In Summary

  • In time-honoured custom, it seems, farmers and herders have been poisoning the carcasses of cattle and other domesticated animals killed by lions, leopards or hyenas.
  • A growing Kenya requires power, and this power is relatively cheap. Clean, however, it is not — or at least not as clean as it should be.

The other day my daughter, 13, took me out near Hell’s Gate National Park to meet friends. All were young Maasai boys and girls living in small villages on the Narok road between the park and Mt Suswa.

All had recently participated in a “Save the Raptors” programme organised by The Peregrine Fund in nearby Naivasha.

The youths go from village to village in their communities, preaching an environmental gospel. Even the ugliest birds of prey — carrion-eating vultures, say — occupy a vital niche in the cosmic scheme of things that humankind ignores at its peril.

In time-honoured custom, it seems, farmers and herders have been poisoning the carcasses of cattle and other domesticated animals killed by lions, leopards or hyenas.

When the predators return to eat, they too die. And so, too, the vultures.

Conservationists estimate that each poisoning can claim the lives of dozens of wild animals, particularly raptors.

According to Mr Munir Virani, director of The Peregrine Fund’s programmes in Africa, rampant poisoning has resulted in a 60 per cent decline in the vulture population over the past decade.

Four of the eight species found in Kenya are officially listed as ‘endangered’ and two more are considered ‘vulnerable’.

THREAT OF GEOTHERMAL POWER

Thanks to the efforts of groups like The Peregrine Fund, the Maasai community is awakening to the dangers of the birds’ slow disappearance, beyond concerns for mere conservation.

More and more, the bodies of livestock that would normally be consumed by vultures and other predators simply lie where they fell, slowly decomposing. Villagers increasingly complain about health risks as the resulting bacteria and contaminants find their way into food and water supplies.

Fortunately, there’s a straightforward solution to the problem: education. As the young people trained by The Peregrine Fund spread the word, their elders are listening.

If these bottom-up community initiatives were accompanied by top-down government action, then this local Save the Raptors drive could gain national traction — and serve as a model for grassroots wildlife conservation elsewhere.

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