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, email@example.com
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.
On 21st November 2019, the Kenya Forest Working Group (hosted by the East African Wild Life Society) in partnership with the National Alliance of Community Forest Associations (NACOFA), World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Kenya Forest Service (KFS) launched the inaugural Community Forest Association Award scheme with the aim of creating public awareness on the importance of Community Forest Associations (CFAs) in forest protection, conservation and management.
“The main objective of this initial Community Forest Award is to recognize CFAs actively taking part in forest conservation and management in parts of the Mau Forest Complex and targeted CFAs in Narok, Bomet and Nakuru Forest Ecosystems,” said the Chief Conservator of Forests – Mr. Julius Kamau.
11 Community Forest Associations (Mara Mara, Olenguruone, Sururu, Chepalungu, Nyangores, Kiptunga, Ndoinet, Itare, Olposimoru, Nairotia, and Likia) were recognized for outstanding achievements in governance, business and enterprise development in forestry, forest conservation as well as management and sustainability.
“This award scheme will be useful in creating awareness among communities on the importance of forest conservation, recognising passion and awarding efforts in tree growing and forest conservation,’’ noted East African Wild Life Society’s Executive Director, Nancy Ogonje.
The CFA awarding ceremony drew to a close with the various participating CFAs, award partners and wider Bomet community planting a total of 25,000 indigenous tree seedlings as part of the efforts to restore over 5,000 hectares of degraded forest in Chepalungu, Bomet County destroyed over a decade ago by illegal logging and charcoal burning.
The East African Wild Life Society has received recent news that the Ugandan government intends to proceed with a plan to construct a hydropower dam at the Murchison Falls National Park on River Nile with alarm and consternation. We are joined by a number of conservationists inside and outside the country, in raising the alarm against this project, given the importance of the Falls to Uganda’s tourism and the potential damage to ecosystem that supports a large number of species.
According to media reports, the government has given the green light for a feasibility study to be carried out on the construction of the 360MW power project on Murchison Falls.
It is shocking that authorities in Uganda would be so insensitive as to consider the implementation of a project that would be disastrous to a crucial ecosystem and a key tourist attraction.
Murchison Falls National Park, which has a span of 3,900km2 and extends from the northern end of the western Rift Valley, is Uganda’s oldest and largest conservation area. It was first gazetted as a game reserve in 1926.
The waterfall itself cuts across the park and is considered the crown jewel of the park. It is here where the Victoria Nile plunges some 45 metres over the remnant Rift Valley wall with an 80-kilometre stretch of rapids.
The park is home to important African wildlife species, including an estimated 76 species of mammals, such as buffalo, giraffe, crocodiles, a rising elephant population and 451 varieties of birds.
This biological diversity as well as the park’s unique landscape on the Nile attracts over 100,000 visitors and generates over 15 billion Uganda shillings (US$4.1 million) annually, according to figures from the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). Private investors have not only established accommodation facilities for visitors to the park but also pay the relevant taxes and provide jobs to Ugandans.
Damming the river at Murchison Falls will have far-reaching adverse consequences for both the fauna and flora species in the conservation area and greatly undermine the park’s contribution to the Ugandan economy through tourism.
Even before the hydropower project was conceived, the Murchison Falls ecosystem faced challenges. Over the past decade, oil and gas installations have been established. Such energy initiatives also mean the construction of roads through previously undisturbed wildlife habitats.
In their petition to President Yoweri Museveni and the government, Ugandan conservationists have pointed out that Murchison Falls is a designated Ramsar site, meaning that the waterfall is recognised as being of international importance under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Uganda is a signatory to the convention and the country’s authorities are therefore obligated to protect and conserve Murchison Falls.
The electricity production project in Murchison Falls once again brings to the fore the question of whether infrastructure projects in developing countries should be implemented even at the expense of irreplaceable natural heritage.
The stance of the East African Wild Life Society is that the protection of a country’s natural heritage takes precedence over development needs.
Conservationists in Uganda are genuinely outraged by the government’s apparently cavalier attitude towards the integrity of one of the country’s most iconic landmarks. The East African Wild Life Society stands with them in opposition to this ill-advised project.
Hydro-power dam projects are some of the main causes of the decline in river water levels. Such reductions can have devastating environmental consequences, including damaging wetlands. They can also engender changes in river ecosystems that have adverse effects on people and the environment.
A dam at Murchison Falls is surely going to change the landscape in a most dramatic way and have far-reaching negative impacts on the ecosystem as we know it. This project must not proceed. The Uganda government must seek alternatives to enhance the country’s power production capacity. Alternatives include other clean energy projects such as solar and bio-energy.
Murchison Falls is a natural resource that is already paying dividends to the people of Uganda mainly through the tourism industry that it supports. It must not be destroyed in the name of development.
Voicing their opposition to the Murchison Falls hydropower project in a letter to the government on 20th June this year, the Honorary Wildlife Officers’ Association of Uganda stated that “Murchison Falls is the most spectacular falls on River Nile and are the biggest tourist attraction in the park. They provide tourists with an amazingly unrivalled experience. They are therefore a must-see iconic feature […] The falls also create a spectacular view that leaves tourists yearning for more and have enhanced the attractiveness of Murchison Falls.”
The government of Uganda must heed the call of its citizens and cancel plans to implement the project.
The East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS) marked the 10th anniversary of it’s Imre Loefler Talks on November 13 with a special edition of the lectures at the Muthaiga Country Club.
In attendance were representatives from the Hungarian Embassy in Kenya, including Ambassador Laszlo Mathe, EAWLS members and stakeholders from the conservation fraternity.
The talks are named after Dr. Imre Loefler, a Hungarian surgeon and nature lover well versed in philosophy, history, ecology, and wildlife conservation, as well as medical education. He lived and practiced medicine in Kenya for decades and was once the chair of EAWLS’ Board of Directors. Following his death in 2007, the Society decided to honour his memory by launching the Imre Loefler talks — a forum for discourse on conservation issues.
At the anniversary edition of the talks, Tamas Marghescu, highlighted ideologies he said were polarizing the conservation fraternity to the point of neutralizing its efforts despite common endeavours to protect wildlife and the environment. “There is no one solution to conservation. It is the sum of all successful activities, no matter what the underlying ideology or approach to conserving our fragile planet and its threatened wild species,” he said.
Ambassador Mathe applauded the efforts of the East African Wild Life Society in leading conservation dialogue in the region and in honouring Dr Loefler. He pledged his and the Hungarian embassy’s support for Society’s efforts on conservation advocacy.
Ali Kaka, the second speaker of the night has had a long-standing relationship with both the EAWLS and Imre Loefler. Kaka is a former Executive Director of the Society. His topic was marine conservation, which, he said, has in the past decade become critical, as the pollution of seas and climate change have led to declining fish populations and other marine life.
“In 2003, the EAWLS, FFI (Fauna & Flora International) and the Kuruwitu Conservation and Welfare Association (KCWA) piloted the first ‘community marine conservation area’ at Kuruwitu in the Vipingo area of Kenya’s Indian Ocean coast. The aim was to enable local user communities to manage and be responsible for all activities over a set of inshore areas of Kuruwitu. It has since been a major success, resulting in a movement towards Locally-Managed Marine Areas (LMMA’s) and inspiring at least 20 other fishing communities. It has also won international acclaim.’’
EAWLS’ Chair, Elizabeth Gitari Mitaru, noted that the Imre Loefler Environmental Conservation Talks “had given prominent conservationists and visionaries a platform to highlight issues concerning conservation without fear or favour to defeat apathy towards the current conservation crisis.”
Over the past 10 years, EAWLS has hosted 87 Imre Loefler Talks, 40 of them at Muthaiga Country Club and 40 at the Karen Club. Four of the talks were held in Nanyuki at Cape Chestnut . The Society recently launched the Imre Loefler University Dialogues on Environmental Conservation at the Strathmore University. The university has hosted three of the talks.
A commemorative tree was planted at Muthaiga Country Club Grounds to mark the 10th anniversary of the talks.
If you would like to attend any of the upcoming Imre Loefer Talks, please register at firstname.lastname@example.org.