data. This data is now used to track poaching trends.
Bringing professionals together
In Kenya results of research conducted by BEAN founding members in 2008 demonstrated the challenges over wildlife ownership and the poor mechanisms for information management and sharing. To address this, the first-ever bushmeat symposium was organized by BEAN founding members in 2009. This workshop brought together over 16 wildlife and donor partners to discuss the bushmeat crisis. Not only did this raise the profile of bushmeat within the wildlife network, but it also served as a platform to build relationships between organizations to work together on bushmeat, and resulted in the creation of a Kenya Wildlife Service’s point-person on bushmeat. In 2012, Kenya held a second symposium bringing together stakeholders and government to address bushmeat within the Wildlife Policy and Wildlife Bill.Nearly 50 wildlife professionals participated in the symposium. A report on this can be found here. Similar efforts in other BEAN countries may follow based on country-specific needs.
Click here for a link to reports and more information from BEAN and the bushmeat community in Kenya.