Zebras, elephants among hundreds of deaths in Kenya due to drought

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More than a thousand animals have died as a result of a drought in Kenya, including hundreds of zebras and elephants, according to a report released on Friday by the country’s tourism and wildlife ministry.

Among the drought-related deaths are 512 wildebeest, 430 zebra, 205 elephant and 51 buffalo.

The report provides insight into the impact of years of drought on wildlife in the region, as the United Nations and other organizations have warned of the humanitarian impact for months.

“In Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, we stand on the brink of an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe,” said Guleid Artan, director of the World Meteorological Organization’s Climate Center for East Africa, in August. This season marks the “fifth consecutive failed rainy season” in the region, he said.

Kenya’s Minister for Tourism and Wildlife, Peninah Malonza, said at Friday’s news conference as she released the figures that the country was trying to intervene by using hay, water and “increased surveillance of wildlife outside of protected areas to reduce human-wildlife.” -Conflicts”.

The numbers come as leaders gather in Egypt on Sunday for COP27, the annual UN climate summit. Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, urged richer nations to focus on providing climate aid to developing countries in Africa, writing in an op-ed that the “worsening climate chaos is wreaking havoc across the continent.” .

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Of the 430 zebras killed by the drought, 49 are Grevy’s zebras, an endangered species of which it is estimated that only about 3,000 remain in the wild, according to the Grevy’s Zebra Trust, which helped collect data for the report. The deaths come despite ongoing feeding programs in the region, the report said.

According to the report, zebras and wildebeest have been particularly affected by the drought.

Elephants have also been affected, particularly young ones who are not big enough to reach higher food sources, it said. In the Amboseli ecosystem in south-west Kenya – home to around 1,900 elephants – 76 elephants died; 45 of them were adolescents who died of malnutrition “because the mothers could not produce enough milk”.

Numbers collected between February and October could be too low, the report warned, as the carcasses of animals that died as a result of the drought may have been eaten by predators. It also noted that the landscapes are vast, so the researchers “may not have accessed every part of the area where wildlife died.”

The deaths are a “powerful reminder of the devastating impact of climate change on biodiversity,” said Sophie le Clue, executive director of the ADM Capital Foundation, an environmental nonprofit. “The world faces a biodiversity crisis as we face unprecedented species extinctions globally,” she said, adding that the issue is “far from being a priority on the political agenda.”

Hannah Mumby, an assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong whose research focuses on elephants, said that “we need to be aware that extreme events that last for years and cause these huge impacts on mortality should be unusual,” but that two More severe droughts have hit Kenya in the last decade.

“This suggests that the climate crisis is spreading,” she said, “and the impact on biodiversity, livestock and food security is happening now.”

The report recommended the “urgent and immediate” provision of water and salt licks — a mineral resource — to drought-affected ecosystems. It also called for “improving” the supply of hay for the Grevy’s zebra in the country’s northern region in November and December to cover a larger area.

An “urgent aerial census of wildlife” should be carried out in the Amboseli ecosystem before the next rainy season – this spring – to assess the impact of the drought.

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