Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Kenya's national parks not free from wildlife declines

08.07.2009
Long-term declines of elephants, giraffe, impala and other animals in Kenya are occurring at the same rates within the country's national parks as outside of these protected areas, according to a study released this week.

"This is the first time we've taken a good look at a national park system in one country, relative to all of the wildlife populations across the whole country," said David Western, an adjunct professor of biology at UC San Diego and the founding executive director of the African Conservation Center in Nairobi, who headed the study published in the July 8 issue of the journal PLoS One. "And we found that wildlife populations inside and outside of the parks are declining at much the same rate."

Western said this finding, while surprising to those who regard national parks as sanctuaries where wildlife populations are protected, illustrates the problems that maintaining these protected areas can create on wildlife and ecosystems inside as well as outside of the parks.

"What we're now beginning to understand is that the pressures around the parks are also affecting the wildlife in the parks," said Western, a former director of the Kenyan Wildlife Service, which commissioned the study two years ago. His research team—which included Samantha Russell, a research scientist at the African Conservation Center, and Innes Cuthill, a biologist at Britain's Bristol University—compiled data from more than 270 counts of wildlife in Kenya over a period of 25 years.

"Many of the population changes that occur are drought-driven, occurring over a 5 to 10 year period," said Western. "These data cover a long period of time and overcome that seasonal periodic drought-driven effect on wildlife."

The scientists noted in their paper that many of Kenya's 23 national park and 26 national reserve boundaries do not take into account the seasonal migrations of animals. So when land surrounding the parks is allowed to be developed for agriculture and other uses, migratory routes and important sources of food for wildlife are destroyed.

"Parks in Kenya were set aside in areas where people saw large aggregations of animals and typically these were the areas where animals congregated during the dry seasons," said Western. "They ignored seasonal migrations because people didn't know where these animals migrated to, in many cases."

To protect elephants and other endangered species from poachers, the national parks confined these animals within park boundaries. But the researchers found that this practice over time has changed the ecology of many Kenyan parks.

"Elephants need a lot of space," Western said. "They move around. But now that they have been limited to smaller areas, they're taking out the woody vegetation and reducing the overall biodiversity in the national parks. We're seeing throughout our parks in Kenya a change from woody habitats to grassland habitats. As a result, we're losing the species that thrive in woody areas, such as giraffe, lesser kudu and impala."

The researchers said in their paper that wildlife populations throughout Kenya—inside as well as outside the national parks—declined by 40 percent from 1977 to 1997. But the populations underwent ups and downs during those years. "The combined wildlife populations show considerable fluctuation in parks and adjoining areas, with numbers rising in the late 1970s, falling through to the mid-1980s, rising again more slowly in the late 1980s and falling steeply in the 1990s," the researchers wrote in their paper.

Western said a third contributing reason for declines in some species, such as elephants, has been the antagonism created by the parks within surrounding communities. Forced to settle in land outside the parks, some local tribes view the parks as threats to their survival.

"What happens is that wildlife now becomes a threat to their agriculture and their pastoral way of life," Western said. "So they willingly invite poachers to get rid of the wildlife."

"The most disturbing finding from our study is that the biggest parks do not provide insulation from wildlife losses," he added. "In fact, the biggest losses are occurring in the big parks, rather than the smaller ones. A very big park is much more difficult to protect from poachers. Furthermore, in the biggest parks there isn't an intimate connection between the park and the surrounding community, so there are no benefits going back. The small parks, such Nairobi National Park, Amboseli, and Nakuru, are surrounded by people who are more educated and better off financially, so they don't see the parks with the same antagonism as the others and they're more amenable to conservation."

Western said that to protect Kenyan wildlife from further declines, the Kenyan government needs to set policies to share the profits of ecotourism with local communities so that they can reap the economic benefits of protecting the wildlife and ecosystems within and surrounding the national parks.

"We now have streams of visitors into the parks and at the moment the revenues are going to the tour operators, hoteliers and the government and nothing to the customary users of that land. We need to create 'parks beyond parks' in which we encourage communities to become closely aligned with their own wildlife sanctuaries, their own lodges, their own scouts and their own conservation efforts."

Western added that he and his colleagues found in a separate study, soon to be published, that "where we have community based conservation linked to a national park, the losses of wildlife are much, much less."

He said those lessons apply not only to national parks in Kenya, but to those in other countries, including the United States.

"We're not likely to increase the number of national parks or increase parkland," he added. "But we can create parks beyond parks in local communities that double as grazing land for livestock during droughts and become drought refuges for wildlife. This obviates the need to create new parkland."

"The combination of local involvement with national parks makes a very good fit," he said.

Kim McDonald | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ucsd.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

nachricht International network connects experimental research in European waters
21.03.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Northern oceans pumped CO2 into the atmosphere

27.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

Fingerprint' technique spots frog populations at risk from pollution

27.03.2017 | Life Sciences

Big data approach to predict protein structure

27.03.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>