2% of the world’s rarest zebras have been wiped out
A two-year drought in Kenya has wiped out two percent of the world’s rarest zebra species and increased elephant deaths, as the climate crisis takes its toll on the nation’s wildlife. East Africa.
The carcasses of animals rotting on the ground – including giraffes and cattle – have become a common sight in northern Kenya, where unprecedented dry spells are eroding already existing food and water sources. exhausted.
Grevy’s zebra, the rarest zebra species in the world, is the species hardest hit by the drought.
The founder and CEO of Grevy’s Zebra Trust, Belinda Low Mackey, told CNN that the mortality rate of the species would only increase if there was no heavy rain falling on the area.
“If the upcoming rainy season fails, the Grevy zebra will face a very serious risk of starvation,” she said. “Since June we have lost 58 Grevy zebras and the death toll is increasing as the drought intensifies.”
Even the most drought-tolerant animals are affected. One is camels, which are known to be able to survive for long periods of time without water.
“Camels are a valuable resource for many people in this region,” Suze van Meegen, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Emergency Response Director for East Africa, told CNN. “The deserts of Kenya…now littered with their corpses.”
Kenya is on the verge of its fifth failed rainy season and its metrology department forecasts “dryer than average conditions” for the rest of the year.
Conservationists fear that many endangered species will die.
“If further rains fail … we can expect to see elephant mortality,” said Frank Pope, head of conservation charity Save the Elephants based in Kenya. significant spike.
“We are seeing swarms being broken down into the smallest units … as they try to make a living,” he said. “The calves are being abandoned, and the old elephants are dying. If there is no rain, the others will soon follow.”
With prolonged dry weather, other endangered wildlife species will quickly become extinct.
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The drought is also worsening bushmeat poaching, which has increased in cattle-raising communities in the north as the drought affects other sources of income.
In some areas, Grevy’s zebra is being poached in grazing reserves.
“Drought has led to increased poaching of Grevy zebras due to the large numbers of livestock concentrated on grazing reserves,” Mackey said. “This has led to ethnic conflict (sometimes animals get caught in fire) and poaching, as herders have to live off wild animals.”
Human-wildlife conflict has also prompted the killing of dozens of elephants forced into close contact with humans as they chase dwindling food and water sources, the Pope of the United Nations said. Elephant Rescue said.
“Last year, we lost half of our elephants to conflict with people compared to poaching at the height of the ivory crisis 10 years ago,” he told CNN.
Nearly 400 elephants were lost to poaching 10 years ago, the highest in Kenya since 2005, according to a 2012 report by the country’s wildlife agency.
While government action against the ivory trade has halted ivory poaching in Kenya, ivory poaching continues due to drought and soaring food prices.
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As of October 2020, four consecutive rainy seasons have failed in parts of Kenya and the Horn of Africa. The UN said it was the worst drought in the region in 40 years.
More than four million Kenyans are “food insecure” due to drought, and more than 3 million cannot get enough water to drink.
Grevy’s Zebra Trust says it is helping endangered species survive the drought through supplemental feeding.
“We have a dedicated feeding team in each of the national reserves (Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba), Mackey said. On average we use 1,500 bales (additional hay) per week,” said Mackey, adding that other species such as oryx and buffalo also benefit.
However, interventions for elephants at the scale that can make a significant difference are difficult, Pope said.
“The provision of new water sources can backfire, causing localized desertification,” he said. “Save the Elephant is focused on helping locals protect themselves from conflict (with stray elephants) and helping respond to incidents when conflicts do arise.”
Pope also worries that when the rains finally come, there may be less grass due to overgrazing of livestock.
“A bigger concern is that overgrazing is starting to turn the fragile landscape into a desert. When the rain comes, there will be less grass, even as pressure on the landscape increases.”