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Wildlife scientists discuss large carnivores’ future

Date Published: 20 Jul, 2010
Wildlife scientists discuss large carnivores’ future

Scientists follow proceedings during the Annual Carnivore Researchers’ Meeting at the Kenya Wildlife Service, Nairobi Safari Walk boardroom.

Over 50 wildlife research scientists last week converged at the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) headquarters where they presented various reports on large carnivores in the country.
The Annual Carnivore Researchers’ Meeting held annually saw top scientists share their research and findings as they sought to address various challenges facing carnivores that include cheetahs, lions, leopards, hyenas and the African wild dog.
Top on the agenda was the issue of human-wildlife conflict which was singled out as the one of the greatest challenges threatening the large carnivores in Kenya.

Speaking at the forum, KWS Senior Research Scientist, Dr. Charles Musyoki said the carnivores still cause problems for pastoralists and farmers. “Attacks on livestock by carnivores are a major problem as they have a direct impact upon the livelihoods of pastoralists and farmers. This in turn leads to retaliation by the humans leading to the killing of large carnivores, many of which are species of local and international conservation concern,” Dr Musyoki added. “This is normally carried out in form of poisoning, spearing and even shooting.”
A sharp population increase across the country has led to pastoralists, relocating and moving towards the more open grassland savannah, creating settlements where the carnivores are predominantly located. This inevitably leads to contact between the two giving rise to human-wildlife conflict.
The recent drought that faced the country caused a significant reduction in the prey species by up to 70 per cent as the predator population increased. This in turn led to the carnivores attacking the already dwindling livestock population further fuelling human wildlife conflict.
KWS along with other various stakeholders has come up with various strategies to address the issue of human-wildlife conflict.
In February this year, KWS launched the national large carnivore conservation and management strategies prescribing actions needed to be taken by conservationists to reverse the declining population of all the five large carnivore species in the country.
KWS in partnership with the Born Free Foundation and the Kenya Wildlife Trust have erected predator-proof bomas across the country for communities living adjacent to conservation areas.

Restocking and restoration of wildlife has also been carried out in parks severely affected by the recent drought which hit the country. Earlier this year, hundreds of zebras and wildebeests were translocated from various conservancies to Amboseli National Park in order to bring about an ecological balance in the predator-prey population.
KWS and other conservationists have been involved in conducting community awareness and education based programs to promote and create an understanding of wildlife and the need for conservation. To change community attitude towards wildlife and engage local populations in conservation, films advocating awareness to carnivore conflict and mitigation measures have been shown in social venues.
Pastoralists at the forum were also urged to improve on their herding practices in order to reduce the risks number of attacks on their livestock by carnivores.
Other threats to carnivore populations cited include habitat loss, loss in wild prey and poaching. 

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