4 Key Takeaways from Dickson Kaelo EAWLS IMRE LOEFLER Lecture on The Space Dilemma

Posted: 9th Nov 2017 06:17:42 AM

On 1st November 2017, KWCA CEO Dickson Kaelo made a presentation at the EAWLS IMRE LOEFLER Lecture on why habitat loss and the deterioration of the quality of resources on land is the silent killer to wildlife conservation in Kenya. During the lecture, Dickson argued that wildlife conservancies in Kenya provided a solution to addressing the space dilemma in ensuring long term survival of wildlife.

Below are the key highlights from his presentation: -

1. Lack of space and the deterioration of the quality of resources on land is the biggest threat facing wildlife conservation in Kenya.

The emerging pastoral landscape has changed over the years, with human settlements growing rapidly near water sources, poor grazing management systems leading to overgrazing and other compounding factors such as flooding and drought are contributing to soil erosion ultimately leading to land degradation. This is especially in the northern region where most of the palatable annual grasses are no longer there and perennial grasses are not reseeding making the rangelands poor. Lack of water and pasture in these regions drive pastoralists communities to other protected areas and conservancies in search of these resources. The biggest challenge we'll be confronted with in years to come will be to get the rangelands to recover into healthy ecosystems.


Agricultural incentives in pastoral communities where conservancies are found has expanded cultivation, leading to land fragmentation and as a result, increased incidences of human wildlife conflicts, fencing and water abstraction. Agriculture poses a big threat to wildlife conservation driven by increase demand to feed the growing population in the rangelands. Consequently, the landscape is becoming smaller and less connected making it harder for the wildlife to move due to the changes in space. There is need to enforce the national spatial plan also anchored into county land use plans to address these major threats of space.

Despite wildlife declines in most rangelands, wildlife populations have substantially increased in Laikipia and Taita Taveta counties, because the areas under conservation are larger. Laikipia county with only one national reserve, form contiguous land areas under conservancies by creating open spaces for wildlife. 62% of Taita Taveta County is under protection through the Tsavo national park, the biggest national park in Kenya. Despite the low levels of rainfall received in these two regions, wildlife can thrive in open spaces for their habitat, protection and movement.

2. Sheep and goats present a greater threat to wildlife conservation than cattle

A 2016 report by Joseph Ogutu's et al, on Extreme wildlife declines showed Kenya had lost 68% of its wildlife since 1977 and the numbers of cattle had also decreased less marginally by 25.2%. In contrast, the numbers of sheep and goats had increased by a bigger margin at 76.3% in the pastoral landscapes. The rise of sheep and goats by most pastoralists households in wildlife areas is increasingly putting pressure on the land because of the breed of sheep that is available today. The Dorper sheep which has become a common breed due to availability of markets is a bigger feeder, multiplies faster and feeds in one area for a longer period. Its feeding habits has a big effect on availability of pasture for both wildlife and cattle.

Dickson reckons this is attributable to the sedentary lifestyle of pastoralists today who are more interested in improving their livelihoods by thinking of quality other than quantity of livestock. As a result, most of the communities are fencing of their land exclude other people's cattle and wildlife to provide more grass to the improved animal breed.

3. We risk losing more land under conservation unless conservancies are facilitated and supported

Reports by Western 2009 and Ogutu et al 2016 indicate that 65% of our wildlife is found on community and private lands. About 160 conservancies are spread across 28 counties with 110 in operation, 42 emerging and 8 proposed. The operational conservancies already cover 7% of 11% of Kenya's conservancy area which provides an alternative form of protected areas for Kenya to meet its Aichi target 11 commitment of securing 17% of its land area under conservation, by 2020. Currently, only 8% of Kenya's land is under conservation spread across 59 terrestrial parks and reserves and 10 marine parks and reserves.

Dispersal areas and migratory corridors for wildlife which occur on most community lands is currently facing a fencing crisis due to land use change, increase in human settlements around water sources and expansion of cultivation that impacts on wildlife movement, feeding, breeding and survival. Communities will only recognize wildlife as an important land use if they receive incentives and benefits associated with wildlife conservation and are able to offsets costs associated with living with wildlife.

Tourism related enterprises such as beadwork and curios, livestock management (livestock is one of the few land uses compatible with wildlife conservation) in conservancies should be supported by national and county government. Setting up a national conservation fund or conservation grant facility is an important step in securing resources to increase investments and supporting communities interested in setting up conservancies.

4. Political goodwill will require more engagement between conservationists and policy makers

The conservation sector has always been looked at from the prism of tourism. The tourism sector receives a more funding as compared to conservation partly because there are not enough conservation voices knocking on government doors to build pressure on the slow rate of development and implementation of wildlife laws and policies.

There is need for conservationists to also build a good case on the economic and intrinsic value of conservancies to the country's GDP. The Synthesis Committee that is responsible for formulating the National Wildlife Conservation Strategy coordinated by the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, has proposed the inclusion of assessing the value of our natural ecosystem. By considering this assessment in the strategy, the government has made it a priority to be considered for the next 5 years.


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To work with landowners and communities to sustainably conserve and manage wildlife and their habitat outside formal protected areas for the benefit of the people of Kenya.

Our Vision

A Kenya in which people and wildlife coexist in mutual benefit.