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|
|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|
|2016||Elephant||1||Ouabain (Plant extract)||Tsavo||Taita Taveta|
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
- Muscle spasm
- Severe dehydration
- Drooling of saliva/ hyper-salivation
- Increased tearing/ hyper-lacrimation
Poisoned bird species may exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:
- Unable to fly
- Drooping wings
- Blood in the droppings
- Skin irritation
- Drooping dead
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.
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
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