Damselfly in distress: Rare fly now listed as endangered

Kenya dancing jewel.

Inside Mount Kenya and Aberdares forests where streams flow, are rare damselflies found only in Kenya. The damselfly is known as Kenya Jewel or Kenya dancing jewel.

The rare fly is recognised globally and listed under the International Union of Conservation and Nature (IUCN) Redlist. Sadly, the unique fly is now in danger and is categorised as Critically Endangered according to IUCN.

This means the our jewel might soon disappear as their populations are on sharp declines following the latest assessment.

While the damselfly could be found initially in most parts of Central Kenya, recent surveys revealed that their population is severely distributed in only forest streams of Mount Kenya.

Kenya Jewel is documented to have thrived in three locations in Mt Kenya and Aberdares, however, they have slowly been disappearing on the streams where they often use to dance.

“The forests have been largely cleared in these altitudes and only fragmented and small secondary forest pockets are left.

Two of the locations are outside the forest reserve and whether the Kenya Jewel is still present there is doubted. The forests upstream of the localities have been clear-cut over the last years and turned into agricultural land. All three localities are severely fragmented and isolated from each other due to farming,” says IUCN.

A 2002 to 2010 survey of the damselfly revealed that populations only thrived along streams on the south-western slopes of Mt Kenya whereas the surrounding areas had been turned into farmlands.

The damselflies are important in the ecosystem since they tell on the health of the environment. 

Illegal charcoal

Destruction of montane forests through logging, illegal charcoal burning and forest fires are noted as the biggest threats to the survival of dancing jewels of Central Kenya. The use of pesticides also drives away damselflies.

The global conservation body however calls for the development of a management plan and more researches to be conducted in Aberdares to ascertain the populations of the damselflies.

“The species requires better protection of its habitat, especially within protected areas, and the development of a management plan, as well as research on the streams draining north from the Aberdares and Mount Kenya, need to be surveyed since the species might occur there,” the organisation noted on its assessment of the species.

Assessment of the species was last conducted in 2015 and updated in 2018 with trends showing that sighting of the Kenya dancing jewel is on sharp decline on three specific locations where they used to be in abundance in Mount Kenya. According to IUCN, no conservation initiatives targeting the Kenya Jewel is being undertaken.