Government to establish wildlife database

Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi arrives at Lake Naivasha Resort Hotel to open the first Wildlife Scientific Conference on Tuesday, September 26, 2023. [Caroline Chebet, Standard]

The government has allocated Sh23 million for the creation of an integrated national wildlife database.

The integrated database is a tool targeted at informing policies in a move to reverse the decline of wildlife species across the country.

Wildlife Research and Training Institute Director Patrick Omondi said the database will ease access and understanding of scientific research for policymakers and legislators.

“The government has given us initial seed capital to bring all scientific research under one database. Within the database, scientists can analyze and produce information brief for parks, reserves and community conservancies,” Dr Omondi said during the first Scientific Wildlife conference held in Naivasha.

The web-based system, Omondi said is expected to be up and running by the end of the year and will incorporate maps, data and graphs in relaying information about species across different habitats.

Besides bearing information about different wildlife species across the country and their conservation status in different range habitats, the national data portal will also give information on wildlife corridors and their distributions as well as quality of the habitats.

“We are banking on research that has been produced over the years. Part of these data has been stored for more than 50 years and will greatly help in fast-tracking conservation policies and framework,” Omondi said.

The development of the website marks the first time scientific research will be availed in an integrated platform by scientists who have been working individually and publishing their work in science journals.

“The challenge has been that scientists are consumers of their own research but now with this, we want the science to inform decisions,” Omondi said.

Besides the allocation of funding for the integrated database, the researchers also called for an increase in research funding from the current 0.8 percent of GDP to 2.5 percent of GDP.

Africa Conservation Center director Lucy Waruingi said that conservation science helps identify conservation priorities by assessing the status of species and ecosystems.

She said the availability of information allows policymakers to target resources and efforts on areas with the greatest need while ensuring efficient and effective policy implementation.

“Conservation scientists can model and predict the potential impacts of policy decisions. They can assess how different policies may affect biodiversity, ecosystems, and human communities. This analysis is invaluable for policymakers to choose the most effective and least harmful approaches,” she said.

Nature Kenya director Paul Matiku said that almost all the wildlife dispersal areas and migratory corridors in the Kenya rangelands have been interfered with by human activities to an extent, some are highly threatened or have been completely blocked.

“The time to take action is now.  Forests and other natural resources should be managed in a holistic and integrated manner and for cost-effectiveness, restoration efforts should be initiated during the early stages of degradation and that is why research is critical in removing barriers to restoration,” Matiku said.

 The three-day conference came to an end with scientists drawing conclusions among them, coming up with a comprehensive review of wildlife policy, legal and regulatory framework.

The scientists also resolved to present scientific findings in a simple way that communicates to policy and decision-makers as well as managers.

To address the challenges of uncertainties in wildlife population numbers, the scientists said that there was also a need to harmonize methods used to count wildlife for consistent reporting of wildlife numbers in the country.

Besides increasing public awareness on the importance of biodiversity conservation, the research from the scientists will guide the review of the wildlife policies as directed by President William Ruto in a speech read during the conference.

During the conference, the Kenya Species Specialist group that will operate under International Union for Conservation and Nature was launched.  The group was tasked to update the National Red List for rare, threatened and endangered species among other conservation duties aimed at reversing current trends of wildlife declines across the country.