The Peregrine Fund's Assistant Director of Africa Programs, Dr. Darcy Ogada, provided an update on the Coexistence Co-op Project and other activities of The Peregrine Fund’s northern Kenya project. We collaborate with Lion Landscapes on the Coexistence Co-op and we will be including more of their important work in future updates. Our current poisoning prevention trainings are on hold due to the recent government declaration against public gatherings in Kenya.
Our Coexistence team was very busy in late 2019 responding to non-stop lion conflicts in Laikipia and adjacent areas of Samburu. The reason for the uptick in conflict was as a result of the heavy and continued rains that Kenya received starting in October. With new grass growth, many zebra and antelopes began moving outside of their usual foraging areas, closer to communities, and the lions followed. Also, the tall grass gives lions a better opportunity to move around unnoticed. In between our regular trainings, our team responded urgently to conflicts in four communities. The most substantial of which involved a community in neighboring Samburu County who had taken to social and news media about their livestock losses. Our team held a tense baraza (public meeting) where the residents repeatedly urged translocation of the lions. Two weeks later we teamed up with Mugie Conservancy, who hosted the training of three groups from the community. There remains work to do, but our immediate goal of preventing poisoning and assisting communities to halt conflict succeeded beyond what we could have imagined. Even the undercover Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) investigators sent to the baraza unbeknownst to the team, later deemed our intervention an overwhelming success.
Photograph: Women from the same community being trained on how to build a predator-proof boma on 22 January at Mugie Conservancy (photo M. Odino).
In regards to our anti-poisoning training, the biggest changes in human behavior as reported by trainees are:
- 44% of communities are burning or burying suspected poisoned carcasses. Prior to our trainings people didn’t understand the risk and poisoned carcasses were left exposed to rot.
- 25% of communities report a change in grazing practices, including less illegal grazing as pastoralists understand the risks of grazing livestock in recently sprayed farms, reduced grazing in wetlands, and not allowing children to herd livestock.
- 19% report that there is a reduction in the use of pesticides.
- 16% report that people are protecting wetlands and rivers by spraying livestock (for ticks) away from the rivers and not draining contaminated water into water bodies.
- 16% report increased use of safety protocols when using pesticides, including the use of protective gear. Some agricultural workers are now demanding that their employers supply them with protective gear.
Our 2-day Community Coexistence Training is in such high demand, not only in Laikipia, but elsewhere across the country. We are developing more local capacity in a bid to increase our trainings and have established a partnership with a professor at African Nazarene University’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources in order to offer internships to recent graduates.
Photograph: Trainees, plus our team member Zach Mutinda (with laptop) during the morning session of our Community Coexistence Training at Loisaba Conservancy.
Support for the Coexistence Co-op project comes from San Diego Zoo Global, Dallas Zoo, Detroit Zoological Society, North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, AZA Vulture SAFE, Lion Recovery Fund, Tusk Trust, and Puget Sound AAZK.
Other news happening in northern Kenya:
Forensic wildlife poisoning lab and field-based training
We want to express our gratitude to San Diego Zoo Global and the Smithsonian Women’s Committee for their support of a week-long workshop to improve forensic capacity to detect poisoned wildlife samples (lab-based), increase capacity in wildlife toxicology, and to train field-based personnel in collecting, storing and transporting poisoned wildlife samples. As part of this training, field-based vets and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) investigative officers will be trained on how to emergency treat poisoned vultures that are alive.
Our primary audience for this training will be four of the main laboratories currently testing samples in Kenya, and KWS vets and investigative officers from poisoning hotspot areas including Laikipia, Masai Mara, Tsavo National Parks, and Amboseli. This training is a collaborative effort by The Peregrine Fund, Spanish Institute of Game and Wildlife Research, Ngaio Richards, Kenya Bird of Prey Trust, Kenya Wildlife Service, Smithsonian Institution, San Diego Zoo Global, and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.
Staff and student accolades
We are very proud of our Project Manager, Martin Odino on his award of an African Conservationist Scholarship to present at the recently completed Pathways Africa 2020 conference in Kenya. Martin gave a great presentation about the work of the Co-op, which drew significant interest from the audience.
We are equally proud to announce that Sidney Shema (foreground of above photo) has been named an EDGE of Existence Fellow. This very competitive two-year fellowship is for future conservation leaders working on poorly known EDGE species. Sidney will soon begin his project Identifying habitat preferences of Secretarybirds in southern Kenya.
Desert Locust Control
Control of desert locusts in northern Kenya is ongoing. There has been a lot of concern by local communities and conservationists over the toxicity of the various chemicals, Fipronil, Fenitrothion, Malathion, and Chlorpyrifos (CPS), being sprayed. A number of conservationists working in northern Kenya have written letters to the Government or written editorials in leading local newspapers urging the use of biopesticides. It’s currently unclear if biopesticides are being used.
Raptor Surveys in Kenya
We have been collaborating with our friends at Soysambu Conservancy at Lake Elmenteita to complete four months of raptor surveys as part of a larger research project to assess raptor population trends in Kenya over the past 45 years. There have been many important raptorphiles involved in this work over many years. We aim to complete the analyses soon, and have it published by the end of the year.
Photograph: Juvenile Black-chested Snake Eagle photographed in Soysambu Conservancy last month.
Finally, the Pan-African Ornithological Congress is due to be held in Zimbabwe from 16-20 Nov 2020. Both Darcy and Martin Odino will be presenting about our work with the Coexistence Co-op. Our attendance has been sponsored by a grant to the Vulture SAFE group through the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s SAFE Species Grant, with special thanks to Dr. Corinne Kendall.