The government has launched a specialist group to compile information on wildlife and conservation actions for policy formulations.
Wildlife Permanent Secretary Silvia Museiya launched the Kenya Species Specialist Group, a group that will bring together different species groups across the country, during the ongoing Scientific Wildlife Conference in Naivasha.
The group will now be reporting the national conservation data and information on different species to the International Union of Conservation and Nature, a global union bringing together governments and civil society organizations.
“The Specialist group is composed of members from the Kenya Wildlife Service, Wildlife Research and Training Institute, National Museums of Kenya, and Nature Kenya, among other partners,” Museiya said.
The group will be tasked to conduct national Red List assessments for priority wildlife and other important species and contribute to the development and implementation of existing species conservation action plans.
“The Group will also be tasked to complete global Red List assessments for endemic freshwater fish, invertebrates, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians, plants and selected marine species that are not yet on the IUCN Red List,” Biodiversity Engagement Facilitation officer for IUCN in Kenya said.
As part of Kenya’s efforts to achieve the UN 30 by 30 goal, the group is expected to utilize the biodiversity data to inform the expansion of protected areas.
“Despite many years of conservation, we continue to lose our biodiversity. There is a disconnect, and something is not right. The problem lies in the policies we are formulating that seem not to incorporate the research data,” PS Museiya said.
Museiya pointed out that the ministry is currently looking at reviewing wildlife policy reforms and will heavily rely on science and data to make decisions and fill the gaps.
“We need integrated conservation policy. It does not make sense that the government is putting a lot of effort into conservation, yet it is not bearing much,” she added.
She revealed that despite numerous resources and great effort being put into conservation, Kenya's wildlife declined by around 68 per cent in under 40 years.
With the country's biodiversity at stake, she said part of the government’s efforts to understand the loss of species is the formation of a task force on natural resources.
“We have laws and policies, but implementation seems to be the problem. The mandates between the sectors mandated to take care of these resources are conflicting and that is where cracks are emerging. To quickly fix this, a task force on conservation of natural resources will be formed in a move to collect views on how resource sectors will work together through an ecosystem approach,” she added.
“We will have an integrated approach to conserve resources. The problem is governance structure, but the science is right. We need science to speak to law formulations,” she added.
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As part of the approaches to fast track and seal the existing gaps between research and wildlife policy formulation, Wildlife Research Training Institute director Patrick Omondi said the institute is currently developing a database that will put together information on diverse information, including information on corridors, and wildlife distribution among other information.
“The government has put a seed capital to bring all scientific research under one database. With the database, scientists can analyze research and produce briefs for national parks, reserves and community conservancies. It will contain research on diverse topics and would bring on board data stored for over 50 years,” Dr Omondi said.
He added: “As the government develop policy for conservation, we are coming up with a framework to fast track that process. We have a lot on population numbers, habitat quality, and remote sensing. By the end of the year, we can tell the status of wildlife conservation and what is going on.”
The web-based system, he added, is expected to be up and running by the system by this year.
WRTI Board Chair David Nkedianye said it is part of the solutions to sealing the glaring gaps and making use of research involving scientists and legislators to break down the scientific reports.
“We want to synthesize the information to get solutions sooner. Conservation should be useful to communities,” Dr Nkedianye said.