Threats to African Animals
The African animals have been the big drive on tourism and employment in Africa but the big question that is becoming more crucial every day is “How long can the African wildlife survive? Will your grandchildren see the plains teaming up with game or will your videos and photos be the only proof to them that once upon a time...”
Ontdek Kenya, a tour operator based in Kenya, specializing in truly nature themed safaris, is aware that our growth and survival as a business unit is tied to the ultimate survival of the African wild animals. Too often visitors (tourists) to Kenya only see the veneer of the wildlife scene and they are oblivious to the grave danger that wildlife animals face e.g. a herd of +50 elephants at a water hole of the Tree Hotel or a pride of +10 lions gives the impression that all is well with the Kenya wildlife.
Let’s face it: All is not well, the numbers of wild African animals are reducing fast, the once big herds are getting rare to see and while there is (and will always be) a big debate on the causes of the decline, Ontdek wishes to highlight the current major threats to the wild animals in Kenya:
- Drought – much brought about by Kenya’s declining water catchment areas. Consequently the major parks in Kenya; Nakuru, Masai Mara, Amboseli and Samburu can simply not sustain the wildlife within their boundaries. This leads to animals straying out on the nearby farms and ultimately leading to conflicts with farmers.
Hippos need deep water pools to shelter from the sun.
In ’09 the wildebeest migration lacked the drama of the African animals jumping into the high Mara River – they literally walked through as the river had just a ground covering layer of water. You might say good luck for the wildebeest, but the crocodiles that lay in deep waters to spring a surprise on the wildebeest had tough luck.
Similarly hippos need deep water to shelter from the sun and as the rivers run low in Masai Mara the survival of hippos is very much threatened.
- Encroachment by human habitats. No where is this more noticeable than in Masai Mara where its fame & growth is now its own outdoing. New camps and lodges with fences are coming up every which way and while this widens the choice of accommodation and gives fair competition, African animal corridors are getting closed. Add the mushrooming satellite towns around the park,resulting from spill-over businesses from the camps/lodges, the human population around Mara is increasing faster than the Mara's infrastructure can support.
- Communities don’t see a direct benefit of the African wildlife. Forget the statistics of tourism being Kenya’s highest foreign exchange earner – when the communities near the wildlife parks don’t get real and tangible benefits (read money) accruing from tourism – they see no justifiable reason why they shouldn’t poach or hit back to the animals if they attack their livestock and crops.
Photo credit Mary Podesta,Photo taken at Aberdares National Park May '09
- The arrow on picture A shows a cut in the trunk as a result of snaring. Picture B Sucking water through the trunk is a problem because of the cut.
Here are some crude ways African animals meet their death:
- Snares: While the big time poachers will have hunting rifles with silencers, the snare is the preferred tool with village-poachers who intend to sell the meat for consumption. Made of a coiled wire, it gives the animal a slow and agonizing death or if by luck the animal escapes it is left with life threatening wounds. Just about any animal can be brought down by a snare but top on the snare-list are zebras, antelopes, baboons ... even elephants.
Ontdek safari guides and clients often collect and dispose of snares that we find on our walking routes. We also commend and support organizations that are at the forefront of de-snaring.
- Poisoning: A nice cabbage – so it looks until you split it up and see it is dosed with poisonous farm chemicals. This is often used as “hit-back” to elephants that invade farms and since the elephants gobble the cabbages down in one go – their fate is sealed.
Poison-stuffed chunks of meat: Kept on the animal trail, this is is another hit-back method tailored for marauding hyenas, lions and leopards, also killing other African animals in the process like jackals, caracals, civet cats, foxes...
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