Kenya’s reputation as a leading ecotourist destination and conservation leader could be in jeopardy as wildlife migration has declined by 68%!
In both protected and unprotected areas alike, wildlife numbers are declining sharply across Africa. Most wildlife still occurs on private and communal lands outside protected areas, which cover only 10% of Kenya’s land surface. As with other parts of Africa, protected areas are too small to meet all the needs of their wildlife populations all year in East Africa. Many wildlife species, therefore, spend part or all of the year outside protected area.
Human population increase and activities are the leading causes of the decrease in numbers of migratory wildlife and collapse of wildlife migrations in East Africa.
The disturbing loss of wildebeest and the virtual collapse of their migrations are caused by several processes that vary in their importance and intensity across the five populations. The major processes are the unplanned expansion of agriculture, fences, settlements, urban centres, roads and other infrastructures, poaching and competition with livestock for food, space and drinking water. These processes are driven, in turn, by increasing human and livestock numbers, changing land tenure and land subdivision.
Additional key drivers are the failure of settlement policies, wildlife conservation and management policies, wildlife management institutions and wildlife markets.
The virtual collapse of four of the five remaining wildebeest migrations increases the risk of local extinctions of wildebeest in the four premier East African Ecosystems.
The obstructions to migrations are increasing at a time when migratory species require greater mobility and flexibility to cope with frequent and intense droughts associated with climate change. These obstructions, therefore, pose grave risks to wildlife and the future of tourism.