Kenya could lose much of its wildlife in only a few years unless it does more to protect it in the face of a rising population and demand for land, according to a government report.
As the world celebrates World Wildlife Day, the future of Nairobi National Park in its current state is uncertain and an elephant migration corridor between Mt. Kenya and the Aberdares has also been lost.
According to the fifth national report to the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity most of Kenya's land area is arid or semi-arid, with only 30 per cent having high agricultural potential. About 70 per cent of the country's population lives on this same 30 per cent, creating a conflict between food production, development, and biodiversity conservation.
The report warns that without "concerted efforts for research and focused conservation actions", the country is likely to lose many species, some of which are endemic, or can only be found in Kenya.
The report's findings have been echoed by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). In a statement released on today, UNODC Executive Director, Mr Yuri Fedotov, said the scale of the killings pointed to the involvement of organised crime and called for an integrated law enforcement approach.
He also urged assistance for communities that are pushed into poaching for survival. "Help must also be offered to local communities to provide alternative livelihoods, build local enterprises and to empower communities to live in harmony with their surroundings," he said.
Mr John Scanlon, Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), said people are the cause of this serious threat to wildlife and people must be the solution, which also requires us to tackle human greed, ignorance and indifference.
The national report indicates that increasing development and economic activity has led to degradation of land and habitat loss, leaving in doubt the long term existence of even some protected areas, such as Nairobi National Park.
The most destructive modifications to natural habitats include land use changes, physical modification of rivers, the withdrawal of water from rivers or other water bodies, loss of coral reefs, and damage to sea floors due to trawling for fish.
In addition to habitat modification, climate change, invasive alien species, overexploitation, for example through over fishing and hunting, and pollution are the main threats to Kenya's biodiversity.
The report lists 26 alien or invasive animal species include the Louisiana Red crayfish, the Nile Perch, and 13 plants, including water hyacinth, tick berry (Lantana camara), Velvet mesquite, Mauritius thorn and Red water fern.
Accosting to the report, the future of Nairobi National Park in its current state is uncertain. A recent incident of lions escaping from the park tallies with the report's findings that lions and cheetahs do not have enough space in the park to roam.
The park is now completely surrounded by development. An important wildlife migration corridor through the Athi-Kapiti plains, which was historically used by wildebeest, is largely blocked by development. The Standard Gauge Railway is also expected to pass through the park.
An elephant migration corridor between Mt. Kenya and the Aberdares has also been lost. The report says the same fate is on course for the Maasai Mara and Amboseli ecosystems.
Water bodies are under particular stress. The report says flower farming is causing the "slow ecological death" of Lake Naivasha. Water from the lake is used to supply flower farms, and soil erosion leads to increased accumulation of pesticides and fertilizer in the lake.
Lake Victoria, which is the second largest freshwater lake, is the most productive freshwater fishery, in the world. It provides 70 per cent of Kenya's fish catch, down from 90 per cent in 1998, even though only six per cent of the lake's surface area is in Kenya.
The report estimates that after the Nile Perch was introduced into the lake, more than 200 species became extinct. Currently, Kenya has over 60 endangered fish species.
In 2005, it was estimated that pollination by bees contributed Sh325.4 million of value to small-scale farmers in Kakamega for crops such as beans, cowpeas, green grams, tomatoes, passion fruit, sunflower, and others. Bees are frequently killed by high concentrations of pesticides used in cash crops.
Kenya has an estimated 900 species of bees. Kakamega Forest alone has more than 240 species and more than 90 have been recorded in Nairobi City Park. They play an important agricultural role in the pollination of many crops.
Bird populations, particularly birds of prey and waterbirds, have been declining in Kenya. Endangered birds include the Sokoke Scops Owl, which occurs in only three sites across East Africa, and has been declining in the Arabu Sokoke Forest where it is most commonly found. Only three of the eight vulture species found in Kenya are not endangered, and the Egyptian vulture is now considered extinct.
Kenya wildlife is a major tourism attraction. In 2014 nearly 600,000 jobs were created by the industry that employs one in 10 Kenyans.