Watch the presentation here.
In 1969 Dr. Western gave a public talk at the National Museums of Kenya urging the need to engage communities and general public in wildlife conservation. Over 50 years later he reviewed the strides Kenya has made yet the continuing failures to halt wildlife declines. In his talk he reviews how Kenya turn the tide and make its wildlife conservation a real success story.
Watch the presentation here.
Deputy Director and Head of Biostatistical Services,
30th March 2019.
As commercial software become increasingly expensive, many government institutions across Africawide are turning to opensource applications for data management and analysis. The adoption of opensource technology, raises the challenge of technical skills needed to customize the software to fit organizations’ data needs.
The Amboseli Conservation Program (ACP) has over the years developed opensource technologies for application to various research needs (download paper here). In March 2019 the ACP team in collaboration with the South-Rift Association of Land Owners (SORALO) and the Uaso Ngiro Baboon Project (UNBP) trained the Department of Regional Surveys and Remote Sensing (DRSRS) in the applications of these software tools. The training sessions covered data management in R, Rstudio, statistical significance testing, mapping and estimations of animal populations and distributions from aerial survey data conducted in Kajiado County, southern Kenya. The training took place at African Conservation Centre offices in Karen.
The tools, which integrate data entry, processing and mapping, can be easily adapted to processing countrywide species population estimates from aerial surveys conducted by DRSRS. Historical counts can also be rapidly processed for spatial trends and subsequent policy advice.
Looking ahead, ACP will expand the training for other conservation organizations to include web applications in R shiny for data analysis, management and mapping. The application requires users to have basic computer skills hence allowing non-technical personnel to interact with and process available institutional data.
Surveys conducted across sections of the pastoral Maasai of Kenya show a wide variety of values for wildlife, ranging from utility and medicinal uses to environmental indicators, commerce, and tourism. Attitudes toward wildlife are highly variable, depending on perceived threats and uses. Large carnivores and herbivores pose the greatest threats to people, livestock, and crops, but also have many positive values. Attitudes vary with gender, age, education, and land holding, but most of all with the source of livelihood and location, which bears on relative abundance of useful and threatening species. Traditional pastoral practices and cultural views that accommodated coexistence between livestock and wildlife are dwindling and being replaced by new values and sensibilities as pastoral practices give way to new livelihoods, lifestyles, and aspirations. Human-wildlife conflict has grown with the transition from mobile pastoralism to sedentary livelihoods. Unless the new values offset the loss of traditional values, wildlife will continue to decline. New wildlife-based livelihoods show that continued coexistence is possible despite the changes underway.
Full article available at https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10745-019-0065-8
In March, Victor Mose gave a presentation on Spatial and social ecological dynamics of human wildlife interactions at the Institute of Research and Development (IRD) stand at the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-4) in Nairobi. His talk highlighted the need to factor in the social aspects such as human attitudes towards wildlife in modelling their interactions. The presentation is part of ACP’s multidisciplinary approach to understanding the drivers of human wildlife interactions and implication for species conservation and coexistence.
Using exploratory data analysis to visualize and test hypothesis is fast becoming a method of choice for many researchers working across disciplines. Data visualization allows team members to work together in building ideas about how ecological systems work. Victor Mose outlined the benefits of this approach at the third annual International Biometric Society (IBS)–Kenya chapter held at the Strathmore University in Nairobi. He used the long-term Amboseli data to show how spatial exploratory data analysis can reduce complex ecological hypothesis to simple visual presentations with cross-cutting research applications. The approach requires no prior knowledge about the data and can be rapidly applied to formulate and test hypothesis in visual form with wide applications.
By Victor N. Mose
Following the launch of a digital platform to collect animal and plant data by Amboseli Conservation Program (ACP) last year, the Resource Assessors (RAs) were due for advanced training in the use of digital platform. This platform now includes livestock herd follows, milk production and market prices recording and general livestock value chain monitoring.
In the first week of September 2018, ACP trained all the RAs working in the Amboseli area on the upgraded tool during a two-day workshop at African Conservation Centre (ACC) offices in Karen, Nairobi. The training covered field data capture, checking and online transmission to computer servers at ACC and the processing of results using R scripts for tabular and graphical summaries. The upgraded platform build on Open Data Kit is more user friendly with meaningful prompts that allow data validation during entry.
At the workshop, RAs and trainers had good discussions and lots of questions asked. The Chairman, ACC encouraged RAs to advance to professional levels in rangeland monitoring through resource assessing.
The next step is to implement information feedback to communities based on data collected and to present the analyzed results in a highly visual format that encourages community uptake and decision support, starting at the household level. The presentation model is based on an open source platform for biodiversity conservation and natural resource management as presented by Mose Victor, Western David and Tyrrell Peter., 2018. (download paper here).
ACP commissioned the Department of Remote Sensing and Regional Surveys to conduct a wet season count of the Amboseli ecosystem in May to take stock of the populations of wildlife and livestock after two years of drought. As reported in earlier ACP web postings, the drought caused the death of livestock and some wildlife species at the tail-end of the long dry season in September and October of 2017. Given the poor short rains in November and December, we expected drought losses to mount in the January to March dry season this year. The losses were, however, stemmed by unseasonal rains in January and again mid-March.
A comparison of the 2018 counts with the 2017 count prior to the prolonged two-year dry spell shows that, despite the deaths of zebra, wildebeest and buffalo recorded around the Amboseli swamps last September and October, wildlife populations survived the dry years very well. A table comparing the two counts (below) shows zebra, wildebeest, grant’s gazelle, eland and impala numbers holding their own. Buffalo numbers showed a decline on the aerial counts, but the losses were not evident in the monthly ground counts conducted in Amboseli. Elephant numbers in the ecosystem were down significantly. The decline reflects emigration to surrounding areas rather than mortality, given that few deaths were recorded. Giraffe, ostrich and oryx, all drought-hardy species, increased over the past two years. The increase in giraffe is especially encouraging, given its decline across its range in Africa and its recent classification as a threatened species. The increase is due largely to containment of bush meat poaching in the Amboseli ecosystem over the last few years.
The losses of cattle, sheep, goats and donkeys, on the other hand, are confirmed by the mortality records from ground surveys during the drought. Based on our monthly vegetation plots, we expected far larger losses of wildlife than actually occurred. The wildlife survival we attribute to boost in fresh pasture created by spread of surface water in the swamps in the last two dry seasons. The losses among cattle, sheep and goats was due to the large sizes of their populations and the limited access they had to late season grazing taken up by farms and settlement.
Over the years ACP, together with its partner organization, the African Conservation Centre, has taken on and trained over 35 promising conservationists and conservation scientists. Among them was John Waithaka, who conducted his PhD on the impact of elephants on habitats under David Western. John was later appointed coordinator of elephant programs then director of the Biodiversity Division at Kenya Wildlife Service. John went on become director of ACC before being employed by Parks Canada for fourteen years. On retiring from Park Canada, John returned to Kenya in 2017.
We are pleased to announce that John was appointed the new chairman of the Kenya Wildlife Service on June 1st following the end of Dr. Richard Leakey’s 3-year tenure. John will bring a wide range of experience to his new position and we offer him all our support.
In further government announcement by the Cabinet Secretary for Tourism and Wildlife, David Western was appointed to the Wildlife Utilization Task Force in March 2017. The task force is charged with looking into the pros and cons of various forms of wildlife utilization, including game farming, covered by the Wildlife Act. Sport hunting is banned under the Act and is not under consideration.
In March Sakimba Kamiti, who conducted his Master thesis with ACP, was appointed field coordinator to the joint ACC--University of Lyon 3-year research program into the human dimensions of wildlife and ecosystem changes in Amboseli. Sakimber has also been accepted to PhD candidacy at the University of Lyon, working in collaboration with ACP.
The Amboseli Ecosystem Management Plan (AEMP) was initiated by ACP and ACC in 2004 to urge the Maasai landowner association to call on Kenya Wildlife Service, other government agencies, conservation organizations, tourism industry and researchers to draw up a conservation plan for the Amboseli ecosystem.
The effort led to the launch a ten year AEMP plan for 2008 to 2018. The aim of ecosystem plan, the first of its kind, was to maintain the viability of the Amboseli migratory wildlife populations.
The plan recognized that pastoral herders also moved seasonally in much the same way as wildlife. With this mind, AEMP defined a Minimum Viable Area for sustaining wildlife and pastoral herds, the threats to the integrity of the ecosystem, and proposed specific mitigation measures.
The renewal of AEMP for a further 10 years is currently underway. ACP has, as in the original planning process, drawn up a detailed report providing the background materials for the new. The report was completed in April and submitted to the planning committee overseeing AEMP 2018-2028.
The ACP report points out that the new plan must take into account the recommendations of the Strategic Environmental Assessment commissioned by the Amboseli Ecosystem Trust and gazetted by the National Environmental Management Authority. The new plan must also include plans for livestock development, rangeland and water management, agriculture, permanent settlements, and allow for urbanization and new enterprises. The plan should also address the changes over the last decade.
The threats detailed in the ACP 2007 report, which have intensified since then, include subdivision, agricultural expansion, water extraction for farms and development, a loss of seasonal pastures, and the growing impact of grazers and browsers on habitat, species diversity, plant production and on livestock and wildlife populations. Poaching has declined to manageable levels since 2008, due to the formation of a large well-managed community ranger force. Human-wildlife conflict has, however, risen sharply to the point of undercutting gains in community-based conservation.
The social, economic and demographic changes underway among the predominantly pastoral community of the Amboseli ecosystem are causing fundamental changes in livelihoods, both out of necessity and choice. In the long run, social and economic development is likely to relieve the pressure on land. Meanwhile, for the many pastoralists who remain herders, land subdivision, sedentarization and a loss of seasonal grazing decreases their mobility, herd sizes and resilience to drought. The same pressures pose severe threats to wildlife and intensify competition between people and wildlife over shrinking space and resources.
The land use changes call for reducing the Minimum Viable Conservation Area (MVCA) to exclude heavily settled and farmed areas and focusing on the open rangelands still supporting free-ranging wildlife and livestock. The redefined MVCA is given in below.
At the time AEMP 2008-2018 was drawn up there was no governance structure in place to oversee and coordinate the plan. AET was set up nearly three years after the launch of the plan, faced considerable resistance from conservation organizations, lacked funds for implementation and took time to establish itself. Subsequent threats to the Amboseli ecosystem, including a Nairobi Metropolitan Area on the border of the park, a public highway cutting the migration routes and a rush to develop new lodges, gave AET a central role in coordinating the responses, overseeing the Strategic Environmental Assessment and the gazettement of AEMP. The need for an integrated land use and natural resource plan pointed out in the SEA report further reinforced the role of AET. Recognizing the role of the Kajiado County in spatial planning and the communities in land use plans under the Community Land Act, AET has assumed the central role in planning and coordinating the AEMP for 2018-2028.
The revised AEMP must confront the biggest threats to the seasonal movements of pastoral livestock and wildlife, subdivision, sedentarization, and the breakdown of traditional grazing rotation causing land degradation and falling productivity of the rangelands. Alarmed by the loss of pastoral lands following the subdivision of Kimana, the area MP, MCAs and community leaders urged the group ranches to halt subdivision and look at alternatives for keeping the land open for livestock production. The rapid deterioration of pasture caused largely by a breakdown in grazing management has spurred efforts to restore governance of seasonal grazing practices, pasture productivity and livestock marketing.
A number of group ranches have begun to conduct land use plans, reestablish traditional grazing committees, rotational herding practices and establish conservancies in response to the worsening range and livestock conditions. The plans include restoring degraded lands through olopololi (grass banks), resting and rotation of pasture use, soil erosion control measures and designated wildlife conservancies. Integrated group ranch plans offer the best hope of avoiding a Kimana-like loss of pastoral lands and finding space and a place for wildlife in the pastoral rangelands.
Ogulului and Kuku have recently completed land use and grazing plans and embarked on restoration plans funded by Just Diggit. Mbirikani is in the final stages of completing its own land use and grazing plans. Selengei has embarked on similar plans and Rombo is following suit. All the group ranches in the Amboseli ecosystem have agreed to integrate and coordinate their land use, grazing and restoration plans through the Rangelands Division of AET.