The best way to support wildlife conservation is to plan your visit for later. The worse you can do is ask for a refund.
Do you have a safari planned to Africa this year? If so, we encourage you to change the dates; and not to cancel…
Several African states have imposed far-reaching restrictions in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus.
South Africa has declared a national disaster and announced a ban on travel from the worst-affected countries, while Kenya has also imposed sweeping travel restrictions with ripple effects on the continent’s tourism sphere.
The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) estimates that up to 50 million jobs could be lost because of the virus, while the travel sector could shrink up to 25 per cent in 2020.
The survival of the tourism industry- in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic- is key for the preservation of Africa’s wildlife and wild places. Protected areas in many developing countries rely heavily on tourism fees. For example, national parks in Kenya, home of the iconic Nairobi National Park, derive almost 70% of their income from tourism revenue (such as entrance fees, restaurants, accommodation, concession fees).
In light of this, many of East Africa’s tourist destinations are now urging travelers to try to postpone their trip, rather than cancel. ”Keep money on account for a postponement rather than demand a refund. When things go back to normal, you have something booked,” advices Embark’s CEO, Jack Ezon.
We recommend that you not give up on your safari, on an experience of a lifetime because of the Coronavirus, and instead make a fully informed decision by speaking directly to your safari tour operator, accommodation and airlines. Africa needs you: postpone, don’t cancel.
By Nancy Ogonje, Executive Director, East African Wild Life Society
First of all, we hope that all of you and your loved ones are coping with this difficult environment we find ourselves in due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We want you to know that you are in our thoughts and that we sincerely hope you remain healthy.
We are currently facing significant disruptions to our lives and a major and largely unforeseen global challenge that affects people in all corners of the world. The East African Wild Life Society is no exception: the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting our members, our partners—both regional and across the globe—as well as our staff.
With COVID-19-related challenges mounting, EAWL’s mission becomes even more urgent—not only to protect wildlife, but also people—because we are all now suffering the consequences of the dangerous wildlife trade practices that for years, EAWLS has been advocating against.
This period will be challenging as we continue to champion a change in our relationship with wildlife while not being able to properly mobilise our teams to carry out conservation projects on the ground.
Where we can, we plan to increase our online presence so that people indoors remain connected to the natural world. If you would like to offer additional support to help with EAWLS’s ongoing activities during the lockdown period, please follow this link.
Through this crisis, the East African Wild Life Society will continue to be the voice that nature needs. We hope you and your families will join us at the other end, all the more willing to fight for nature at this pivotal tipping point for our planet.
With a soaring infection rate, growing death toll and widespread lockdowns which are shutting down entire economies and costing people their jobs, it is hard to see any positive side of the coronavirus pandemic. However, it seems the lockdown has had an unintended benefit – blue skies.
Satellite images released by NASA and the European Space Agency show a dramatic reduction in nitrogen dioxide emissions – those released by vehicles, power plants and industrial facilities – in major Chinese cities between January and February. The visible cloud of toxic gas hanging over industrial powerhouses almost disappeared.
While not a greenhouse gas itself, the pollutant originates from the same activities and industrial sectors that are responsible for a large share of the world’s carbon emissions and that drive global heating.
One expert said the sudden shift represented the “largest scale experiment ever” in terms of the reduction of industrial emissions.
The exponential growth of the coronavirus pandemic also teaches us a valuable lesson about the perils of ignoring destructive processes—and perhaps even larger, longer-term disasters—that increase exponentially.
Aside from the coronavirus pandemic, the biggest, most destructive exponential growth processes that we must grapple with today are those associated with global climate change.
“If we can think about how to prepare for climate change like a pandemic, maybe there will be a positive outcome to all of this,” says Christopher Jones, lead developer of the CoolClimate Network, an applied research consortium at the University of California, Berkeley. “We can help prevent crises in the future if we are prepared. I think there are some big-picture lessons here that could be very useful.”
It is no secret that there has been major damage to Kenya’s forests, which cover about 7.4 per cent of the total land area against the recommended global minimum of 10 per cent.
The country’s closed canopy forests cover only 2 per cent of the total land area, compared to the African average of 9.3 per cent and a global average of 21.4 per cent. Most of the closed canopy forests in Kenya are montane forests that are also the nation’s water towers.
In recent years, Kenya’s forests have been depleted at an alarming rate of 5,000 hectares per annum, resulting in an estimated annual reduction in water availability of over 62 million cubic meters.
In response, the East African Wild Life Society pioneered the The Forest Challenge – an annual event meant to raise funds for the conservation of forests and raise awareness on their importance.
The Forest Challenge Rehabilitation Program launched in 2015, has so far restored over 8.5 hectares of degraded montane forests in Eburru and Kereita Forests that form part of the larger Mau forest complex and the Aberdare water towers respectively.
This forest rehabilitation program is intended to provide a fillip to efforts to achieve Kenya’s stated objective of increasing the national tree cover to at least 10 per cent of the country’s total landmass by 2022.
Monitoring of the tree seedlings planted under the Forest Challenge Rehabilitation Program is critical in ensuring that the saplings planted take root and thrive. Thus, the Forest Challenge Rehabilitation Program employs an elaborate three-year tree care strategy, and works closely with the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and Community Forest Associations (CFAs) to implement it.
In this program, CFAs are empowered to work closely with KFS to undertake the aftercare activities for all the newly planted sites for a duration of up to three years. These aftercare activities include watering the trees when there is inadequate rainfall; spot weeding in order to remove competition for moisture and nutrients as well as protecting the trees from destruction by humans, livestock and wildlife. This not only enhances tree growth success rates but also creates ownership among the local communities while empowering them economically.
On 20th March 2020, the East African Wild Life Society’s project team visited the Forest Challenge Rehabilitation site in Eburru Forest to assess the success rate of the 4,500 tree seedlings planted in two phases in May 2019 with proceeds from the 2018 Forest Challenge.
The assessment showed that 85 per cent of the trees planted in the first phase had survived and were thriving – a very exciting development! An assessment of the trees planted in the second phase is scheduled as soon as the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
We want to thank our donors and corporate sponsors of the Forest Challenge for enabling us to plant and grow these trees. We look forward to more tree planting in the years to come!
Mt. Elgon is world famous for its “cave elephants”. New research is showing the elephants visit numerous caves (Kitum being the best known), sometimes penetrating up to 150m deep into the mountain. They usually do this at night and in the pitch black, following ancient and boulder strewn pathways. High rainfall leaches many of the minerals from the surface soil which, in turn, causes the deficiency of the much-needed minerals by the elephants. To supplement their mineral poor diet, the elephants “mine” the soft, mineral rich walls and floors of the caves.
In an exciting project launched in May 2017, the East African Wildlife Society’s Mount Elgon Elephant Project (EAWLS-MEEP), founded by Dr Emmanuel Ndiema, Christopher Powles and others, seeks to understand more about this poorly studied yet fascinating population of elephants. A key objective of the EAWLS-MEEP is to collect the relevant data so that evidence-based recommendations can be made to mitigate the threats to this threatened and unique elephant population.
Images courtesy Steve Powles
With an ever-increasing demand for land and changing land use on the mountain, human-elephant conflict is on the increase. Some farmers have already lost their lives as they attempt to protect their livelihoods from crop raiding elephants. Knowing where this conflict is likely to occur, and why, is critical to saving lives and the long-term survival of the elephants of Mt. Elgon.
EAWLS – MEEP works in collaboration with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Kenya Forest Service (KFS). A team of four scouts (recruited from the local community) and some KWS rangers were trained in July 2019 to collect the necessary data using “Cybertracker” technology. Using this technology installed on smart phones, the scouts and rangers gather information such as elephant sightings, the location of human-elephant conflict (e.g. crop raiding), illegal human activities (like evidence of charcoal burning and snaring) and the location of caves. The data collection point is automatically given a GPS coordinate by the smart phone. Once collected, the data has, to date, been downloaded manually for analysis requiring regular visits to Mt. Elgon by EAWLS-MEEP staff. However, with the recent introduction of “SMART Connect”, this has been made easy and efficient as the scouts and rangers are able to directly upload the data collected from their phones and hence the data can be received real time, analysed and alerts issued in a timely fashion rather than only being available after a long delay.
In an important development, early in February 2020, Jabes Okumu (Wildlife Programme Manager, EAWLS), Lizbeth Mate (Project Manager, EAWLS-MEEP) and Clarine Kigoli (Data Analysis, EAWLS-MEEP) travelled to Mt. Elgon to introduce the concept of the technology to new KWS senior staff and train the scouts plus KWS staff in how to implement SMART Connect.
With EAWLS-MEEP having now deployed both Cybertracker and Smart Connect on Mt Elgon, the collection and transfer of data has been greatly enhanced. It is hoped that it will not be long before evidence – based recommendation can be made to benefit both the wildlife and the community on Mt Elgon.
MEEP is, in part, funded by the Mount Elgon Foundation (MEF). MEF is a UK-based charity set up to protect the natural and cultural heritage Mt. Elgon. It is working in close collaboration with the National Museums of Kenya and the Elephant Crisis Fund, a joint initiative of Save the Elephants and the Wildlife Conservation Network, in partnership with the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation.
To read more about the project, kindly purchase or make reference to the EAWLS Swara Magazine 2019 4th edition (Oct-Dec).
If you would like to support EAWLS – MEEP in its efforts to conserve the elephants of Mt. Elgon please go to:
Crowdfunding page: www.gofundme.com/f/mt-elgon-elephant-project
Or for more information contact:
Christopher Powles: + (44) (0)1869 350 978, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mount Elgon Foundation, Reg. No. 1186668
The global conservation movement has reached a turning point. We have documented the fast pace of loss of species and their habitats, and the increasing speed of global climate change. While the seriousness of these threats cannot be denied, there are also some successes that deserve to be told. Improvements in the health of species and ecosystems along with their benefits to human well-being need to be highlighted and showcased.
The East African Wild Life Society has partnered with the Tropical Biology Association and others to host the flagship Earth Optimism Event, Nairobi, which will be held on 22nd April 2020 at the National Museums of Kenya.
Earth Optimism celebrates successes and achievements in conservation. It champions a change in focus from problem to solution; from a sense of loss to one of hope in the dialogue on conservation and sustainability.
Towards this end, the East African Wild Life Society invites participants to showcase their conservation efforts at Earth Optimism 2020 through inspiring presentations based on impactful success stories in which people have demonstrably changed the status of a population (species), a habitat, or a threatening process for the better.
The content of the talk should try and answer the following:
- What is the conservation problem the talk is addressing (which species or place, how is it threatened, and why)?
- What has been done to address this (what have you been doing with whom, how), and how is this innovative?
- What is the evidence this is working (ideally with numbers [populations or habitat area stabilized or increasing] or at least good anecdotal evidence [animals being seen where they haven’t for a while, etc.])?
- What is the impact on local people (are they benefiting, and if so, how)?
- Why do you think your approach is working?
- What does the future hold (what are the challenges, are you optimistic and if so why, etc.)?
A projector will be available for PowerPoint presentations, as needed.
Talks will be 20 minutes long and should fall under the following themes:
- Environmental conservation: Species and Habitats
- Climate action: Adaptation, Mitigation and Innovation
- Sustainable food systems: Ecological agriculture, Food security and Nutrition
- Communities: Site action, Research and Capacity Building
Interested in having your work featured at Earth Optimism 2020? Reach out to us by contacting: Jabes.Okumu@eawildlife.org .
The youth, Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) and Corporates are highly encouraged to apply.
As a follow up to a workshop held in South Africa on designing linear infrastructure, the African Conservation Centre, Center for Large Landscape Conservation, Ewaso Lions, Grevy’s Zebra Trust, Power Africa and Endangered Wildlife Trust organised a three-day workshop on February 12-14 whose theme was “Designing Linear Infrastructure for Sustainable Outcomes.”
The forum, held in the Karen suburb of Nairobi brought together a diversity of voices from governments, technical experts, managers, the private sector and civil society to deliberate on the best practices for linear infrastructure development in East Africa.
Other participants included representatives from Kenya’s Rural Electrification Authority, IUCN, WWF International, the World Bank; the African Development Bank, York University, Montana State University, BirdLife International and the East African Wild Life Society.
The need to incorporate the protection of nature or biodiversity in the planning and design of infrastructure project from the onset was made clear in the discussions. Stakeholders and experts from different agencies need to be engaged from the beginning, it was agreed.
A resolution was passed at the workshop calling for the convening of a conference in 2021 to take the discussion further.
Government representatives acknowledged the need for sustainable infrastructural projects.
There was unanimity that if development projects must encroach on conservation areas then data must be sought to help implementers understand animal behaviour to ensure designs incorporate animal crossing points at appropriate migration areas, taking into account the various animal physical sizes.
Participants visited two wildlife conservancies in Kenya’s Athi-Kapiti plains, south of Nairobi, that serve as dispersal areas for the Nairobi National Park. The aim was to gain some perspective on the impact of the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway on Kenya’s wildlife.
In the Kenyan context, big infrastructural projects have been implemented in the recent past. One of the most notable ones has been the Standard Gauge Railway. Others include roads cutting through the Tsavo National Park, Nairobi National Park and Oloolua Forest, as well as high voltage transmission lines from Ethiopia and the Turkana wind farms through Suswa to Nairobi that traversed wildlife conservancies. In addition, another high voltage line – whose environmental impact has yet been assessed – is being developed to provide power to Konza City, which is under construction in Machakos County.
Designs for high voltage transmission lines in Kenya should also incorporate models that reduce bird strikes. Locations for wind farms can also be chosen carefully in areas with less or no migratory routes for birds to minimize detrimental impact. This will ensure sound development and protection of many species in the long run.
Did you know that today is World Wildlife Day? A day to raise awareness on sustainable use of the world’s wild fauna and flora.
For environment champions like us, it’s an opportunity to recognize the value of biodiversity and remind ourselves of our responsibility to protect it.
Many indigenous East African species, from Maasai Giraffes,Rhinos to the African Lion have joined the list of the most threatened wildlife species on our planet. Among many other threats, illegal trade, habitat encroachment and pollution pose a serious threat to their survival.
From advocating for land mark environment management policies and undertaking biodiversity protection projects, to voicing our concerns and demanding urgent science-based conservation measures, we’re serious about wise use of our natural resources.
World Wildlife Day 2020 celebrates the special place of wild plants and animals in their many varied and beautiful forms as a component of the world’s biological diversity. This year’s theme – Sustaining all life on Earth – aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 1, 12, 14 and 15, and their wide-ranging commitments on alleviating poverty, ensuring sustainable use of resources, and on conserving life both on land and below water to halt biodiversity loss.
Join us in celebrating World Wildlife Day 2020 and make the pledge to build a world that can truly sustain all life on earth: http://chng.it/rZWRKpg4
Kenya’s 2010 Constitution mandated the central and county governments to jointly manage the country’s Kenya’s forests. The central government assumed the responsibility of providing technical support, policy leadership and capacity building, while the counties took charge of the management of their respective forest resources, giving them the authority to ensure community rights and to redress long-standing land tenure and benefit sharing disputes.
The Kenya Forests Working Group (KFWG), an autonomous civil society watchdog hosted by the East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS), has been working closely with the Kenya Forest Service and county governments to implement the Gazette Supplement No. 116 issued on 9th of August 2014 that provides for the devolution of forestry functions to county governments, including farm forestry extension services, forests and game reserves.
In June 2018, KFWG, working with various county governments, conducted a preliminary public consultation meeting in Bomet County on the formulation of a Bomet County Forest Conservation & Management Bill and Policy. This was necessitated by the need to provide county governments with a benchmark legal framework to execute their devolved forest management functions.
The drafting, validation and adoption of the Bomet County Forest Bill took place in two phases. Phase I involved the drafting the bill in consultation with the county legal team and other relevant stakeholders and the creation of a technical team for the Bomet County Forest Conservation and Management Bill.
Phase II involved further engagement with stakeholders and the creation of an effective policy brief. EAWLS/KFWG, the Bomet County Environment Department and the technical team of the Bomet County Forest Conservation and Management Bill organised a stakeholders’ workshop to scrutinize and enrich the bill and policy in readiness for its presentation to the county cabinet and public consultation.
The Bomet County Forest Conservation & Management Bill draft has since been presented to the public and is now being debated by the Bomet County assembly.
KFWG hopes that the ratification of this pioneering county forest bill will streamline the forest product value chain, provide a platform for communities to get involved in natural resource management and pave the way for more counties to adopt laws necessary for the execution of their forest management mandate.
In January, a desert locust infestation – the worst in 25 years – spread throughout Kenya after already wreaking havoc in Somalia and Ethiopia, posing the most significant threat to Kenya’s food security in recent times.
The swarms crossed the border from Somalia on December 28, and have now spread to northern Mandera and Marsabit, eastern Wajir and Garissa, as well as central Isiolo, Samburu, Meru and most recently, Murang’a and Machakos counties. Agriculturists estimate that over 500,000 hectares of crop land and pastures have so far been destroyed.
“The favourable conditions brought about by heavy rains experienced during the short rainy season last year, bringing forth lush vegetation, has made it possible for the insects to thrive and they will be here until February,” said Dr. George Otieno, University of Nairobi Head of Insect science.
Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture has said it will take at least six months to control the locusts, highlighting the threat to food security as Kenya’s breadbasket regions prepare for main crop season planting in March.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya speaking Monday, 27th January in the awake of reports indicating fresh invasions in the Embu and Tana River areas, said more swarms of locusts were arriving from Somalia and Yemen.
The Kenyan government and Desert Locust Control Organisation of East Africa have been working to provide aerial spraying for locust control and have allocated ksh.30 million (US$300,000) to this task.
It remains to be seen whether these efforts by the government will halt the spread of the locust invasion.
The potential of the pesticides’ adverse ecological impact that includes the destruction of beneficial insects and organisms remains unknown, causing another potential threat to the environment.