What you need to know:
- In a report, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) identifies lions and spotted hyenas as Kenya’s most iconic yet threatened predators due to increased human population and encroachment, which often results in human-wildlife conflict.
- Other challenges include land use changes, climate change, habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching and illegal wildlife trade.
The Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife has unveiled a recovery action plan for lions and spotted hyenas in renewed efforts to attain viable populations and a healthy ecosystem.
During the launch at the Maasai Mara National Reserve on Saturday, Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala also warned illegal tourist resorts in the Maasai Mara National Reserve that they will be shut.
Mr Balala echoed Narok Governor Samuel Tunai’s sentiments on illegal facilities in the reserve, saying the government is ready to remove illegal lodges.
The county chief informed the CS that an audit of tented camps and lodges operating illegally had been conducted and that the report will be sent to the ministry.
Mr Tunai said congestion has diminished the reserve’s chances of survival yet it is a prime tourist destination.
The annual wildebeest migration from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Masai Mara in Kenya is one of the greatest natural spectacles and has been named the eighth wonder of the world.
Among the establishments that will be demolished are camps developed without impact assessments and permits from the county and the Tourism ministry, and those built in wildlife breeding areas.
The CS told him, “When you are ready, tell me to bring the KWS army here to weed out illegal facilities. The reserve was set aside for wildlife, not hotels and lodges, so if they become a nuisance we will demolish them using all government machinery.”
Mr Balala said, however, that the national government and Narok were working on a new management plan, which the ministry will gazette at the end of August, in efforts to control the flow of tourists and investments into the world-famous park in a bid to protect its ecosystem, which is being degraded at an alarming rate.
The plan will see the government shut down some tourist facilities and issue permits to lodge developers in a more controlled manner.
He said the plan is expected to preserve and perhaps reverse the damage caused by high human traffic and commercial interests.
CS Balala said the recovery plan for the lions and spotted hyenas addresses threats the carnivores face in a holistic and collaborative manner.
“The goal is to sustain viable populations of lions and spotted hyenas in healthy ecosystems as a world heritage valued by Kenyans,” he said.
The CS noted that lions and spotted hyena are top predators that play crucial roles within their ecosystems.
In a report, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) identifies lions and spotted hyenas as Kenya’s most iconic yet threatened predators due to increased human population and encroachment, which often results in human-wildlife conflict.
Other challenges include land use changes, climate change, habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching and illegal wildlife trade.
The widespread decline of the spotted hyena and the lion, now listed as vulnerable and endangered, respectively, under the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, 2013, presents hurdles in maintaining a balanced ecosystem in the future.
However, the CS decried misleading data from unverified sources, saying the lion population is estimated to be 2,489, an increase from 1,970 in the last two years.
Mr Balala said data on wildlife populations will not be published without direct verification from the KWS research institute and announced that biodiversity research and planning director, Dr Patrick Omondi, will lead the institute.
“No one is allowed to issue any data without the express approval of the ministry to avoid alarming and misleading reports on the status of wildlife in the country,” he said.
CS Balala witnessed the collaring of a seven-year old female lion.
Lions from the Sopa pride of 30 have their territory inside the reserve but go to human settlement areas and outside conservancies.
Collaring will improve understanding of wildlife movements to inform research and help reduce conflict.