The government through the Ministry of Tourism is embracing scientific research to help save and protect endangered wildlife species as well as inform policy decisions to tackle climate change effects on animals.
Wildlife Research and Training Institute (WRTI) has been tasked by the ministry to undertake informed research that will ensure the wildlife biodiversity resources are well conserved, managed and sustainably utilized.
Speaking on behalf of Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary during the launch of WRTI Strategic Plan [2022-2027] in Naivasha, Tourism Secretary Said Athman said the plan will ensure mainstreaming of wildlife research and training into National Development Goals.
Athman said the institute will be a key enabler for the delivery of Wildlife Strategy 2030 that seeks to address increasing pressures on animal parks and game reserves ecosystems.
This, he said will be achieved through collection of data on wildlife, application of scientific research and conservation management trainings.
According to the institute director Patrick Omondi, the strategic plan will help streamline research activities and projects that will guide the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) in taking informed policy decisions and interventions.
Dr Omondi said the institute scientists have so far authored 31 scientific publications, undertaken six research projects and are currently undertaking nine more projects.
He added that the institute has also undertaken 12 ecological assessments and three species recovery and actions plans on sable, black rhino and elephant.
The director added that the institute is also currently undertaking research on the impact of bush meat and their distribution of rare antelope species –Dik Dik in the Tsavo.
He at the same time said they have initiated and completed data collection and density studies on the Roma antelope so as to inform informed management of the rare species.
Omondi added that other studies being undertaken include status of de –Brazza monkey in Kakamega, rhinos breeding status in Meru and breeding status of spotted hyena and black rhino in the Aberdare.
This emerged as the ministry raised a red alert in Masai Mara National Reserve over continuing degradation of wildlife ecosystem amidst the ongoing drought facing the animals.
The Masai Mara was flagged as facing myriad of challenges that places the reserve at risk including disappearing grasslands and vegetation cover, depletion of animal habitats among others.
The ongoing drought threat in the country has also worsened the situation due to depletion of graze vegetation for wildlife and scarce water resources occasioned by drying rivers.
To address the threats of climate change, Dr Omondi said the institute is focusing on Climate change adaptation plans that will inform swift interventions to save the animals.
He added that they will be deploying satellite technology to identify animal movement corridors so as to inform infrastructural developments such as fencing.
The move follows concerns on continued encroachment of animal pathways for wildlife migration routes especially the iconic wildebeest migration.
On his part, KWS Director General Brigadier John Waweru said there is need for continued research to address emerging challenges including rising water level on game parks, animal overpopulation, and climate change threats among others.
Waweru said this will help ensure that they deploy science based interventions to ensure animal ecosystems are secure and available for wildlife.
By Erastus Gichohi