Dry Kenya – The Efforts To Save The Wildlife From Drought

Feeding The Wild

Typically the wildlife of Kenya’s great national parks, such as Amboseli, would be left to its own devices but the government have announced that they are going to supply food and water to the wildlife due to adverse weather conditions following the failure of seasonal rains to come in April. The Kenya Wildlife Service will provide food to save thousands of animals from starvation. It is reported that the parks in in the North East are most affected. As the wildlife suffers, so do the pastoralists. The government has offered to buy livestock to alleviate the pressures. After the drought of 2009, which claimed a lot of the wildlife, measures are being taken early to prevent such loss again. The failure of the rains has been blamed on global warming, but it is also said that it could be part of the long-term weather cycle in East Africa. In 2009, the severe drought lead to cattle herders illegally driving their animals into national parks to find water and grazing land.

A young boy from the remote Turkana tribe in Northern Kenya stands on a dried up river bed on November 9, 2009 near Lodwar, Kenya. Photograph: Christopher Furlong

A young boy from the remote Turkana tribe in Northern Kenya stands on a dried up river bed on November 9, 2009 near Lodwar, Kenya. Photograph: Christopher Furlong

A Clash Between Livestock And Wildlife

There has to be a balance between the help given to the animals and the people. In 2009 it was feared that there might be attacks on the wildlife so that herdsmen could gain grazing land for their cattle. “People are asking why should they not be allowed to go into the park in case of unusual circumstances like now?” said Dickson Kaelo, a program officer at BaseCamp Foundation, a community conservation group outside Masai Mara. “If they aren’t allowed to, why should they allow wildlife to come into their land just for the benefit of the tourism industry?”

A Samburu tribesman digs deep to find water for his cattle in central Kenya on August 16, 2009. The Ewaso Nyiro riverbed where this well was dug has been dry for months, causing people to travel long distances with their families and livestock to find resources.  Photograph by Lisa Hoffner

A Samburu tribesman digs deep to find water for his cattle in central Kenya on August 16, 2009. The Ewaso Nyiro riverbed where this well was dug has been dry for months, causing people to travel long distances with their families and livestock to find resources.
Photograph by Lisa Hoffner

The Benefits Of Tourism And The Loss Of Elephants

Tourism accounts for 21 percent of total foreign exchange earnings and 12 percent of the country’s GDP. According to Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) the country’s 22 National Parks and 28 National Reserves generate 75 percent of total tourist revenue.

Another drought could not come at a worse time. The country is coming under siege from poaching and the killing is causing even further population decline. According to KWS, 97 elephants and 20 rhinos have been killed in the country so far this year. Across Africa, at least 20,000 elephants were killed last year as the price of ivory has soared past gold.

“If you get a large-scale mortality, and you get a lot of old matriarchs going, you lose the memory banks. That’s the lessons the matriarchs have learned from their own mothers about things like where to go for water,” Mr Hamilton, of Save The Elephants said. Often it is the young and the old that go first in times of drought. It is not only the elephants that died in 2009 (and are dying now) but they are an indicator species for how the rest of the environment is doing.

A baby African elephant, weakened from malnutrition, leans against its mother for support on August 14, 2009, in Kenya's Samburu National Reserve. Photograph by Lisa Hoffner

A baby African elephant, weakened from malnutrition, leans against its mother for support on August 14, 2009, in Kenya’s Samburu National Reserve.
Photograph by Lisa Hoffner

Famine

In the Turkana region of Kenya, at least half a million people are at risk of famine at this point. in 2009, it is recorded that the drought in East Africa affected 20 million people. It is hoped that the short rains of October and November will come, otherwise Kenya may be facing another devastating drought.

An elderly woman is given water in the Turkana region of Kenya. Many of the elderly are too weak and sick to feed themselves or drink

An elderly woman is given water in the Turkana region of Kenya. Many of the elderly are too weak and sick to feed themselves or drink

“If the rains fail, we are all in trouble. It’s not just going to be the animals dying. We’ll die too, and it’s not going to take long.” – A village lady in 2009 that the BBC reported on.

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