Meet the vulture volunteers of Kenya

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“After I was a baby, there was once a lot of vultures round our village. At this time we hardly ever see them,” notes Muli, a neighborhood volunteer working with BirdLife Associate Nature Kenya to preserve vultures throughout the Maasai Mara, Mosiro, Kwenia and Amboseli landscapes.

Over time, vulture populations have drastically declined throughout these three landscapes and in Africa altogether. Wildlife poisoning has been singled out because the main reason behind vulture deaths in Africa, accounting for greater than 60% of the fatalities. In Kenya, six out of the eight vulture species are labeled as Threatened, whereas the Hooded Necrosyrtes monachus, Rüppell’s Gyps rueppelli, White-backed Gyps africanus and White-headed vulture Trigonoceps occipitalis are thought of Critically Endangered.

In early 2020, Nature Kenya recruited and educated 65 volunteers to assist its vulture conservation work. Known as vulture volunteers, the neighborhood members come from villages inside 5 wildlife poisoning hotspots:  Kwenia, Mosiro and Amboseli in Kajiado County; and Maji Moto-Talek and Nyakweri-Aitong in Narok county.

Hooded Vulture, copyright Package Day, from the surfbirds galleries

By way of a citizen science strategy, the vulture volunteers learnt how to answer wildlife poisoning incidents inside their locale, accumulate very important human-wildlife battle knowledge, and unfold consciousness concerning the opposed results of wildlife poisoning.  Outfitted with a smartphone, binoculars and a water-resistant bag, the fieldwork contains amassing the date of human-wildlife battle, its title and GPS coordinates, the species and situation of the animals affected and the retaliatory technique used.

To this point, so good. For the reason that mission kicked off, surveillance and response to human-wildlife battle incidents have considerably improved within the Maasai Mara, Mosiro, Kwenia and Amboseli areas.

“Knowledge assortment is vital to our vulture conservation work. Because of the vulture volunteers’ community, we are actually capable of get wildlife poisoning data nearly on a real-time foundation,” says Paul Gacheru, Species and Websites Supervisor at Nature Kenya.

Working with the volunteers has additionally allowed the vulture conservation programme to turn into extra fashionable and accepted by native communities, who’re predominantly pastoralists.

“We have now been finishing up vulture conservation consciousness campaigns in villages. From what I’ve seen, the communities are actually extra conscious of the hazards of poisoning. Consequently, we’re recording fewer circumstances of wildlife poisoning,” elaborates Muli.

“By way of knowledge collected by volunteers like me, month-to-month monitoring experiences are generated, capturing behavioural adjustments in the neighborhood,” says Solomon Teyian, one other volunteer-based in Mosiro, Kajiado.

As well as, knowledge collected informs the programme’s human-wildlife battle mitigation measures, such because the introduction of predator-proof bomas  (fenced enclosures) to reduce livestock predation in homesteads; or the applying of greatest herding practices to counter livestock predation within the grazing fields.

Two of the principle challenges volunteers have to face are logistics and transportations, as they’re generally required to journey lengthy distances and entry protected areas to answer wildlife poisoning incidents.  ”I as soon as obtained into bother with the Maasai Mara Nationwide Reserve rangers for utilizing a motorbike to answer a poisoning incident contained in the reserve, about 30 kilometres away from my dwelling,” feedback Muli.

Like in lots of rural areas in Kenya, bikes are the most typical technique of public transport within the Maasai Mara space however will not be allowed into the long-lasting recreation reserve. Moreover, because of the vastity of the Kwenia, Amboseli, Mosiro and Maasai Mara landscapes, entry to some areas can be a hindrance.

Challenges apart, the vulture volunteers are raring to go.

“Wildlife poisoning impacts the lives of many different dwelling creatures, together with vultures. People, at instances, don’t perceive this. My position as a vulture volunteer is to make communities conscious of the implications of wildlife poisoning on vultures and to show my folks the significance of vultures in our surroundings,” concludes Muli.

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