Kenya releases inaugural wildlife census results amid pledge to protect iconic species

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NAIROBI, Aug. 31 (Xinhua) -- Kenya has released the results of a three-month wildlife census that reveal a slight increase in the population of iconic large herbivores including elephants and rhinos.

President Uhuru Kenyatta said the inaugural wildlife census that kicked off on May 6 aimed to help the country establish an inventory of iconic species including mammals, reptiles, birds and fish that are strategic national assets.

"The report arising from this noble national effort provides the required information to guide future conservation and management of our wildlife resources, in a manner that minimizes human-wildlife conflict and also promotes sustainable development," Kenyatta remarked during the launch of wildlife census results in Nairobi on Tuesday evening.

Kenya's cabinet secretary for Tourism and Wildlife, Najib Balala launched the country's first wildlife census in the coastal county of Kwale with the objective of establishing accurate data on aquatic and land-based species.

Among the species counted using the geographic information system (GIS), camera traps, helicopters, vehicles and boats included land and water mammals, key birds and endangered primates.

More than 30 species of mammals, birds and marine species were counted during the census that covered diverse ecosystems whose geographic size was about 59 percent of Kenya's total landmass.

Results of the census indicate that Kenya had 36,280 elephants, 897 black rhinos, 842 white rhinos, two northern rhinos, 2,589 lions, 5,189 hyenas and 1,160 cheetahs.

The census results on the population of other iconic species included 41,659 buffalo, 13,530 Maasai giraffes, 121,911 common zebras, 2,649 grevy's zebras and 57,813 wildebeest.

Other species counted included 1,788 hippos alongside critically endangered species like mountain bongo whose number stood at 150 and sitatunga antelope that numbered 473.

The key marine species counted were 340 sea turtle nests, nine whale sharks, 63 humpback whales, 354 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, two blue whales, 29 great white sharks and 17 tiger sharks.

Among the waterfowl birds that were counted included 97,805 lesser flamingos, 523 great white pelicans, 963 Egyptian geese, 57 African fish eagles and 720 yellow-billed stork.

"The census recorded an increase on some of the charismatic species such as elephants, rhinos, lions, giraffe, grevy's zebra, hirola among others and established baseline numbers for other species," the executive summary of the census report says.

It says that several human activities like livestock incursions, logging, charcoal burning and illegal settlements were observed during the 90 days exercise near major wildlife sanctuaries.

According to the census report, other threats to wildlife that were observed during the ground and aerial count included habitat loss, land-use changes and exponential growth of the human population.

"Evidence from the census illustrates the socio-economic impacts of activities such as agriculture, human settlements and infrastructure development on wildlife movements and loss of space for wildlife," said Balala. Enditem

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