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Tembea Kenya Rare Kenyan antelope facing extinction due to government neglect

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Only 250 animal species are remaining, dispersed across the three North Rift Counties.

Marshbuck or Sitatunga antelope play Marshbuck or Sitatunga antelope (Courtesy)

Kenya stands to lose billions in tourism revenue streams due to the rapidly declining population of the sitatunga (marshbuck). The semi aquatic rare antelope that is native to Trans-Nzoia, Nandi and Uasin Gishu is facing extinction.

The Kenya Wildlife Service, according to the Daily Nation, reports that only 250 animals are remaining, dispersed across the three North Rift Counties.

A senior KWS official, Joel Kanda, who served as the Chief Warden in northern Rift Valley, says that they face mounting challenges in protecting the animal- with the most prominent problem being human encroachment.

“Greedy farmers have illegally expanded their land to these animals’ habitats, leading to human-wildlife conflict,” he is quoted in the daily.

In 2016, farmers set fire to the King’wal swamp trying to convert the animal’s habitat into farmland. They have also set up brick making facilities and planted blue gum trees to the shrinking wetlands. This has led to the inability of the shy antelope to feed or breed.

play King'wal Swamp (Nandi Sailor News)

 

These activities are frustrating tourism in the North Rift. KWS administrators are trying to increase pressure on the national government to find more effective ways to preserve the sitatunga.

As Kenya is the only East African country with this beautiful creature, the Mwai Kibaki tenure took extensive efforts to protect the antelope. Then KWS director, Wilson Kiprono led a high powered team to educate farmers and the rest of the community on the benefits of preserving their natural resources.

Kiprono observed that the lack of such efforts by the current government has allowed farmers to make the antelopes’ population decline. In Trans Nzoia alone, the sitatunga has declined from 300 in 2007 to just 50 right now.

Rigid attitudes, an irrational aversion to anything other than agriculture as a source of income and shaky legislation will only make the situation worse.

KWS implore the government to take a firmer approach in conservation efforts and educating the local population.

play Kingwal Swamp Sitatunga View Point (Ministry of Tourism Kenya)

 

King’wal Swamp has a watching bay where visitors can watch the sitatunga when they come out to feed between 4am and 5am. The shy antelope has a lifespan of about 15 years.

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