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The 70% Decrease in Wild Animals in Kenya has Man-based systems to Blame

By Alexander Opicho

On 13th August 2013 the Daily Nation, the main circulating daily paper in Kenya and around east African region, reported in one of its lead stories that wild animals in Kenya have decreased by 70%.The report was in fact a media outcry, decrying the evil force behind off-the-graph percentage decreasein the number of wild animals in Kenya. In fact the caption of the story was; what is killing the Wild Animals in Kenya?The Daily Nation in fact mentioned elephants, warthogs, rhinos and zebras to be the wild live animals in Kenya hurling towards extinction at the rate of 70%.This behooves those of us with public concern to participate in the dialogue, perchance a resolute answer can crop up from one of the suggestions we make. Here are my suggestions;

It is not only Kenya that is rapidly losing its bio-diversity in aquatic lives, wild animals, insects, invertebrate and plants, but the problem of threatened biodiversity is now a new face of the world challenge. Countries in Africa and Latin America are at risk of losing their aquatic and dry-land bio-diversities. However, African countries like Kenyaare much more threatened. Reasons particular to Kenya’s failure to achieve its aquatic and wild-animal conservation goals range from; habitat fragmentation, population fragmentation, poaching , over-licensed hunting in relation to fishing and other aquatic lives, cutting of natural trees, poisoning ( poisoning of water, soil and air), careless introduction of new species, lack of continuous training of conservation scientists, low number of conservation scientists, absence of animal hospitals, lack of public knowledge on the quality of wild-life veterinary services, failure to punish poachers and accomplices to poachers in public, low number of rangers(security keepers per animal), absence of social-economic inclusivity of the local communities to finally very low salaries paid to rangers or animal sanctuary security keepers. Unfortunately, the above factors blend into two rabidly acting anti-wild animal evils known as; reduced population size of the particular wild-life species and theninbreeding.

Frankham Ballou and David Briscoe in their book Introduction to Conservation Genetics (2007) point out that when a particular species of animal reduces in its population size, it falls victim to inbreeding or mating among closely related partners like a daughter and a father, inbreeding leads to loose of genetic diversity and un-fitness to reproducewhich in turns leads to an animal population that is not genetically viable to survive jungle environment. Inbreeding also leads to low level fertility, low level of resistance to diseases and reinforced physical weakness especially if the population is a collection of the offspring from inbreeding between two partners from a common ancestor with genetic design of low level of resistance to diseases. Animals naturally don’t like mating with close relatives, but confinement in a small sized animal sanctuary and lack of many options from which to choose a mating partner due to small sized population force the animals into inbreeding behavior. Unlike animals, plants are lucky to have natural out-breeding mechanism in way that self-pollination does not result into fertilization.

The only way to avoid inbreeding is for the government of Kenya to stop the above listed causes of population shrinkage among wild animal species, the Kenya government has to do so through it conservation agencies.

By the time of the day I was writing this article, the media from all over the places in the world was mourning a Chinese tourist who had died in hippo attack at Lake Naivasha Game Park in Kenya. The hippo attacked the tourist when the later was taking a photo of the hippo. It was so unfortunate. However, there are pertinent objective questions to ask; (1) A hippo is a very territorial animal, it only attacks when you cross the line into it territory, it attacks lest the encroacher takes away its children or female partners, then why was the Chinese tourist left to walk into the territory of the animal? (2) Why is it that there is positive correlation between the numbers of Chinese nationals in Kenya and the rate of wildlife reduction in Kenya? Let the reader look for answers.

The world still mourns Sudan, the last male white rhino that died on March Tuesday 20th 2018, in Ole Pejeta Conservancy in Laikipia, Kenya. But little did we know that Sudan the white Rhino must have been unfit to reproduce due to inbreeding depression or poverty of reproductive genes it inherited through inbreeding. Thank, goodness the World Wide Fund for nature (WWF) has finalized and concluded a study which predicts drastic climate-change related consequences on biodiversity, especially for animal species around the world due to the trendy rising in temperatures. The study also predicts that the Paris Accord pledges to limit global warminglevels will not help in countering the predicted shrinkage in the size of animal biodiversity.

The study predicts that extreme swings in temperatures on the surface of the earth inform of global warming and global cooling will threaten up to half of the population of animal species on earth,according to this study that was recently published by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).In thereport giant panda or African elephant is one of the many animals identified as the most threatened by the projected earth-bound global swings in heat waves.

This study which was carried out as a research collaboration between the , World Wide Fund , University of East Anglia and the James Cook University, used a target population of thirty five places that were identified as hot-spots or very important sanctuaries or homes to bio-diversities in animal species . The identified thirty areas of the important ecosystems included Kenya, Congo, Cameroon, Tanzania, the Amazon basin and Madagascar. In its conclusions, the study projected that about a half of the biodiversity in the animal species is under threat of extinction in the above listed areas that are homes to the eco-system hosting the animal bio-diversities in the next sixty years if at all the gradual wax in global temperatures will be un-countered and hence reach 4.5 degrees Celsius.

Jeff Price, the spokesperson of WWF shared to the Media about the findings of the study by pointing out that animals such as the African elephant or the giant panda are the ones most likely to vanish from their natural habitats as well as some plants, amphibians and reptiles.He also noted that birds will not be hit hard by climate change as they have a good natural capacity to adjust to the temperature changes through a behavior known as biological dispersal, which is the ability to migrate from one site that is adverse to another that is hospitable .

This study which has been declared plausible by Gerhard Haszprunar, director of the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology in Munich, coincided with the euthanasia induced death of the surviving Male white Rhino onMarch Tuesday 20th 2018 at the Ole Pejeta Conservancy in Laikipia Kenya. This was world’s last male northern white rhino. According to the Kenyan conservancy that had been taking care of the late White Rhino (which they had named Sudan) isonly survivedby two females of its subspecies alive in the whole world. The Ol Pejeta Conservancy in their statement said that they chose to euthanize Sudan (induce its death) after observing it was in intolerable pain related to old-age and rotten wounds from the previous injuries. The Late White Rhino fondly known as Sudan due its troubled health was at age of 45years.

The brief life history given by the Conservancy officers was that Sudan had previously lived at the Dver Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic before being transported to Ol Pejeta Conservancy. The Czech Conservancy is estimated to be about 250 km in the north-ward direction away from Nairobi. It was here that Sudan had lived with the last two females of the same species, 27-year old Najin and 17-year old Fatu. However, Sudan did not mate with the two,in spite of all the attempts to get him mate naturally through the fertility improvement treatment.

In addition to the poor state of sexual aggressiveness among the white-Rhino subs-species, threatening extinction of the white Rhino subspecies in the world is also attributed to theharsh environmental changes like the shrinking natural forest, extreme heat-waves on earth’s surface, poaching, and poor level of investment by the developing countries in the scientific researches which could have boosted fertility in effort towards species preservation. Thus the only option left for the world to preserve the white-rhino through the remaining two female ones is through non sexual reproduction known as cloning. So far the available researches in non-sexual reproduction among animals has already proved the possibility of success in mammal cloning, in the recent non-sexual reproduction of monkeys in China and sheep in Ireland.

This fateful future facing the animal bio-diversity is not only limited to the big animals, insects are not exclusion. For example Deutsch Welleonline reported early 2018 that the Monarch butterflywhich is commonly found around Europe, Canada, north America and north Africa always travels thousands of miles south to overwinter in Mexico is now not able to achieve this marvelous travel and hence suffering extreme decrease in numbers at the rate of 15% per year due the changing climate.The monarch butterfly is the only insect that every year travels for two months and up to five thousand kilometers from Canada and the United States to Mexico, where it spends the winter. The natural pines and the fir forests in the Sierra Madre Mountainsin west of Mexico City are the natural habitats that have always attracted the Monarch butterfly to migrate there.

Among the suspected causes of the shrinkage in numbers of the monarch butterfly are ; pesticides usage, Storms, intense hurricane seasons that disrupt insect routes, cutting or felling trees , and wind-storms. These are the causes that have oftenbeen cited by the researchers on the monarch butterfly reserve in Mexico.

Similarly, poaching is equally a threat to safety of the current animal biodiversity in Asia and Africa, for example Pangolins have been cited by the Global wildlife conservationists as the world’s most poached animals. Pangolins, the playful mammals, are basically found in Asia and Africa; they are heavily poached for their skin-scales which are used in traditional remedies for the cure of asthma, rheumatism and arthritis. The key market for the Pangolins is in China. China is also the major destiny of the donkeys that are un-lawfully slaughtered in Africa,According to the reliable sources China uses donkey-hide gelatin,obtained by boiling donkey skin, as a miracle elixir that cures human-aging, infertility and even impotence. Recently, Tom Milliken of the Elephant and Rhino Program Leader for Traffic was quoted by the Deutsch Wellethat there is currently an expansion of wildlife smuggling networks across Africa in which Chinese and Vietnamese nationals are working with corrupt local officials. This report rhymes with the recent statement by Brighton Kumchedwa, Malawi´s Director of Parks and Wildlife which stated that most of the African governments are only failing to declare their ivory stockpiles due to lack of informational resources that can be used in compiling the report about proper inventories of ivory stock piles.

However, there are some promising gleams, for example, on matters that involve protection of huge mammals like elephants Kenya is one country that serves as a good example given its historic firmness on ban of ivory trade often expressed through its regular destroying of its ivory stockpile. Thus, the world has moral duty to be bound by this Kenya’s exemplary approach to preservation of the wild-life being targeted by poachers for illegal trade. The example to be copied here has only one lesson, man must stop being selfish, man must let the animal have its away.

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