Hope for endangered Roan antelopes at Ruma National Park

Roan antelope

A Roan antelope in Ruma National Park in Homa Bay County. The antelope is facing extinction.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • M-Pesa Foundation donates Sh17million to save the endangered antelopes from extinction.
  • Roan antelopes are a flagship species in Ruma National Park and are used to drive tourism, which is one of Kenya’s top exchange earners.

There is now hope that the few remaining roan antelopes that are found in Ruma National Park in Homa Bay County will be saved from extinction.

This after the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) got a financial boost to their efforts to protect the endangered antelope species.

M-Pesa Foundation has donated Sh17million to save the antelopes from extinction by supporting KWS to fence the park to safeguard the antelopes from harm.

The funds will be used to establish a predator free sanctuary where the animals will live freely without being exposed to any threat.

Homa Bay County is the only place in Kenya where the antelopes are found.

The county government's emblem features the Roan antelopes which are on the brink of extinction.

Ruma National Park has only 15 Roan antelopes remaining, down from 300 in 1980.

Human threat

Their survival has been put at risk by factors promoted by human activities such as bush fire and poaching.

Every planting season, hundreds of families around the park cultivate their land for planting. Most families prefer setting fire on their farms to clear vegetation.

However, on several occasions, fire has spread into the park and killing animals and destroying their habitat.

Poaching for game meta has also been reported in the park in the past.

Besides the threats from humans, roan antelopes at the park are also threatened by natural factors such as drought and predators like hyena and leopard.

In March 2020, Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala launched a National Recovery and Action plan to save the animal from extinction.

Remaining population

The plan has been boosted by Safaricom through the M-Pesa Foundation, the Northern Rangelands Trust and Back to Africa to protect the remaining roan antelopes.

KWS Board of Trustees acting Chairperson Betty Maitoyo said the funds, which will be given in cash grants, will go a long way in securing the survival of the species.

"We thank the M-Pesa Foundation for this support which is a great boost towards the implementation of the National Recovery and Action for the roan antelope in Kenya (2020-2030),” Ms Maitoyo said when official from the foundation visited the park to commission the construction of a fence around the park.

M-Pesa Foundation Chairman Michael Joseph said his organisation is committed to environmental conservation.

“We are happy to support these efforts which are part of the recovery plan to establish and maintain a stable and growing population of roan antelopes,” Mr Joseph said.

Roan antelopes are a flagship species in Ruma National Park and are used to drive tourism, which is one of Kenya’s top exchange earners.