Kenya’s Birds Of Prey Nearing Extinction — Study
According to a new study, the population of birds of prey has declined by 86% over the last four decades.
Scientists from Kenya, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States published the first nationwide trends for Kenya’s raptors in the journal Biological Conservation on Tuesday.
Despite the fact that birds of prey keep the environment free of decaying carcasses, their numbers have been declining around the world.
The losses were attributed to a sharp increase in human population growth, which has resulted in a biologically impoverished landscape that is less resilient to climatic changes, provides fewer ecosystem services, and has become increasingly intolerant of wildlife.
Other serious threats to Kenya’s raptors include electrocution and collisions with power lines, intentional and unintentional poisoning, and habitat degradation.
Kenya’s diurnal raptors were first counted and identified while driving along roads, both inside and outside protected areas, in the 1970s.
Throughout the 2000s, these roadside surveys were repeated several times.
Nineteen of the 22 species studied were less common in recent years, with a median rate of decline of 70%.
Kenya’s wildlife has been declining for decades as a result of rapid human population growth and the consequences for natural habitats.
Predators and scavengers are especially vulnerable to anthropogenic pressures, and changes in their status have a corresponding impact on the ecosystem services they provide.
Secretarybird and Long-crested Eagle are two of Kenya’s most iconic raptors, with both species declining by 94%.
According to Peter Njoroge, Head of Ornithology Section at National Museums of Kenya, an organization involved in the study, most birds of prey are long-lived and slow breeders, and they can’t cope with the threats they face unless immediate action to protect them is taken.
Despite the environmental benefits, Njoroge believes the country will lose the majority of them.
According to Simon Thomsett, director of The Kenya Bird of Prey Trust and co-author of the study, the raptor population today does not resemble the numbers seen a half-century ago.
“Those had already declined 25 years ago before we started noticing. Today they are a shadow of former years, they have declined. We must reverse this trend lest we lose more species,” he said.
All vulture and large eagle species experienced declines. They were most noticeable in once-common small and medium-sized raptors like the Augur Buzzard and Black-winged Kite. There was no increase in species.
Even the most commonly seen, according to Thomsett, are a fraction of what they once were, a move that should concern us.
Based on projected declines over three generations, 45 per cent of the species studied would be classified as nationally or critically endangered.
The findings highlight the importance of protected areas for Kenya’s remaining populations, as raptors declined less dramatically inside parks and reserves than on unprotected lands.
The findings, according to Phil Shaw of the University of St Andrews, a co-lead author of the study, highlight the stark contrast between raptor trends in protected areas and unprotected land.
“Outside of Kenya’s protected area network, it is evident populations of many raptors have almost collapsed, this cuts across species size, diet or ecological requirements,” Shawn said.
While most species fared better within protected areas, several large raptor species have shown worrying declines, indicating the need to strengthen site protection and connectivity.
According to Shiv Kapila, a co-author of the study and a member of The Kenya Bird of Prey Trust, the surveys show alarming declines in the majority of raptor species that occur throughout the region, which are now confined to protected areas.
According to Kapila, hazardous energy infrastructure within and around protected areas, as well as unabated poisoning, are affecting our raptor communities and populations.
Darcy Ogada of The Peregrine Fund, a co-lead author of the study, says many of Kenya’s raptors are nearing extinction.
“Whether species such as Augur Buzzard, Bearded Vulture, Long-crested Eagle and Egyptian Vulture will continue to persist in the coming years and decades is in doubt, waiting another five to 10 years for some of these species could be too late,” Ogada said.
Munir Virani, chief executive officer of the Mohamed Bin Zayed Raptor Conservation Fund and a co-author, said it is disheartening to see such a catastrophic decline in these apex predators.
Threats such as raptor electrocutions, according to Virani, are easily mitigated, and excellent work is being done around the world to reduce raptor mortalities.
The study’s findings highlight the importance of protected areas for Kenya’s remaining raptor populations.
It stated that the median encounter rate for vultures and large eagles had decreased by 23% in protected areas and by 76% in unprotected areas.
Smaller species exhibited divergent trends in terms of protected area status, with their median encounter rate increasing by 104% within protected areas while decreasing by 85% elsewhere.
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Based on projected declines over three generations, 45 percent of the species studied would be classified as nationally or critically endangered.
According to the study, Kenya’s raptor declines could be reversed by improving protected area management, mitigation of specific threats, and the implementation of species recovery plans, all of which would necessitate steadfast government commitment and close collaboration with conservation stakeholders.