Wildlife ministry launch recovery plan for lions and spotted hyenas

Tourism CS Najib Balala takes part in a lion collaring exercise at the Maasai Mara Game Reserve in an effort to track its movements and reduce human -lion conflicts. PHOTO| COURTESY

The Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife has launched a recovery plan of lions and spotted hyenas in renewed efforts to attain viable populations and a healthy ecosystem.

Tourism and Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala, speaking during the launch on Thursday at the Maasai Mara National Reserve, noted the recovery plan addresses threats faced by the two carnivores in a holistic and collaborative manner.

“This aims for the long-term vision of sustaining viable populations of lions and spotted hyenas in healthy ecosystems as a world heritage valued by Kenyans,” he said.

Balala said lions and hyenas play an important role in the food chain by controlling herbivore populations, which if not regulated, would cause an increase in their competition amongst them and make some go extinct, thus reducing biodiversity.

 “If lions and hyenas did not exist, there would be a symbiotic relationship between parasites and herd animals. This way, parasites could increase and spread throughout the herd, resulting in fewer healthy animals,” he said.

The CS noted that lions and hyenas prey on the weakest of the herd, which keeps the population of herd animals resilient and healthy.

Before the launch of the document, Balala participated in collaring a lioness at the Masai Mara Game Reserve to track it and reduce human-lion conflicts.

Narok Governor Samuel Tunai, Tourism CAS Joseph Boinnet, EAC Principal Secretary Kevit Desai, KWS director general John Waweru and vice chairman Betty Maitoyo, among other conservationists, were present.

Balala said the plan was developed in accordance with the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Convention for International Trade of Endangered Species and Convention of Migratory Species guidelines.

He said the process was participatory, transparent and informed by the best available science.

Kenya currently has a population of about 2,489 lions as compared to a 2018 estimate of 1,970.

Balala urged Kenyans who come into conflicts with lions and hyenas not to take the law into their own hands by poisoning them.

Instead, they should report livestock predation to the authorities for processing of compensation.

Balala said there will be no more construction of any new camps in all protected areas, be it a national park or a game reserve, without a prior direct permission by the ministry.

Balala called on all stakeholders in the game reserve to form a Masai Mara Management Plan by August 31 to manage the rich natural heritage properly.

Wildlife PS Fred Segor said the role of the two predators in the ecosystem was crucial.

“Their continued survival is important to the health of other wildlife species.”

He noted that hyenas play an important role as ‘professional garbage collectors’, thereby, helping to clean the environment for the safety of other wildlife species and humans too.


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