Sunday, September 7, 2014

Government of Kenya to Invest 200 Million Shillings on National Wildlife Census

Ministry of Environment, Water, and Natural Resources cabinet secretary Judy Wakhungu (left) being shown around the Kenya Wildlife Service Law Enforcement Academy.

Recently, Kenya's Ministry of Environment, Water, and Natural Resources cabinet secretary Judy Wakhungu announced that the government will launch a KSh-200 million national wildlife census this year. While speaking during a pass out parade of 566 rangers at Kenya Wildlife Service Law Enforcement Academy on Thursday, she indicated that the census will include all species of wildlife across the country and not just large animals like in the past. She further added that the census is directed at getting the precise number of Kenya's wildlife, in order to find means of protecting and increasing the animals' populations. The census, which will be conducted in December this year, is estimated to cost between KSh-180 and 200 million. In addition, Cabinet Secretary Wakhungu pointed out that the census will include Kenya's 108 endangered species and that aerial and ground spotting will be implemented to obtain accurate figures. Furthermore, she added that the enlistment of 566 rangers was incited by the increase in poaching early this year. However, the recruits' were unable to complete the required six months of training due to the poaching situation. Fortunately, Cabinet Secretary Wakhungu's principal secretary Richard Lesiyampe assured that the government will provide the rangers with advanced instruments such as night vision goggles, sophisticated firearms, and even helicopters in cases of emergencies when battling poachers.

It looks like Kenya is taking a brand-new step in order to combat poaching and ensure the survival of its wildlife. The plan to spend 200 million shillings on a national wildlife census is crucial to understanding the state of the country's wildlife. Kenya had conducted wildlife censuses in the past, but these were limited strictly to large animals. This new census will involve all animals both big and small. It is extremely important to understand that a wildlife census should never be restricted to a particular animal species based on its size or any other factor. Wildlife censuses should include all animals regardless of what size they are since each species is known to play crucial role in maintaining the ecological balance. In Kenya, for example, it is not only elephants, lions, and other large animals that play important roles in keeping balance in ecosystems but also small animals. These include bats, bushbabies, elephant shrews, hedgehogs, and true shrews which are known to keep the insect population under control. In addition, civets, genets, and mongooses prey on small mammals such as rodents to ensure that their populations do not increase to cataclysmic levels. Furthermore, presence of such small animals could indicate the state of an ecosystem. For example, if the populations of mongooses and their relatives are critically low, then the state of an ecosystem would appear to be overrun with rodents eradicating vegetation which herbivores also rely on for survival. With this new wildlife census underway, Kenya appears to be leading the way to battle the threat of poaching in Africa. However, there are other African countries that do not seem to stand a chance against poaching. This is especially true in Central Africa where militant groups have and are probably continuing to decimate the numbers of elephants and other prominent animals to finance their civil wars. Therefore, it is crucial that such countries badly affected by poaching be provided with essential resources to take a tough stand against poaching conducted by both poachers and bloodthirsty militants. Otherwise, Central Africa's wildlife would face the risk of possible extinction which would have a negative impact on the region's tourist industry and socio-economic development.

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