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Climate change alters behaviour of wild animals

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The drought has resulted in the death of young elephants as they cannot reach foliage high up in trees. Statistics at KWS show that more than 30 elephants have died since 2007

The drought has resulted in the death of young elephants as they cannot reach foliage high up in trees. Statistics at KWS show that more than 30 elephants have died since 2007. 

By Abiud Ochieng'

Posted  Tuesday, September 29  2009 at  00:00
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Animals are becoming bolder and more violent as the effects of climate change take their toll on them.

Hippopotamus have been witnessed eating fruits on farms such as pawpaws and bananas, while elephants have become more violent.

Dr Judith Nyunja, a senior scientist at the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), said some animals were altering their behaviour to adapt to the changing climate.

“Wildlife such as elephants have become bolder, frequently raiding human settlements in search of food and water, and baboons have been seen killing lambs,” said Dr Nyunja. She said the adverse change in climate had resulted in reduction of plant and animal species. The move, she said, was affecting tourism, the country’s main export and major foreign exchange earner.

It is estimated that the country’s wildlife earns an average of Sh8.4 billion per year with considerable prospects for growth. “Approximately 20 to 30 per cent plant and animal species are at high risk of extinction as global temperatures (rise),” said Dr Nyunja.

She said that up to 35 per cent of birds, 52 per cent of amphibians and 71 per cent of reef-building corals were threatened by climate change.

She said an increase in sea temperatures would raise acidity resulting into coral “bleaching”. Dr Nyunja said that the increased frequency of wild fires had affected wildlife and resulted in loss of biodiversity.

She said there was need to map out areas prone to wild fires, provide adequate capacity to fight the fires, and develop proper road networks in parks to make them easily accessible.

Reduced foliage
Dr Nyunja said that drought had led to the death of herbivores because of reduced foliage.

“In areas such as Laikipia, the drought has resulted in the death of young elephants as they cannot reach foliage high up in trees. Statistics at KWS show that more than 30 elephants have died since 2007,” said Dr Nyunja.

She said wildlife mortalities arising from diseases were also likely to increase as livestock interacts with wildlife, especially in areas where parks border pastoralists.

“Increase in human-wildlife conflicts due to competition for resources has also contributed to an increase in wildlife mortalities,” said Dr Nyunja.

Reasons for wildlife death were identified as injuries, rail and road accidents, poaching, snake bites and natural causes.

KWS proposed that wildlife management interventions such as reduced human activity in game parks, maintaining high water levels, reducing pollution, controlling exotic vegetation, and protecting wetland diversity be adopted.