How personal responsibility can save our wildlife

Buffalo carcass by the roadside along Bargoni -Kiunga road near Mangai in Lamu County. [Maarufu Mohamed, Standard]

A lot of endangered species inhabit protected areas, including parks that neighbour human settlements. Some parts of the parks are unprotected, hence the need for coexistence, which has been hailed for mitigating human-wildlife conflict.

But now, climate change, backed by what can be described as oversight, or carelessness on the side of humans, is blamed for fire incidences that have not only destroyed forests, but also threatened biodiversity, including insects, birds and crawling creatures.

With prolonged droughts, the risk of fire is undeniable. Kenya has experienced several forest fires this year. Simple acts such as carelessly disposing of a cigarette butt, or burning vegetation to clear land for cultivation may cause fire in parks, where grass is dry, and wind may worsen the situation.

In March, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projected that 2022 will be one of the hottest in recent years, with February ranked the “7th hottest month globally in 143 years”.

To forestall forest fires needs combined efforts to increase use of indigenous knowledge on managing such, as local communities interact more with the natural resources, even as relevant institutions use knowledge and skills backed by research, monitoring and expertise.

Already, a UNEP report, “Spreading like wildfire: The rising threat of extraordinary landscape fires”, has established that forest fires risk may go up by at least 14 per cent this decade.

A man walks past an antelope carcass at Lake Nakuru National Park. [Boniface Thuku, Standard]

Besides the risk of fire, drought may cause wild animals to move around in search of more water and food. Naturally, the animals may also move around to find more comfortable places to breed or even lick salt. Some, in the process, end up in unprotected areas.

Drought and unpredictable rain patterns are also causing decline in agricultural activities and threatening several livelihoods. This may increase appetite for game meat sale.

For the likes of Tsavo National Park, where rain may be unheard of for up to nine months (between April and November), some of the endangered animals are giraffes, which may be killed and sold not by your usual poacher, but communities targeting animals that stray into unprotected areas.

The young unemployed men, according to wildlife experts, are mostly looking for quick money. With such, even the game meat would not fetch its value (maybe $2,500 at most for giraffe meat).

Because of the need to dispose of it as quickly as possible, for it is criminal to kill them; and return on investment is assured (the investment may just be a panga and transport cost), a few may grab any opportunity that presents itself in the form of a straying wild animal.

A way forward may be to step up smart agriculture. Mitigate climate change to reduce its effects on livelihood. Build capacity on alternative sources of income. Employ as many youth as possible in informal sectors. Enlighten youth in the counties about the government low-interest loan facilities. It will kill appetite for game meat and save the endangered species.

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