Five of Kenya’s iconic species are critically endangered

Kenya’s first National Wildlife Census reveals that there are dangerously few specimens remaining of several iconic species, including the black rhino.

The results of Kenya’s first National Wildlife Census are not encouraging. The process, which lasted three months and cost over two million dollars, found that five species are “critically endangered”. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), this designation corresponds to the highest degree of risk, indicating that the animals have a 50 per cent likelihood of going extinct within ten years or three generations. Nine further species have been classed as “endangered”.

kenya wildlife census
Kenya has published the results of its first National Wildlife Census © Sutirta Budiman/Unsplash

Kenya’s list of critically endangered species

  1. Tana River Mangabey, with 1,650 specimens
  2. Black Rhino, with 897 specimens
  3. Hirola, with 497 specimens
  4. Sable Antelope, with 51 specimens
  5. Roan Antelope, with 15 specimens

The list of endangered species

  1. Elephant
  2. Lion
  3. Cheetah
  4. White Rhino
  5. Bongo
  6. Grévy’s Zebra
  7. Wild Dog
  8. Nubian Giraffe
  9. Sitatunga
endangered species, kenya
The number of African lions fell by 90 per cent in a century © Geran de Klerk/Unsplash

What are the main threats to these animals?

The spotted hyena and the kudus (both greater and lesser) are considered “vulnerable”. There are also two noteworthy protected species – the Masai ostrich and the Somali ostrich – and others that, fortunately, are designated as “least concern”, such as the hippopotamus, the buffalo, and the common zebra.

According to the report, drafted by the Kenya Wildlife Service in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, the most serious threats faced by Kenya’s wildlife are population growth and urbanisation, habitat loss caused by deforestation and infrastructure construction, climate change and the consequent resource scarcity, fires, and poaching.

urbanisation, kenya
Urbanisation in Kenya Kenya is reducing wild animals’ habitats © Murad Swaleh/Unsplash

A “starting whistle” more than an alarm bell

Not even nature reserves have been spared. Tourism minister Najib Balala expressed concern over the shrinking of the uncontaminated areas that are home to Kenya’s rich wildlife heritage. He has also said on Twitter that he is pleased with the programmes that the country is implementing against poaching. In fact, these programmes have led to an increase in the number of elephants.

It is vital to continue along this path to avoid isolating wild fauna in limited pockets of protected areas or, even worse, losing these wonderful species forever. The census, rather than sounding like an alarm bell, should instead be a starting whistle in the match for these animal’s salvation.

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