Trial tests to eradicate invasive birds in Coast record huge success

Eradication of the House Crow, has been an uphill task over the years, coupled with the ban of Stalicide in 2005 by the government. [Kelvin Karani, Standard]

Initial tests to eradicate invasive birds that have been a menace in Coast have recorded a success.

A company licensed by the government to import Starlicide avicide, a poison used in eradicating Indian crows says the efficacy tests were successful.

“The efficacy test was a resounding success. We worked with veterinary experts in the project that we rolled out in Diani and Ukunda and the results were successful,” says Cecilia Ruto, the owner of Little Kenya Gardens.

Eradication of the bird, also known as House Crow, has been an uphill task over the years, coupled with the ban of Stalicide in 2005 by the government. The crow thrives on garbage and is native to the Indian subcontinent. It first recorded its presence in Mombasa in 1947, which experts say either came in as stow-aways in ships or spread from neighboring coastal town of Zanzibar.

The birds thrive in the garbage but have become a nuisance getting into hotels and grabbing food from plates when guests are eating. The birds are also displacing other native species that once thrived in those areas by raiding their nests and feeding on their young ones.

Some tourist hotels have been paying people to keep the birds away. In an interview last year, Samuel Ndunda, the Serena Beach Hotel and Spa naturalist and one of the three, who help to keep them away, described the crows as a nuisance.

“They grab food from plates. They excrete all over as they fly from one spot to another,” he said, armed with a catapult to scare away the birds.

Mohamed Hersi, the Kenya Tourism Federation chair, and the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers KAHC last year asked the Mombasa county Environment department to come up with a plan to address the menace once and for all.

“We can no longer ignore this sad state of affairs. They eat all the nice small indigenous birds and they equally soil every surface they perch on,” said Hersi.

KAHC executive officer in Mombasa, Dr Sam Ikwaye, demanded accountability for Sh30 million that was set up in 2018 by then Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho to fight the crows.

He also asked other national government agencies like the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority, National Environmental Management Authority (Nema) and the Kenya Wildlife Service to help.

According to Ms Ruto, Stalicide has worked in several other countries that have been battling the same challenge without necessarily killing other birds. She added that the efficacy test was funded by Little Kenya Gardens.

“It took several years to get a license to import Stalicide for the efficacy test, which has proved a success. Going forward, we are talking with the national government and counties to come in and fund the total eradication,” Ms Ruto said.

 Starlicide poison, she says, is designed only to eradicate invasive birds and does not result in secondary deaths afterwards but the cost of purchasing the poison is high.

By 1980, the birds had spread inland to Mariakani, south to Diani and north to Kilifi Creek.