Category Archives: National Parks and protected areas

WildlifeDirect Expresses dismay at decision to route SGR through Nairobi National Park

Nairobi-January 6, 2017: WildlifeDirect express deep dismay at the decision by the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) to grant approval for the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) to pass through the Nairobi National park, despite overwhelming public opposition. The government has promised that the railway will not impede wildlife migrations, and that funds will be made available to improve the status of this and other parks in the country, while protecting the people who live adjacent to parks.

On December 13, 2016, NEMA issued a license giving Kenya Railways the go-ahead to construct SGR Phase 2A that will pass through the middle of Nairobi National Park on an elevated bridge.

The Park is Kenya’s oldest protected natural area and the only National Park in the world located within a major city.  It contains more biodiversity than many entire countries and is a sanctuary of global significance for some endangered species, notably the black rhinoceros. The Park is also a refuge from city life that provides incalculable benefits for millions of Nairobi residents, as well as for tourists and business visitors from all over the world.

On October 27, 2016 WildlifeDirect’s convened a forum bringing together stakeholders from many sectors, who were unanimous in calling on Kenya Railways to search for an alternative solution that would preserve the integrity of the Park. These efforts have fallen on deaf ears and the Park now faces an uncertain future.

The decision to route the railway through the Park not only goes against public opinion, but it also ignores the advice of numerous scientific experts who have warned of its irreversible consequences. Moreover it sets a very dangerous precedent for other Protected Areas in Kenya threatened by infrastructure projects, mining, and unregulated urban and agricultural expansion. It especially undermines the budding conservancy movement in which hundreds of Kenyans have invested their land in conservation.

To ensure that the railway has minimal impact, WildlifeDirect will be monitoring compliance on all the conditions of the license and laws of Kenya. Speaking on phone from London, Dr. Paula Kahumbu said, “While we acknowledge that infrastructure development is urgently required in Kenya, WildlifeDirect is concerned that it greatly amplifies threats to wildlife. We commit to supporting the efforts of the Government of Kenya and the Kenya Railways to ensure that they deliver in their promise of ensuring minimal environmental degradation impact of the Park, while improving the conservation status of wildlife across Kenya.”

In April 2016, Kenya’s conservation reputation received a boost when President Uhuru Kenyatta set aflame 105 tonnes of ivory. This historic event sent out a clear message that protecting our national heritage is more important than short-term economic gain. At this time of rapid economic growth for Africa, the challenge of protecting wildlife will increasingly require a well informed and engaged public, infrastructures that work, and the rule of law to be upheld. WildlifeDirect invites Kenyans from all walks of life to support environmentally friendly developments that protect our country’s unique natural heritage, and to report on any developments that are in violation of the country’s environmental policies.

 

For more information please contact: Patricia Sewe, Communications Manager

Email: [email protected]

Telephone: +254 (0)705-515709

Six reasons why Kenyans should save the Nairobi National Park

Today is the deadline for commenting on the environmental impact assessment of the proposal to route the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) Phase II A through Nairobi National Park. I urge all citizens and people around the world who care about Nairobi Park to communicate their concerns to NEMA’s Director General Geoffrey Wahungu. Here’s why you should write now to demand that NEMA rejects Kenya Railways’ application to run a railway through Park:

  1. Nairobi National Park is a priceless national asset: The new rail line will be boon for the economy. Opponents of the route through the Park all agree that it should be built. Nairobi Park is also a boon for the economy, but it is much more than that. It is a symbol of our national identity and Kenya’s leadership of wildlife conservation in Africa, a wildlife sanctuary of global significance, and a unique and irreplaceable resource for the health, well-being and education of our citizens.
  2. We can’t take the risk: There are those who argue persuasively that the raised construction of railway will mitigate damage to the Park and safeguard its wildlife. But we simply can’t afford to take the risk—and we don’t have to, as there other viable routes available.
  3. Kenya’s reputation is at stake: Just a few months ago, the eyes of the world were on Kenya as President Kenyatta set fire to our ivory stockpiles and declared that elephants are “worth more alive”. This courageous stand was inspired by the understanding that our national heritage is more important than short-term economic expediency. Taking the wrong decision now will significantly damage Kenya’s international reputation as a world leader in conservation, and the image and name of our President as Africa’s number one champion for wildlife.
  4. It will set a dangerous precedent: This decision is about more than Nairobi Park, it is about our vision for the future of our continent. Allowing the railway to go through the Park will make it more difficult to defend all the other parks and reserves, forests and other areas of national heritage threatened by similar development projects. It will also set a precedent for the rest of Africa.
  5. It’s our democratic right and duty: This is about process as well as outcomes. Kenya has procedures and laws in place to regulate decisions about development projects. But governments will only respect these procedures if we, as citizens, show that we care and exercise our democratic right to take part in the process to demand that they do so.
  6. It’s for our grandchildren: As a signatory to the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change, Kenya is legally obliged to pursue forms of development that are compatible with environmental conservation. African nations have a duty to honour these commitments, in order to bequeath a healthy planet to future generations.

With the election of a climate change denier to the White House, it is clear that, in an increasingly uncertain world, Africans can no longer rely on others to fight our battles for us. It is our responsibility safeguard the future of the continent for our children and grandchildren. A courageous decision to adopt an alternative route will establish Kenya’s leadership of efforts to achieve sustainable development for Africa and its people, while protecting wildlife and the environment.

In the 70 years since the Park was gazetted, Nairobi residents have come to take it for granted, and it has been underused. But now and in the future it will be needed more than ever as a refuge from the frenetic pace and stress of city life. Now is not the time to cut the Park in two. We need a new plan for the Park that will transform it into a living resource for the benefit of all our citizens, as those who founded it intended it to be.

Today is the deadline for submitting comments to National Environment Management Authority – Kenya. Please write your note to [email protected] and cc [email protected] so that we can hand deliver a physical copy of your letter today (pls send before 2pm)

Down load template for writing letter here

This article by Dr. Paula Kahumbu was first published on the Daily Nation on 25th November 2016

 

Kenyans hold a dialogue on how best to achieve a balance between conservation and infrastructure development in SGR Phase 2A

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On 7th October, the Kenya Railways, Kenya Wildlife Service, and several conservation and research institutions agreed to hold a dialogue meeting on 27th October to address the question, “HOW CAN WE BEST ACHIEVE A BALANCE BETWEEN CONSERVATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT IN SGR PHASE 2A?”.

176 participants engaged in the one day discussion using the Open Space method which was facilitated by London based firm Public Service Works. Participants of the dialogue represented a cross section of stakeholders including industrialists, land owners, community, scientists, park managers, lawyers, conservationists, park users, tourism sector, railway engineers and others. Participants engaged in 17 different meetings and conversations for which the outcomes will be shared in a final report to be circulated this week. Eight major recommendations emerged all of which were urgent and important, and which can be broadly categorized into three groups.

  1. The participants all agreed that Kenya needs the Standard Gauge Railway as it will spur economic growth, poverty alleviation and bring great rewards to Kenya. However, there was overwhelming support that the SGR should not go through the Nairobi National Park which would destroy the park, damage the Presidents reputation as Africa’s greatest conservation champion, and set a dangerous precedent. They agreed that the conservation reputation of the President and the nation could not be compromised and that technical and financial solutions must be found to enable it to be re-routed so that Kenya could enjoy the benefits of both the Park and the SGR. This require engineers to work with the Kenya Railways to conduct technical assessments of alternative routes. Financial considerations to address the additional cost must be addressed.
  2.  Participants expressed great concern at the apparent non-compliance with Kenya’s laws and insisted that rule of law must prevail. They agreed that the construction of the SGR must be compliant with the laws of Kenya as well as regional legislation and other environmental commitments. This includes compliance with the Environmental Management and Coordination Act, 1999, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process, the Wildlife Act, the Constitution and Kenya’s commitments to bodies within United Nations such as the SDG’s. This includes ensuring that the construction of the SGR adheres to court orders.
  3. The participants agreed that a major communications campaign through the media houses was needed to promote better understanding and love of the Nairobi National Park and conservation in general. As a first step, they proposed that on 16 December 2016, a major celebration be held for the Park’s 70th birthday through school activities and involving Kenya’s First Lady.

As the convenor of the event, WildlifeDirect CEO said, “I was touched and moved by the level of engagement, the seriousness with which participants addressed the issues, the honesty and the willingness to challenge one another over such a contentious issue”. After the meeting began, it was revealed that the Kenya Railways had published their EIA report in the daily newspaper that morning. The failure of the Kenya Railways to inform the organizers so that this document could have informed the discussion was regrettable and caused huge disappointment amongst participants.

The Dialogue meeting on the SGR and the Nairobi Park illustrated the power of bringing together different stakeholders to share in finding a solution and committing to participating in the actions identified. This method can become a powerful tool towards promoting public participation, building consensus and mobilizing public support and ownership of any future government project. This will accelerate progress and significantly reduce the costs litigation.

NTV Wild Talk: Season 1 & 2 Episodes

WildlifeDirect has partnered with Kenya Wildlife Service and NTV to bring you NTV Wild, a program that brings award winning documentaries on wildlife and also provides the platform for debate and discussion with experts on Kenya’s wildlife, its conservation and why it matters so much.

NTV Wild Talk S1 E1

“The mystery of Mzima”
Smriti Vidyarthi visits Mzima springs to bring a story about the spring that would be lifeless without hippos. A world class site that is amazing.

NTV Wild Talk S1 E2
“Kenya-US relations in protecting wildlife”
Smriti Vidyarthi engages US ambassador to Kenya Ambassador Robert F. Godec and the US Secretary – Interior Sally Jewell as #NTVWild talk focuses on US-Kenya relations in protecting our wildlife

NTV Wild Talk S1 E3
“Stopping wildlife trafficking through Kenya”
Smriti Vidyarthi takes a look at wildlife trafficking and wildlife crime.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCWvvfCad2U

TV Wild Talk S1 E4
“Saving Kenya’s big cats”
From the seventh wonder of the world, Maasai Mara is home to the largest population of lions. Smriti Vidyarthi share the incredible life stories of two cat families.

NTV Wild Talk S1 E5
“Safeguarding Karura Forest”
Smriti Vidyarthi takes a look at whether Karura forest is under threat or not. The show looks at the struggles to save Karura forest from land grabbers.

NTV Wild Talk S1 E6
“Wildlife Newbies & Champions”
Smriti Vidyarthi speaks to some of the new faces linked with protection of wildlife.


Read More »

Leakey interview in SWARA and on NTV Wild Talk at 10 pm

NTV Wild Talk, broadcast an interview with Richard Leakey about the past and the present for wildlife and heritage in Kenya. It aired on Tuesday March 15 on NTV at 10 pm.
I also want to draw attention to the new article in SWARA here  in which he states

“Parks will only be sustainable if Kenyans want them to be sustainable. Middle class Kenyans who own TV sets watch international soccer, international vanity shows and news but none of them watch wildlife programmes because they’ve never been put on air in this country.”

Richard Leakey

This sentiment is the reason that we created NTV Wild. For those who have not been able to catch previous episodes, NTV Wild is a partnership between NTV, WildlifeDirect and KWS to broadcast wildlife documentaries made in Kenya and Africa on national Television for the first time in our history to inspire Kenyans to visit our parks and appreciate our spectacular wildlife heritage. The program airs on Saturdays and a discussion program on Tuesdays.
This is the list of all the NTV Wild documentaries so far on Saturday’s at 8 pm
1. Mzima Haunt of the River Horse – Mark Deeble and Vicky Stone
2. The Last Lions – Derek and Beverly Joubert
3. African Cats – DisneyNature
4. Here be Dragons – Alan Root
5. Battle For the Elephants – Nat Geo
6. The Queen of Trees – Mark Deeble and Vicky Stone
NTV Wild Talk on Tuesdays at 10 pm

 

Launching the series with Jonathan Scott

 

NTV Wild Talk S1 E1 “The mystery of Mzima”

 NTV Wild Talk S1 E2 “Kenya-US relations in protecting wildlife”

NTV Wild Talk S1 E3 “Stopping wildlife trafficking through Kenya”

NTV Wild Talk S1 E4 “Saving Kenya’s big cats”

NTV Wild Talk S1 E5 “Safeguarding Karura Forest”

 

TV Wild Talk S1 E6 “Wildlife Newbies & Champions”

In this episode: Kitili Mbathi shares the challenges & successes at KWS, Lena Munge tells of how she hopes to transform the Masai Mara, Najib Balala explains why he jumped off a plane for conservation & 12 yr old Luca Berardi stresses the importance of wildlife for future generations.

Both the documentaries and the talk shows have been trending on twitter since we began 7 weeks ago and people are telling us that they are setting their alarm clocks to catch the programs. We are already on week 7 and we have 45 more  to go! Enjoy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#NTVWild Talk on NTV Kenya

If you missed the discussion on #NTVWild about Mzima Springs, Mzima: Haunt of the Riverhorse (the film), Tsavo National Parks and conservation issues in that region of Kenya, watch it here

 

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#NTVWild Second Documentary – January 23

If you are in Kenya, Be sure to watch #NTVWild on Saturday January 23rd 2016

HERE BE DRAGONS…

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#NTVWild panel discussion: Understanding the wild in Kenya with Jonathan Scott

It was a pleasure to listen and watch Jonathan Scott LIVE in studio. Many have watched him on Big Cat Diaries but few have ever met him. Along with Dr. Paula Kahumbu, WildlifeDirect CEO and Paula Mbugua from KWS, they talked about the new series #NTVWild that Premieres on NTV KENYA on Saturday January 16, 2016

Watch the discussion here:

 

 

 

NTV WILD Season Premiere on 16th January 2016

We are proud to announce the official premier of NTV Wild, a partnership between NTV one of Kenya’s premier broadcasters, WildlifeDirect and the Kenya Wildlife Service.

NTV Wild is a partnership between NTV, KWS and WildlifeDirect. The first ever broadcasting of the Award winning wildlife documentaries made in Kenya and Africa every Saturday.

We will awaken your sense of awe and wonder at our magnificent wildlife heritage, which you own and have a responsibility for protecting.

Help us save it. Visit our magnificent parks, and take actions against anything that threatens our protected areas, wildlife spectacles, wild landscapes and endangered species.

Tune in every Saturday (from the 16th of January) at 8 pm. Share this widely through your networks and on social media using the hasthag NTVWild
We look forward to your feed back

 

The Marsh Pride: end of an era

Jonathan Scott: The poisoning of members of the Marsh Pride, the world’s best known lions, highlights the need for a lasting solution to human–wildlife conflict in Africa

 

Lioness Bibi in her prime in the Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. Bibi was a member of the Marsh Pride that featured in the BBC TV series “Big Cat Diary” from 1996 to 2008. Bibi died on 6 December 2015 after being poisoned along with other members of the pride. Photograph: courtesy of © Andrea Scott. All rights reserved.

Lioness Bibi in her prime in the Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. Bibi was a member of the Marsh Pride that featured in the BBC TV series “Big Cat Diary” from 1996 to 2008. Bibi died on 6 December 2015 after being poisoned along with other members of the pride. Photograph: courtesy of © Andrea Scott. All rights reserved.

On Sunday morning (6 December 2015) news broke of the poisoning of members of the Marsh Pride. These are the lions that Angela and I have followed since 1977 and were the stars of our “Big Cat” TV series, that documented the fascinating and often tumultuous life of the pride over a period of more than 12 years.

The Marsh Pride occupies a territory on the edge of the Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, one of Africa’s foremost protected areas. All members of the “big five” (lion, leopard, African elephant, African buffalo, and black rhinoceros) are found on the vast plains of the Mara, plus a wealth of other wildlife.

On Saturday night, the lions had killed cattle belonging to a family living near the reserve. In retaliation, a member of the family sprinkled pesticide onto the carcass, knowing that the lions would return. He was intentionally trying to kill them. How many lions have died as a result is still unclear.

 

The body of Marsh Lioness Bibi, who died from poisoning at 7.30 am on Sunday 6 December 2015, along with other members of the Marsh Pride. Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. Photograph: Courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

The body of Marsh Lioness Bibi, who died from poisoning at 7.30 am on Sunday 6 December 2015, along with other members of the Marsh Pride. Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. Photograph: Courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

I wish I could say that this was shocking news, but there is nothing shocking any more about what is happening in the Masai Mara. Tens of thousands of cattle encroach in to the Reserve every night when visitors are safely out of sight – but when the likelihood of conflict with predators such as lions and hyenas is at its greatest. This makes no sense.

This sorry state of affairs is testimony to the appalling management of the Reserve east of the river. This is a situation that has existed for at least as long as I have known the Masai Mara. Management failures contributed to the precipitous decline in the Mara’s black rhino population from an estimated 150 to 200 in the 1960s to just 11 by 1983 (it has risen again to between 30 and 40).

The BBC filmed the hugely popular TV series ‘Big Cat Diary’ in Marsh Pride territory from 1996 to 2008. Our base in the Mara was – and still is – a stone cottage at Governor’s Camp. This is a safari camp set in the heart of the reserve, in the vicinity of the glorious Musiara Marsh after which the Marsh Lions were named.

The Marsh is the heart of the Marsh Pride’s dry season territory, while to the east the intermittent watercourse known as Bila Shaka was the traditional breeding site and resting place for the pride. Bila Shaka means ‘without fail’ in Swahili, testimony that the guides could always find lions here. Not now.

Each year Governor’s Camp outfitted a special tented camp for us along the Mara River just upstream from Main Camp. The foundation of the series was that we always knew that we could find lions, leopards and cheetahs in the area on a daily basis. The Marsh Pride were at the heart of the series, and virtually never let us down.

The Marsh Pride at home in the Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. Photograph: courtesy of © Andrea Scott. All rights reserved.

The Marsh Pride at home in the Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya. Photograph: courtesy of © Andrea Scott. All rights reserved.

But that all changed when the authorities decided to turn a blind eye to the incursion of cattle into the reserve, forcing the lions to move out or risk death. The Marsh Pride has always been vulnerable since its territory spreads beyond the reserve boundary. This is particularly apparent in the wet season when Musiara Marsh (and Bila Shaka at times) becomes waterlogged and the lions move to higher ground to north and east.

Each year we lose lions to poisoning or spearing by pastoralists. That was always part of life for the lions. But in the last few years the situation has escalated beyond all reason, with the Marsh Pride becoming increasingly fragmented by the influx of cattle and herdsmen. Today it would be impossible to film Big Cat Diary in the same location. What a damning fact that is.

This year the impact of livestock has been all too apparent. Huge herds of cattle would camp during the daytime along the boundary of the reserve waiting for the tourists to head in to camp. Soon the Musiara area looked like a desert and each night you could see dozens of flickering torches as the cattle were driven in to the reserve after dark.

The deep tracks leading into the reserve are testament to this, along with piles of cattle dung scattered deep inside it. And the Musiara area is not alone. Guides from other parts of the Mara have been complaining about this situation for years. But nobody seems to be able to do anything about it.

These incursions are threatening the social cohesion – and very existence – of the Marsh Pride. Earlier in the year a breakaway group of young Marsh Pride females with young cubs were forced to cross the Mara River and set up home in the Kichwa Tembo area. The older females – Bibi (17), Sienna (11) and Charm (11) – and their cubs increasingly avoided Bila Shaka and the Marsh, loitering at the fringes of their traditional territory, forced to encroach on neighbouring prides.

The pride males – Scarface and his three companions – no longer visit the Musiara area, ever since Scarface was shot in 2013. He was treated and recovered but knew better than to stay.

In the past pride males often only managed a tenure of 2 years – sometimes less – before being forced out of their pride by younger or more powerful rivals. It was not uncommon to see groups of five or six young nomadic males roaming the Musiara or Paradise area together. I have counted as many as nine travelling as a group. That was a sign of a healthy lion population with lots of dispersing sub-adults.

Now Marsh Pride males are able to remain as pride males for many more years, due to a decline in the number of young nomadic male lions vying to replace them. The scarcity of these nomadic males suggests that they are not surviving as well as in the past, due to the disturbance that lions are facing on a nightly basis in parts of the Mara from livestock and herdsmen, or from trying to survive in less optimal areas beyond the reserve boundary.

Lions are always going to kill livestock if it comes within range – and of course they will sometimes kill livestock outside the reserve and must bear the consequences when they do. The only way to prevent this happening is if there are sufficient incentives to persuade the herdsmen that lions equate to tourists – and that means a financial return.

And that is the key point. Many Masai do not think of the Masai Mara Reserve as a source of income. They often feel that it is unfair that wildlife is allowed to share their pastures, and sometimes kill their livestock, while they are not allowed to reciprocate by bringing livestock in to the Reserve during dry times.

The Masai have roamed these areas for hundreds of years, long before it was given official protection. Understandably the Masai claim the Mara as their own. The authorities urgently need to address this issue by ensuring that everyone benefits from tourism to the Mara in a truly tangible way.

There will be no safe place for the Marsh Lions until the reserve authorities decide to address all of the issues that have been debated ever since I first came to live in the Mara in 1977. Measures must be taken now to ensure an equitable distribution of revenue from the reserve to the local community, and to increase support for the wildlife conservancies created on private lands around the reserve, where cattle grazing is permitted on a rotational basis.

Within the reserve, there should be a moratorium on any further tourism development, and an embargo on grazing of livestock.

What a miracle it would be if the demise of the Marsh Pride became the catalyst for serious dialogue and change as to how the Masai Mara is managed. The Governor of Narok County, the Honorable Samuel Ole Tunai, pledged to do just that when he called a Masai Mara Stakeholders Meeting in Nairobi in September 2015.

I attended that meeting and was impressed by the number of people who made the effort to come along and by the Governor’s openness to dialogue. Since then a small group of concerned individuals drawn from all walks of life have worked to support the Governor’s initiative.

We can only hope that we are about to witness tangible steps towards securing the future of this iconic landscape and its magnificent wildlife.

 

Paula Kahumbu writes: This is an edited version of an article written by Jonathan and Angela Scott and published on their blog on 7 December 2015. Jonathan and his wife Angie are award winning authors and internationally renowned wildlife photographers. My sincere thanks to Jonathan and Angela for permission to publish the article here.

Responding to a tip-off from visitors, the Kenya Wildlife Service and local authorities acted swiftly to bring the culprits to court, while the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and other local conservation organisations were prompt to treat the affected lions. But despite this veterinary support three lions have already died. At the time of writing, another four are still sick. The condition of others is not known.

Kenya has never before charged a person with poisoning wildlife, even though it is a frequent crime that has devastating effects on populations of lions, vultures and other predators.

However in this case the new Wildlife Crime Prosecution Unit has moved quickly to charge the suspects of this crime with offences against endangered wildlife species under Section 92 of the 2013 Wildlife Act, which could result in a fine of Ksh 20 million (USD 200,000) and/or life imprisonment.

This is another welcome sign that Kenyan courts are now taking wildlife crimes seriously. As Jonathan eloquently argues, this needs to be backed up by action to address the root causes of wildlife crime, inspired by the vision of a common future for people and wildlife

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/africa-wild/2015/dec/09/the-marsh-pride-end-of-an-era#_=_