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January 24, 2019

Do we have the numbers to justify eating wildlife?

Zebras play at the Amboseli National Park on August 26, 2016 / REUTERS/GORAN
Zebras play at the Amboseli National Park on August 26, 2016 / REUTERS/GORAN TOMASEVIC

As Kenya paces towards consumptive utilisation, studies show Kenya wildlife population has declined by 67 per cent between 1977 and 2016.

Ironically, the decline of species has seen increase in the number of NGOs in the conservation sector with massive funding.

A 2016 study by Dr Joseph Ogutu and Prof Hans-Peter Piepho shows that some species of wildlife in Kenya have declined by as much as 88 per cent between the years. Ogutu is a statistician at the University of Hohenheim and expert in wildlife population dynamics. The report, published by Research Features, shows that by 2013, seven wildlife species across Kenya were critically endangered, 37 vulnerable and 19 endangered. Forty four ecosystems are classified as endangered. 

“The decline shows no signs of stopping, with species like the Thomson’s gazelle, warthog and oryx among others now under severe threat. The numbers of Grevy’s zebra and waterbuck have below 2,000, putting them amongst a number of species whose future viability is under extreme risk, the report says.

Data for the research, which covered 511,000km2 of Kenya’s rangelands, was gathered through Aeriell observations conducted by the Directorate of Resource Surveys and Remote Sensing of Kenya.

Ogutu blames the decline on land use and cover changes, increasing numbers of livestock and overgrazing, which put pressure on the rangelands. Unless these factors are dealt with, the decline will persist, he said.

Seventy per cent of the country’s wildlife are in private or community land, away from the protection of national parks and game reserves. Sixty five per cent of wild herbivores are also outside the parks and reserves.

By 2004, it was estimated that there were 2,280 lions in Kenya, 20,000 elephants, 228,000 wildebeest, 106,500 grant gazelles and 104,500 burchell’s zebra.


On Monday at Panafric Hotel, Conservation Alliance of Kenya opposed the consumptive utilisation proposal when they met the task force.

John Kisimir from Friends of Maasai Mara accused the ministry and the task force of working for vested interests.

“We are not and will never be ready for another round of chaos and insecurity, as witnessed when such policies were in force,” he said, narrating that during that time, gun-toting youths would patrol Maasai land, gunning down zebras and even cattle that passed their way.

“If you are pushing for ways of legalising hunting, then this is the worst approach. Laikipia problems should not be a problem for every one of us. We in Kajiado and Narok say no to consumptive utilisation because we cherish our wildlife and have cultural ties to them,” he said.

Ben Okita, the task force chair, said they are not reopening the hunting debate but looking for ways Kenyans could benefit more from the country’s wildlife.

“We are assessing modalities of implementing this without impinging on cultural values and degrading the ecosystem,” he said.

Stephen Manegene, director of Wildlife Conservation at the Tourism and Wildlife ministry, said the task force recommendation was to help operationalise sections of the Wildlife Act on wildlife utilisation. “It is Kenyans who wanted to have consumptive wildlife utilisation provision. What the CS is doing is to try seek modalities on how it can be implemented. I hope we are not here to disown the Wildlife Act, but to look at how this piece of legislation can be put to use,” he said.

The participants raised issues with how the public participation was being carried out, arguing that the task force had a formed opinion and was just engaging the stakeholders to rubber-stamp their decision.

Carnivore ecologist Dr Mordecai Ogada told the Star, “The said public participation is completely fake and dishonest. They are asking leading questions which don’t meet the technical threshold of free prior and informed consent.” 

If the regulation is adopted, wildlife cropping will be allowed in Kenya. This will include harvesting of wildlife for products, culling or selective removal, and taking wildlife,for research. 

“Live capture and sale of wildlife, game ranching and farming will be other consumptive wildlife use activities,” Okita said.

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