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THE ROLE OF WILDLIFE DISPERSAL CORRIDORS IN WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT

Globally, one of the main biodiversity challenges is the loss of connectivity in wildlife conservation areas mainly due to human-induced factors that exert pressure on land and water resources. Indeed, many protected areas are too small to maintain viable populations of African wildlife. Despite diverse species inhabiting savannas and have for a long time had expansive habitats to utilize, the savanna ecosystem is increasingly under threat from habitat fragmentation and loss of wildlife dispersal areas to agriculture and human settlement.

Land fragmentation represents an obstacle to maintaining ecological connectivity and viable wildlife populations. Reduced landscape connectivity and impeded movements may result in higher mortality, lower population viability and lower production leading to smaller populations. In view of their great mobility and extensive spatial requirements for survival, large mammals are vulnerable to fragmentation effects.

The fragmentation effects result when animals within populations are unable to cross to connecting habitats, access mates or other biological requirements. These effects have underscored the need to maintain and restore essential movements of wildlife species particularly those with high traffic volumes, it is for this reason that wildlife corridors are constructed.

 

CORRIDORS/FENCE GAPS AND USE OF CAMERA TRAPS FOR MONITORING AT OL PEJETA CONSERVANCY

Infrared cameras used at the fence gaps to monitor wildlife traffic in and out of the conservancy coloured pictures taken during the daytime while black and white at night

A wildlife corridor is an area of habitat connecting wildlife populations separated by human activities or structures such as roads development or logging. This allows an exchange of individuals between population, which may help prevent the negative effect of inbreeding and may moderate some of the worst effects of habitat fragmentation.

Elephants Entering OL Pejeta from Mutara using the corridor

 The OL Pejeta Conservancy has well-modified wildlife corridors/ fence gaps classified according to their width indirectly proportional to size and number of animals using it. All animals are free to more in and out of the conservancy by way of specially constructed game corridors that only restrict the movement of rhinos knee high post in the ground, situated very close together present no challenge for elephant rates, antelope and carnivores that are easily able to jump or step over. Rhinos are unable to do this and as a result, are restricted from moving into areas where they are in danger of being slaughtered for their horn it also operates a successful livestock program which serves to benefits local pastoralist and wildlife. 

 The OlPejeta conservancy have got three constructed corridor  located on the Northern part of the conservancy with the reason being that to the Southern part of it there is small scale farming taking place by the local communities inhibited the area, the northern corridors enable dispersal of wildlife to the greater Laikipia ecosystem thus increasing their probability of survival and range while at the same time reducing pressure on the conservancy.

Connectivity is essential between adjacent conservation areas

 Advantages of the corridors

  •   They  allow the wild animals to have the freedom of movement in and out the other protected areas such as Mt. Kenya National Park, Mutara ranch, Solio ranch
  • They help prevent inbreeding of animal in order to acquire strong genes from other species of animals away from the protected area
  •    Helps the conservancy to acquire species of animal that they don’t have on  their records of wild animal species of OlPejeta through the aid of the camera traps
  •     Help elephants from breaking the fence thus promoting good wildlife management techniques

         Help in developing the checklist of wild animals within the protected area this is done through monitoring the footprints of the wild animals in the process of animals moving in and out of the protected area and through the images captured by the cameras which operate even at night.

    

            Although game corridor has numerous advantages there are still some challenges in line with the management such as:

  • Competition for natural resources such as food, space, cover and water 
  • Disease reservoir for livestock example zoonosis  transmission of disease can be from livestock to   wild animal 
  • Livestock predation example is lion predating against cow  

           

Connectivity within adjacent conservation areas is inevitable, fence gaps are the best alternatives

           Way forward 

 Wildlife corridors are not proposed as mitigation for loss of core habitat.  However, with careful planning and design, wildlife corridors can help reduce the negative effects of habitat fragmentation by allowing dispersal of individuals between large patches of remaining habitat.  While additional study on the efficacy of wildlife corridors is necessary, some general principles of evaluation and design are available and should be implemented.  Monitoring the use of corridors by target wildlife species is an important step in corridor planning, to allow for adaptive management. 

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LION TRACKING (STALKING LIONS FOR CONSERVATION) OL PEJETA DIARIES

The African lion, an iconic symbol of strength, is one of the latest additions to the growing list of animals threatened with extinction. The first time you see one up close there’s this thrilling feeling that you get “I can’t be the only one who gets it” its fear, it’s exciting but most of it fun.


The love and affection that Kenyans have for this magnificent species was best portrayed after the controversial shooting of the stray lion “Mohawk” from the Nairobi National Park some years back, but the plight of this species has reached an alarming rate and thus needs to be acted upon by relevant bodies be it the Kenya Wildlife Service or Non governmental Organizations that play a crucial role in the immense research and monitoring of the species the dynamics revolving around their declining numbers and solving their conflicts with livestock herders in terms of compensations to avoid them being killed in retaliation.


Lion numbers have been quickly declining in East and West Africa, forcing the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to classify the “king of the jungle” as Vulnerable on its updated Red List of Threatened Species. decline in lion population is attributed to factors e.g. habitat loss, diseases and human-wildlife conflict. A rapid decline has been recorded in East Africa a stronghold for lions mainly due to human-lion conflict. This includes poaching and retaliatory killing.
Statistics reveal that the national population of lions in Kenya is reduced by an average of 100 lions each year! To come up with solutions aimed at mitigating the human-lion conflict, conservationists monitor lion movements through collars.

Radio Telemetry on Lions and Pride ID


Radio collars assist the Ecological Monitoring Department to obtain data on predator-prey interactions, population status and structure, movement patterns and social organization. Through the use of collars, prey mortality caused by predators can be analyzed to show their impacts on prey species. Too many lions, for example, can be a problem because high prey off-takes can lead to a serious decline of endangered and other species of concern to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, including Jackson’s hartebeest, Grevy’s zebra, black rhinos, Beisa Oryx and ostriches. Without collars, the same data can be collected but collars allow closer monitoring on a more regular basis.

Currently, several prides of the conservancy’s lions are equipped with GPS radio collars, which are linked to GSM (Global System for Mobile communication technology) tracking devices. The collars allow for the development of home range maps and offer a greater understanding of the habits and movements of this species (only a female lion is collared because they stick to the pride). They also allow the conservancy staff to maintain the balance of wildlife on the conservancy by observing the impact of the lion upon such prey species as hartebeest, whose population had fallen by 50% over the last ten years, largely as a result of lion activity. This information is also useful in other research activities such as “kill search” that use the GPS fixes from the collard prides to locate the potential kills.
Lions from an ecological perspective are crucial for a balanced and resilient system. Therefore monitoring lions is crucial to understand their movement and general predator-prey interaction, the main purposes for the activity are; to monitor the movement and build up a photographic means of identifying lions for further research, Monitor individual pride to understand their morphological features, Monitor prides to understand their habitat utilization and home ranges and to Identify lion prey composition

YOU CAN ALSO TAKE PART IN LION TRACKING
To help sensitize the importance of lion tracking visitors to the conservancy can take part in a two hour lion tracking at a cost of only 40 USD for two hours you will be picked from the gate, or from your accommodation facility if you are already at the conservancy by the conservancy’s highly trained and skilled lion trackers  modern  land cruisers with high chances of spotting lions 80% chance, this will give you adequate access to the lion pride you will be tracking and in a nutshell this is what you will be engaged in Starting by feeding\ coding lion frequency into radio telemetry receiver (each collared lioness has a different collar frequency number same as our different phone sim number), drive along lion’s home ranges and wait for beep signal (Beep…Beep… beep). Once there is a beep signal, the radio telemetry receiver is connected to a hand-held two-way antenna which gives the specific direction of the lion being tracked the closer you get to the lion the higher the beep. On sighting a pride, GPS data is first downloaded at a distance where the lions feel safe.
Thereafter you will help collect the following attributes which will be recorded; Date, Time, Pride ID, Location, Type of Habitat, Vehicle GPS Point (UTM Zone 37N, WGS 1984), Photo number to be identified later, Total number of individuals, Number of different individuals of similar sex and age, Activity, (If on a kill, the species of the prey) and (If on a kill, the approximate age of the kill in days)
This information will be recorded in shorthand in the field, later it will be collated into a Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet. In the spreadsheet, the names of the individual lions will be also added once they had been identified from their photographs. The different group’s movements and ranges around the Conservancy will be mapped using Arc Map 10.2

Individual Identification of Lions Using Whisker Spot Pattern
Identification based on individual variation in the pattern of spots marking the position of the vibrissae between the upper lip and the nose.