Kenya launches wildlife census to boost conservation of iconic species

Elephants stroll by a lake in Amboseli Nationwide Park, Kenya, June 15, 2019.(Photograph: Xinhua)

Kenya has launched a three-month national wildlife census. The results will inform retooling of conservation programs for iconic species grappling with climatic and human-induced threats. According to the Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife Najib Balala, the first-ever wildlife census in Kenya will enable the government obtain accurate data on wildlife and marine resources.

“The census will utilise globally recognised methodologies to obtain accurate data on wildlife resources in the country and mitigate future threats to their survival,” said Balala during the televised census launch at Shimba Hills in the coastal county of Kwale. He further added that the census, utilising state-of-the-art satellite technology, has been funded by the government to the tune of 250 million shillings (about 2.34 million U.S. dollars).

Balala further commented that the census would strengthen evidence-based management of iconic species that are an integral part of Kenyan heritage besides contributing to national coffers through tourism. “We want precise data on wildlife population in the country to guide effective conservation of species amid challenges like climate change, changing land-use practices, and competition with agriculture,” he added.

Additionally, census data will help Kenya review the existing conservation models, strike a balance between livelihoods and conservation. Fred Segor, principal secretary at the State Department of Wildlife, said the census would help determine the exact population of wildlife species, their distribution, economic value, and emerging threats.

Kenyan regulations require the government to update wildlife population data to strengthen conservation efforts regularly, he said. According to Kenya Wildlife Service, the census will count terrestrial, freshwater, marine mammals, key birds, endangered primates and reptiles in the 47 counties across the country, whose rich wildlife resource is one of its key economic pillars. The census will also  strengthen evidence-based management of iconic species that are an integral part of Kenyan heritage besides contributing to national coffers through tourism.

The Kenyan government will conduct the census in collaboration with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KEMFRI) and the Wildlife Research and Training Institute. The money will go towards rangers, foot soldiers, communities partaking in the exercise, and the acquisition of helicopters, vehicles and tools needed to ensure the data accuracy.

The census will also cover protected areas including private ranches and previously inaccessible areas  where wild animals are located. “We already know where their corridors are. This exercise will cover all those areas,” said Mr Balala.
And for the first time in many years, the government will also carry out a census of marine creatures. “We are looking for dolphins, turtles and other species that are endangered as well,” he said. The CS said the government last undertook such activity in 1997, hence the need for updated date.