01-09-2021 by Leni Frau
The first official data from the wildlife census, which began in February this year thanks to an initiative of the Kenyan government, are now available.
The Kenya Wildlife Service has been able to verify that efforts to combat poaching have, according to the data collected, produced positive results.
The activities of smugglers have always been directed especially at two animal species of the African savannah: elephants, for their precious ivory, which is unfortunately still in demand internationally, and rhinos, for the supposedly curative and aphrodisiac (according to Eastern medicine) properties of their horn. Alongside this ever-present danger is the problem of deforestation and the use of land where wild animals once roamed freely, for agricultural use or to build houses. This leads to conflicts between humans and animals that often end in the killing of the latter.
Despite the above threats, the number of elephants has increased by 12% since the previous census and now, according to this count, which was taken with drones and instruments that are certainly more technologically advanced than seven years ago, there are 36,280.
"Efforts to increase control and punishment of crimes against endangered species seem to be paying off," says the KWS report, which counted 30 different species of animals and covered almost 59 percent of the country.
Following the pandemic, which reduced the number of tourists in African reserves and gave poachers more freedom, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) raised the alarm not only about poaching, but also about habitat destruction, which, in particular due to the conversion of land for agriculture, was devastating elephant numbers across Africa.
Indeed, it must be said that the 12% increase over 2014 is only a small, albeit significant, recovery from the staggering decline in elephants in the savannah, which are at least 60% less than they were fifty years ago.
The survey supported by the Kenyan government, at the urging of President Kenyatta who has repeatedly reminded us that wildlife "is our national heritage, the legacy of our children, something we should be able to show off with pride" also counted, with much less approximation, the rhino specimens present in the country.
There are 1,739 of these rare animals, divided between 897 blacks (a critically endangered species) and 840 whites from the south. In addition, there are two female northern white rhinos that have been artificially fertilised with the seed of the last male, the mythical Sudan, and on which the continuation of the species depends.
In the coming days, the census will also reveal the number of lions, zebras (including Grevy's, which are at risk of total disappearance), hirola (Hunter's antelopes) and the three giraffe species present in Kenya. According to local media reports that have spoken to KWS, none of these categories are declining in numbers. The migratory species of wildebeest is more difficult to count. During the census, most of these animals, which move from Tanzania to Kenya to create the incredible spectacle of the great migration, were outside the national territory, but the census would still have counted about 40,000.
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