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Why Coals Poisonous Legacy is Unwelcome in Lamu Kenya

Lamu old town is a picturesque Swahili town frozen in time and embellished with antique Swahili settlement architecture, illuminated daily by glowing sunrises and sunsets. Turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean playfully lap its idyllic shores that have remained cocooned away from the dictates of ‘modern’ life. Intricate winding streets too narrow for cars are dotted with donkeys, the main mode of transport in this oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlement.

Grand and elaborately engraved house doors line either side of the streets forming a delightful guard of honour as one strolls through this 700-year-old town. So unique is this hidden iconic treasure that Lamu old town is inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage site List along with other quintessential cultural sites like Tahj Mahal in India, Timbuktu in Mali, Old City of Jerusalem in Israel and Giza Pyramids in Egypt. As visitors and tourists can attest, the real treasure of Lamu is its warm, kind, welcoming people who have by and large maintained their cultural way of life and preserved their pristine environment. While the rest of Kenya contends with an alarming reduction of forest cover, Lamu County has approximately 18% forest cover, is home to unique indigenous forests as well as 70% of all the mangrove forest in Kenya. Lamu old town is located on Lamu Island which forms part of the greater Lamu County which is comprised of mainland Lamu and the Lamu Archipelago.

A planned 1050MW coal-fired power plant to be located in Kenya at Kwasasi, about 21km from Lamu old town threatens to shatter not only this world heritage site but also the health, environment and livelihoods of Lamu County residents. 975 acres of farmland, mangrove forests and indigenous flora are to be cleared to set up the fossil fuel plant. Grave and legitimate concerns have been raised ranging from the economic viability of the project to detailing how the plant will irreversibly alter livelihoods, fragile ecosystems, fishing grounds and air quality of Lamu mainland and the Lamu Archipelago. The proposed 2.1 billion dollar plant is a project of Amu Power Company Ltd. The plant will unsurprisingly be largely funded by financiers from China, which is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. Not to be left out, the American conglomerate General Electric (GE) in 2018 signed an agreement to design, construct, maintain the coal plant as well as a proposed share acquisition in Amu Power.

At the heart of opposition to the planned plant are the correlated environmental and health ramifications of coal power production. Ahmed Ali, founder of Lamu Youth Alliance is deeply concerned. He contends that Lamu residents may soon be breathing toxic air and eating tainted food cultivated on lands contaminated with heavy metals from acid rain, all because of an uneconomical and superfluous project. Ahmed added that the unwarranted and controversial developments like the coal plant or the massive port under construction will not only impact the cultural heritage in Lamu but may also lead to a loss of UNESCO world cultural Heritage Status.

Coal ash from the plant will be disposed in ash pits which will inevitably contaminate groundwater, ocean waters and marine ecosystem through leaching, spills or even monitored discharges. most residents in Lamu depend on wells and borehole water for domestic use and contaminated groundwater is thus a real and potent health risk. An analysis of 2018 data from 265 coal-fired power plants in the USA carried out by the Environmental Integrity Project and Earthjustice found that 91% of those plants were contaminating groundwater with unsafe levels of coal ash heavy metals like arsenic.

Nitrous oxides from coal combustion cause cardiovascular and lung diseases and children are particularly susceptible to such airborne pollutants. Particulate matter from coal combustion is associated with smog, respiratory diseases, cardiac diseases, low birth weight and premature births. Sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides similarly contribute to the formation of nitrates and acid rain which acidifies water bodies, damages vegetation and coastal ecosystems. Whereas the above repercussions will be felt profoundly in Lamu, neighbouring counties and the country in general, the plants carbon dioxide emissions will spawn global consequences. Carbon dioxide emissions from this single plant will equal the current total emissions of Kenya’s entire energy sector thus doubling the national carbon dioxide emissions and contributing to accelerated climate change. Manda bay area where the plant is to be situated is endowed with extensive mangrove forest, seagrass beds and coral reefs. Dredging to operationalize the plant will result in permanent loss of those habitats. Warm water discharge from the plant and into the sensitive Lamu marine ecosystem will be detrimental to organisms like corals and other marine creatures but conducive for invasive species to thrive. Khadija Shekuwe, the coordinator of Save Lamu, believes that the plant is detrimental. “Communities in Lamu are marginalised and women in rural-based marginalised communities experience marginalisation quite acutely. Such a toxic project only aggravates the state of affairs.” She also stressed that Lamu residents generally struggle to meet their basic needs and will not afford healthcare for ailments caused by coal combustion. Khadija added that boreholes in Lamu which residents, especially women, depend on for water for domestic use was turning salty and contamination of groundwater will exacerbate the water stress or force residents to consume contaminated water.

There is a global coming to terms with the toxicity of coal and its longstanding hazardous effects on human health and the environment. Coal consumption for energy production in the US energy sector has been shrinking for 12 years and is projected to decline by a further 8% in 2019. Across the Atlantic, EU leaders have endorsed the objective of reducing Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80 – 95 % by 2050, as compared with their 1990 levels. The German Coal Commission has recommended coal-fired power generation be completely ended by 2038. Coal energy is peddled as being low-cost. However, when factored in, the social and environmental costs of coal-generated electricity like pollution, greenhouse gases and terminal diseases make the full price of coal-fired electricity substantially expensive. Justification for such a counterproductive development in Kenya is lacking bearing in mind that demand for electricity has not outstripped supply. Kenya’s peak energy demand currently stands at about 1,832MW against a total installed capacity of 2,351MW. Plans to increase energy generation capacity should focus on renewable energy. Kenya is endowed with a mix of renewables like geothermal, hydro, wind, solar and biomass which are all begging to be harnessed. Installed geothermal energy capacity stands at 690 MW against a potential capacity of between 7,000 MW to 10,000 MW. A host of geothermal plants are planned and the 54.6MW Garissa Solar plant commenced operations in late 2018. The Lake Turkana Wind power farm is now operational and is expected to add about 310MW when operating at maximum capacity. Renewable energy is capable of sustaining energy demands in Kenya for the foreseeable future as rapid technological advancements in the renewable sector gather pace. The injection of the above Megawatts into the national grid has made the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) change the tune. The ERC which had earlier dismissed objections raised by civil society and energy specialists about the viability of the coal plant released a statement warning that creating too much-installed capacity without proven demand to absorb the same will lead to under-utilised capacity which must be paid for by end-consumers. The regulator also recommended that projects like the planned coal and nuclear plants be delayed for some years and the capacity of the 1050MW coal plant be reduced by half. This shift of stance is profusely welcome yet worrying for it points to either poor strategic planning by authorities in the sector or mischief by politicians and ‘tenderpreneurs’ wanting to force through an unnecessary project just to make profits. The project ought not to be slowed down but entirely done away with.

The Kenyan Constitution guarantees the right to a clean and healthy environment including the right to have the environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations. Coal is considered the dirtiest of all fuels and is therefore at absolute odds with the right to a clean and healthy environment. Omar Elmawi of Decoalonize Africa which works to halt new coal infrastructure in Africa while encouraging clean, renewable energy questions why the government plans to utilise dirty fuel while the President continues pledging a 100% transition to green energy to help fight climate change. Mr Elmawi also expressed frustration at the impending loss of livelihood for fishermen who operate out of Manda Bay where warm water from the plant will be released into the ocean. He also faulted the transparency of the planned resettlement process for those who whose farmland are to be compulsorily acquired since there have been allegations of imposters appearing on the government compensation list for the planned compulsory acquisition while some affected landowners were allegedly allocated smaller acreage for compensation as compared to the land to be compulsorily acquired.

Coal remains the most polluting source of energy while renewable energy is a more sustainable economic development option, especially where the demand for energy is not acute. Kenyans must not be subjected to such levels of toxic pollution by an economically unfeasible project while viable opportunities of renewable sources of energy exist.

 

About the author

Leslie Olonyi is an Environment and Natural resources Lawyer. He is also a Mandela Washington Fellow under the Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) and the UN Environment 2019 Kenya Bio Voice in the Africa Bio Voices Project.

Follow him on twitter @safarijunkie

 

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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.

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Kenya’s Elephant Man- Wake up call for Kenyans to own wildlife

Jim Justus Nyamu has literally walked across the globe to create awareness on the plight of Elephants, locally known as ‘Kenya’s Elephant Man’ Jim has just completed a walk from Kenya all the way down to Botswana the south of Africa where According to CITES, four countries namely South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and South Africa down listed their elephant population from Appendix I to II in 2008, there has been global and continental efforts in reverting this decision in view of ending domestic trade on ivory that has escalated poaching across South and East African region. Africa host about 415,000 elephants according to Africa Elephant Data Base with some countries almost losing their elephants due to poaching, habitats loss and climate change.

As an elephant enthusiast, Nyamu has been trained, honoured and awarded on several occasions such as an awarded on Professional Development Grant (WWF), where he attended an International Elephant and Rhino Conservation research Symposium Rotterdam at Netherlands, Colorado State University& National Museum. Wildlife migration, awarded a Research Fellowship Rufford grant, Biodiversity Research Program, attended the Global Human Right Leadership Training Institute Ibadan University Nigeria, took part at Earth Watch Darwin Initiative Magadi: Field techniques for biodiversity Monitoring program.

Nyamu is an active member of the Kenya Elephant Forum, Ecological Society of Eastern Africa (ESEA), and Wildlife Clubs of Kenya. Through his field research, Nyamu has consolidated a lot of elephant knowledge on several publications and articles.

Jim founded Elephant Neighbors Center in Feb 2012, he is currently directing the three programs Conservation and Research, Education program and community based natural resource and management (CBNRM) supported by WWF-EFN USA.

Recently Jim in his bid to protect the African elephant and secure landscapes for them has been engaged in a campaign walk dubbed “Ivory Belongs to Elephants Walk”. The campaign involves Jim walking to raise awareness on the value of elephants, how to mitigate human-elephant conflict and to raise awareness on poaching.

It’s in this spirit that Jim lead an East – South Africa Grass –Elephant campaign and awareness walk. The 180 days walk aimed at covering approximately 4500km aiming at one (mapping the elephant movement (trans-regional) from East – South Africa secondly showing the residents/nations how significant it is in safeguarding these long corridors and thirdly lobbying for an amalgamated wildlife anti-poaching and trafficking strategy from the two regions. Lastly, this walk also diplomatically asked the four countries namely Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana and South Africa to take their elephant population in Appendix I. These four countries are the only in Africa whose elephant population is in Appendix II and they can legally trade on elephants and have negatively affected the neighbouring countries/region.

After his arrival back in Kenya Jim took some time off to reconnect with Nature and had the following remarks “After spending 3 days in Amboseli National Park, doing game drives in out of the park!! I feel like the park’s future is not promising to look at the ongoing land use changes, there are new farms and new fences in some areas previously used to be dispersal areas.

The implication to the above issues will cause.
(1) High human-Wildlife conflict. Wildlife and in particular elephants spend very little time in the park and a lot of time outside the park. The end result will be most of the wildlife will be breaking on these farms, raiding and damaging community properties. The current wildlife and management Act acknowledge and stipulate wildlife damage compensation, this act is now 4 years old and so far much has not been done! It’s going to be very hard for KWS to deal with this monster ( Mitigating Human-wildlife conflict).

(2) The second issue will be; loss of wildlife I.e. Giraffe, Zebra and Elephants! Amboseli host very few lions and the above species will have a lot of problems since they spend a lot of time foraging outside the park. Some will trapped by these fences and others may be speared or killed.

These are serious issues that require a collective efforts from both, Kajiado County, like-minded ministries which include; Agriculture, Lands, Tourism and Wildlife. All is not lost but we things are not looking good.”

Personally, I have interacted with Jim for a couple of years, as a wildlife management student I did take part in two of his walks; one as he walked from Mombasa to Nairobi and during the East Africa Ivory belongs to Elephants walk and I can tell you for free it does have an impact, when civilians come in their multitudes to witness a group of dedicated individuals who stop to talk to them in the various towns about the plight of wildlife.

Walking alongside Jim during The Ivory belongs to Elephants East Africa Walk in 2016

I recently met up with Jim and got to interview him,

 1. What motivated you to walk for Elephants?
The idea behind the walk came about after interacting with the general public at Galleria mall 2012 during elephant day.I noted most people that included government officials were ignorant towards elephant conservation and how elephant poaching affect our livelihoods.
2. How Many walks and appropriate kms have you covered so far?

Since 2013 I have walked 17,570kms in Kenya, East Africa , US , UK and South Africa . I have done 15 walks so far.
3. When is your next walk?
I have two walks coming next year 2019. ( 1) In March 40 days I will be walking in Jordan ( Jordan trails ) about 600km.
(2) July -Nov 2019 I will walk from Nairobi – South Sudan-Ethiopia-Djibouti to Eritrea
4. Tell us about your documentary and publication that you are currently working on .

We are working on my documentary in particular on the just ended East South Africa Elephant walk and will be released in Feb 2019.

I am also working on my diary and hopefully by Feb it’s will be ready and published as well as my 10 learning lesson points which I will be presenting in schools , universities and to the stakeholders.
5. How can well wishers support you.

My campaign walks are supported by different people’s and wildlife agencies or NGO’s. I also sell t-shirts , hoodies & wristbands in support of this campaign with a message on them. One can use our mchanga account account no 891300 Account name ENC. This campaign needs atleast one support vehicle (Landcruizer) and we are looking for a one before the next walk.
6. Your message for the Kenyan youths.

Youths need to participate in conservation and environmental conservation practically, one they need to know how they affect our livelihoods directly and indirectly. They also need to visit parks and this will improve their attitudes towards wildlife conservation as most of them have negative attitudes driven by perpetual attitudes. They need to start up opportunities such as use social media in promoting domestic tourism and this will create jobs for many youths.

 

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Dealing with Wildlife poisoning in Kenya- Scavengers dilemma

Scavenging animals in Kenya are on high alert. What used to be a delicacy has recently become their death bed.

Wildlife poisoning has emerged as one of the major threats affecting our wildlife populations in Kenya. Aggrieved persons have resorted to using poisonous chemicals in retaliation for human-wildlife conflict cases, for example, lemme take you back to December 2015 when two Lions from the famous Marsh Pride and 15 White-Backed vultures were poisoned alongside other species in the Maasai Mara ecosystem as a result of retaliatory killing due to conflict.

Wildlife poisoning is a silent killer that indiscriminately kills large numbers of animals and is harmful to human and ecological health. A poison is any substance that can cause severe organ damage or death if ingested, breathed in or absorbed through the skin. The use of poison to kill wildlife is silent, cheap and easy and has, therefore, become a common method used in the illegal control of damage-causing animals, harvesting fish and bushmeat, harvesting animals for belief-based uses, poaching for wildlife products, and killing of wildlife sentinels.

Poisoning of birds, including migratory species, occurs year-round in Kenya’s rice schemes and in other water bodies. Fish are also harvested using poisons and both poisoned fish and birds make their way to local markets where they are often sold to unsuspecting customers with potentially grave impacts for human health.

The Wildlife Conservation and Management Act 2013, has identified wildlife poisoning as one of the major wildlife crimes that is punishable by law. Poisoning has had a profound negative effect on our carnivores: lions, hyenas, leopards, cheetahs, and wild dogs, and on birds of prey: vultures, eagles and other scavengers. Aquatic species including fish have also been affected due to water pollution with poisonous chemicals.

Common Chemicals Used to Poison Wildlife in Kenya

There are a number of toxic chemicals such as agro-chemicals, plant-based extracts and heavy metals which have been used in the illegal poisoning of wildlife in Kenya. Over the last 8 years, the majority of poisoning incidents have been carried out using agro-chemicals which can be broadly classified as pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, acaricides. The most commonly used pesticides are organophosphates, pyrethroids and carbamates.

During the period between 2009 and 2017, some of the wildlife poisoning incidents and chemical compounds identified are summarized below.

Year Month Species affected Number affected Chemical (Compound identified) Location County
2009 Apr Lion 1 Carbamate Maasai Mara Narok
2009 Apr Vultures 40 Carbamate Maasai Mara Narok
2010 Vultures 20 Amitraz (Acaricide) Maasai Mara Narok
2011 Feb Fish Mass die off Pyrethroid Maasai Mara Narok
2011 Elephant 1 Ouabain (Plant extract) Siyapei Narok
2014 Lions 5 Carbamate Ngurumani Kajiado
2015 July Lions 1 Carbamate Laikipia
2015 Nov Lions 2 Carbamate Maasai Mara Narok
2015 Nov Vultures 15 Carbamate Maasai Mara Narok
2016 Feb Elephants 2 Carbamate Maasai Mara Narok
2016 Elephant 1 Ouabain (Plant extract) Tsavo Taita Taveta
2017 May Elephants 2 Pyrethroid Ngurumani kajiado

Table1; Summary of chemical compounds, wildlife species affected, location and year (KWS 2017)

Some of the clinical symptoms to look for in Suspected Poisoned Animal

Clinical symptoms of poisoned animals Generally, animals display similar symptoms of poisoning depending on their taxa. Poisoned mammals may exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Paralysis
  • Muscle spasm
  • Vomiting
  • Severe dehydration
  • Drooling of saliva/ hyper-salivation
  • Increased tearing/ hyper-lacrimation
  • Lethargy
  • Disorientation
  • Convulsions
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

Poisoned bird species may exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Unable to fly
  • Paralysis
  • Convulsions
  • Drooping wings
  • Blood in the droppings
  • Skin irritation
  • Drooping dead
  • Mass-die-offs

Poisoning of animals around Mara ecosystem is on the rise and drastic measures need to be put in place to curb the menace. On 22nd November a concerned friend of mine who runs a tour firm www.namnyaksafaris.com sent me the photo and video of a tawny eagle which evidently was poisoned, this was at Oloolaimutia and I advised him to report the incidence to the local authority which he had already done.

Credit www.namyaksafaris.com

 

 All wildlife poisoning cases requiring treatment should be handled by qualified veterinarians registered by KWS

If you ever come across Poisoning cases that require rehabilitation  in Kenya are to be referred to KWS Nairobi Animal orphanage or to KWS approved orphanages some of which are listed below among others;

Nairobi Animal Orphanage

Tel: 020 2379407, 020 6002345,  020-2379408, 020-2379409, 020-2379410, 020-2379411, 020-2379412, 020-2379413, 020-2379414,

Call Center: 0800 597 000 or 0800 221 5566

David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Tel: 0202 301396, 0733 891996

Raptor Rehabilitation Center Karen, Nairobi

Tel: +254721969640/ 0723829529

For further reading refer to Response Protocol to Wildlife Poisoning Incidents in Kenya February 2018