Kenyan and Tanzanian wildlife authorities have released results of the first joint aerial cross-boarder wildlife census conducted in the Greater Amboseli-West Kilimanjaro/Magadi-Natron landscapes.
The wet season wildlife census covered 25 wild mammals and two bird species. 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.
However, the census found a drastic decline in the numbers of large grazing herbivores between 2007 and 2010. Within this period, wildebeests declined by about 83 per cent from 18, 538 to 3,098; zebra declined by about 71 per cent from 15,328 to 4,432 while buffalo declined by 61 per cent from 588 to 231 in the Amboseli area. Livestock similarly declined by 62 per cent, a trend attributed to the severe drought that occurred between 2007 and 2009.
At the greater ecosystem level, zebras with a population of 13,740 individuals were the most numerous followed by Grant gazelles (8,362), common wildebeest (7, 240), Maasai giraffe (4,164), Eland (1992), Maasai ostrich (1,461), African elephant (1,420), impala (1,317), Thomson’s gazelle (933) and Coke’s hartebeest (441). Livestock species recorded included sheep and goats (230,048), cattle (100,433) donkey (2,258) and camel (762).
The results were released during a biodiversity information dissemination workshop presided over by Mr Wilson Korir, the KWS Southern Conservation Area Assistant Director, at Amboseli Serena Hotel. The workshop was attended by community leaders, landowners, research scientists, non-governmental organisation representatives and Kenya Wildlife Service officials. Delegates at the workshop discussed various emerging issues, including changing land use practices, cross-border collaboration, poaching, ecological monitoring, community engagement and information sharing among conservation stakeholders.
Researchers from both Kenya and Tanzania underscored the need for collaboration between governments and landowners to win space for wildlife conservation as well as between Tanzanian and Kenyan wildlife authorities. The census found that wildlife was widely distributed in the entire survey area, a trend attributed to the fact that pastoralism allowed relative coexistence between their livestock and wildlife.
However, the census identified various threats facing wildlife conservation, including loss of habitat, charcoal burning, fragmentation of wildlife corridors and dispersal areas and adverse climate changes.
The other threats identified include the presence of crop cultivation in key wildlife habitats such as the wetlands threatened to block wildlife movement routes, which raised concern on the future of wildlife conservation in the greater ecosystem. Kimana Sanctuary in Amboseli and Kitenden area between Kenya and Tanzania were cited as areas where cultivation and other forms of development have disrupted wildlife movements.
Other notable threats to wildlife conservation included proliferation of charcoal burning which targets mature trees which are key browse food and nesting sites for birds. The charcoal burning menace was particularly noted in Mailua, Meto, Osilalei, Elungata Wuas and Kaputiei areas and in the Kimana Group Ranch.
The census showed the key cross border wildlife dispersal areas and highlighted the gaps in conservationists understanding of the interactions among the migratory species (elephants, wildebeest and zebra) that use Magadi, Natron, West Kilimanjaro and Amboseli areas. It also underscored the need for cross boundary collaboration in law enforcement, ecological monitoring and information sharing and data exchange.
The census also identified human activities which threatened the maintenance of the landscape as a viable wildlife dispersal area.