Residents on 12 kilometres walk to advocate Saiwa wetland conservation

Saiwa Swamp National Park. [Courtesy]

More than 500 people in Trans Nzoia County took part in a 12 kilometres Saiwa Safari Walk on Sunday in an advocacy mission to sensitize the public on the need to conserve the environment.

Led by Senior Assistant Director of the Western Conservation Area Catherine Wambani, the team focused on the Saiwa wetlands ecosystem, a habitat for the endangered Sitatunga antelope species.

Ms Wambani described wildlife conservation as a specific and unique aspect of managing natural resources by those with a passion for preserving nature.

She said the country has eight conservation areas headed by senior assistant directors who report to the director-general.

The Western Conservation Area stretches in Turkana, West Pokot, Trans Nzoia, Bungoma, Kakamega, Vihiga, Busia, Kisumu, Siaya, Homa Bay, Nyamira, Migori and Kisii counties.

Ms Wambani said it was the responsibility of humans to safeguard natural habitats, ecologies and animals all the time since they do not recognize human boundaries.

She said the need to expand the existing wetland to protect the habitat from deteriorating further due to human activities such as fertilizer application and planting of eucalyptus trees.

The conservationist noted that such activities interfere with the natural habitat for the Sitatunga antelopes, which includes the bulrush grass that is dominant in the wetland.

“Sitatunga antelopes do not thrive in maize plantations, neither do they survive in eucalyptus trees plantations. They survive in riverine vegetation that we must focus on to conserve at all times,” she said.

She noted that the poor farming and livestock husbandry around the habitat and poor waste disposal methods posed great danger to the survival of the vegetation forming the Sitatunga habitat.

“Saiwa Safari walk is an effort towards conservation of the Saiwa Swamp National park and Sitatunga,” she said.

The call was reiterated by the legal advisor in the office of the deputy president Abraham Sing’oei who noted that the potential of the Saiwa Park had not been fully realized.

“This area is a wetland that helps us get clean water for domestic use. There is a need for concerted efforts in conserving it for generations to come,” he said.

He said the need to involve farmers in the surrounding communities in the quest to have a conserved environment, even as he encouraged those with big chunks of land to initiate private conservancies.

Sing’oei, who led the Kitale Falcon football club in the walk, noted that small community conservancies of up to 100 acres also make up good avenues for revenue generations for the private investors.

The lead coordinator for the walk, Paul Kurgat, cited the initiative as a unique thing and called on the Kenya Wildlife Service to make the walk a routine.

“This is a noble course that we should ensure continuity. I appeal that it be included as part of the routine activities as we work more towards conserving our environment,” said Kurgat.

Court of Appeal Judge Patrick Kiage supported the course as he joined the walk alongside ten family members.  

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