ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE

Stalemate over poison persists as Indian crow wreaks havoc

The bird is a scavenger that also feeds on germinating crops, young chicks and eggs, and baby animals.

In Summary

•The Indian House Crow are multiplying rapidly and causing serious economic damage at the Coast but the poison to stop it is not available in Kenya.

•On September 22, the Watamu Association wrote to the Environment PS  Chris Kiptoo complaining that the slow-release poison Starlicide is not available.

Indian House Crow in Mombasa. Image: FILE
Indian House Crow in Mombasa. Image: FILE

The stalemate over importation of a poison used to kill the Indian House Crow is far from over.

On Monday, Little Kenya Gardens Limited owner Cecilia Ruto told the Star that Tourism CS Najib Balala had given her six months to resolve issues curtailing the importation of a poison called Starlicide used to control the Indian House Crow.

“I have worked hard for two years to get a licence to import Starlicide as the product is not registered in Kenya. Pest control has to do efficacy test and register the product in Kenya,” Ruto said, revealing that a virtual meeting has been organised on Monday to address the matter.

Balala neither picked our calls nor responded to the text messages we sent him.

The Indian House Crow is a scavenger that also feeds on germinating crops, young chicks and eggs, and baby animals.

Ruto said nobody will use her license that she has worked hard for, adding that Kenya Wildlife Service has supported her from time to time.

“I have not been favoured by anyone,” she said.

Ruto said there was a disruption in the eradication of Indian House Crow after the role was transferred from the Tourism ministry to Environment.

Matters worsened after veterinary officials who worked on the project were suspended following the deaths of 10 black rhinos at Tsavo East National Park in 2018.

Ruto said she has followed due process to acquire all the licenses.

Little Kenya Gardens Limited was awarded the monopoly to import Starlicide three years ago.

The Indian House Crows are multiplying rapidly and causing serious economic damage at the Coast but the poison to stop them is not available in Kenya.

On September 22, the Watamu Association wrote to the Environment PS  Chris Kiptoo complaining that the slow-release poison Starlicide is not available in Kenya.

Starlicide metabolises extremely rapidly over 10 to 12 hours and if a poisoned crow is found dead, it can be eaten safely by a scavenger such as a dog or a vulture.

Starlicide is the only measure that has proved effective in reducing Indian crow numbers.

Control measures over the last 20 years using trapping and carefully supervised poisoning with Starlicide reduced the House Crow population in Zanzibar town by 95 per cent and over the whole island by 75-80 per cent.

“However, the problem at hand is that only one company, Little Kenya Gardens Limited, has been given the sole rights to import and distribute Starlicide in Kenya,” the association wrote.

The Watamu Association said Little Kenya Gardens has not been active in the crow eradication programme yet it has refused to relinquish its monopoly, even to the Kenya Wildlife Service. 

As a result, the international manufacturer of Starlicide cancelled the agency of Little Kenya Gardens in July for non-performance.

Ruto however said she is up to the task.

In January 2020, the KWS Board of Trustees approved a “well thought through plan for a National House Crow Eradication Strategy” and that “a comprehensive five-year National House Crow Eradication Programme” was completed in July 2020.

The KWS has an environmental social impact assessment licence for a trial of Starlicide in Kwale, Mombasa and Kilifi.

The Indian crow first arrived in Kenya in 1947 and has since multiplied to become a serious pest at the Coast. The numbers had been reduced to less than 50 by 2005 but then the use of Starlicide was banned. Now there are thousands at the Coast and the Indian House Crow has been sighted as far inland as Emali.