Kenya launches app to help protect wild animals

 National Museums of Kenya, simon musila, wild animals, mammal species

Simon Musila, a research scientist at the National Museums of Kenya, displays a cell phone with the Mammals Atlas of Kenya mobile application during its launch on August 24, 2022.

Photo credit: EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • The product is freely available and can be used by anyone.
  • The developers explain that the application  — the Mammal Atlas of Kenya (Makenya) —  is installed with 100 names of Kenyan wild mammal species though they will add more and help the public submit sightings of wild mammal species using their mobile phones.

The National Museums of Kenya has come up with a mobile application for mapping rare and common wild mammals.

The developers explain that the application  — the Mammal Atlas of Kenya (Makenya) —  is installed with 100 names of Kenyan wild mammal species though they will add more and help the public submit sightings of wild mammal species using their mobile phones.

“We decided to do this for three reasons. The first is that Kenya has few scientists specialised in the study of mammals; and they are unable to cover every inch of the country’s surface area. Then the distribution of many Kenyan mammal species is not well known, which is why there is need to involve everyone who can identify the species. And third, the natural environment is also changing rapidly thus we need people in the field to provide regular information about locations of mammal species,” their official presentation highlights.

The product is freely available and can be used by anyone. It is a project of the Mammal Committee of Nature Kenya and the National Museums of Kenya in partnership with Spotteron (Austria), San Diego Natural History Museum (US), Fitchburg State University (US), Kenya Professionals Safari Guides Association, Kunming Institute (China), and Eastern Africa Primate Diversity and Conservation Programme (Kenya). 

Speaking during the official launch of the app in Nairobi last week, Prof Mary Gikungu, director of research at the national repository and research at the museums,  reiterated that conservation of mammals should not just be the preserve of mammal scientists as they are very few (50 nationally) and cannot cover every area. 

“More than one million tourists visit Kenya to participate in wildlife safaris and other nature-based tourism. Also, the general public interacts with nature both in and outside protected areas and so this app will be a big boost in helping us conserve wildlife.”

The Committee of Nature Kenya Patron Simon Musila concurred: “To involve people in biodiversity research, you need user-friendly tools like mobile phones. Globally, in 2022, there are 6.64 billion smartphone users and 7.26 billion mobile phone users, while in 2025, the numbers are projected to rise to 7.33 billion smartphone users and 7.49 billion mobile phone users.

“The mammal species are the most common and easy to identify, the largest and the most widespread. If one sees a mammal in the wild  that is not among the 100 species, there is an option to type the species and submit the sighting,” said Mr Musila.

Mr Musila, who is also from the Mammalogy department at the museums, explained that the application also captures information associated with observation, including the name of species and photos, locality (where seen), sex (male or female), age, number seen, habitat type (where the sighting is made), behaviour (what the animal was doing upon sighting) and breeding status.

He observed that ‘citizen science’ is the wave of the future in biodiversity research. “Kenya has an extensive network of protected areas, including parks, reserves, forests and private and community conservancies, which support one of the largest assemblages of wildlife in Africa.”

He adds that submitted observations are automatically associated with the date of sighting (day, month and year), GPS location and time of submission. 

“With more than 390 mammal species and 22 of these being endemic, the country is home to a third of all African mammals. Some of the iconic large mammal species in the country include the African Savannah’s elephant (Loxodonta africana), giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis), lion (Panthera leo), and the leopard (Panthera pardus).”

The developers further highlighted that some of the most notable endemic mammal species are golden-rumped giant sengi (Rhynchocyon chrysopygus), and Tana River Mangabey (Cercocebus galeritus), while endemic sub-species include Mount Kenya Guereza (Colobus guerza kikuyuensis), Mount Uarges Guereza (Colobus guereza percivali) and Mount Kenya Potto (Perodicticus potto stockleyi).

“The app will collect crucial data on the abundance and distribution of mammal species in Kenya and ultimately contribute to their conservation and protection,” the National Museum of Kenya asserts.

The experts urged the public to note a few things to be able to download and use the app.

“We are working to make it better and better. The app can be downloaded from Google Play Store for use on smartphones, installed on the phone, then followed by user registration details. The app exclusively runs with internet access, always ensure the location icon on your phone is on when reporting sightings, and wild mammal sightings can be submitted from anywhere in private and community land, ranches and protected areas.” 

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