exhausted Two-year drought in Kenya It wiped out 2% of the world’s rarest zebra species and increased elephant mortality as well, as the climate crisis cast a shadow over the wildlife of the East African nation.
Rotting carcasses on the ground – including giraffes and cattle – have become a common sight in northern Kenya, where unprecedented droughts are chipping away at food and already depleted water resources.
The Grevy Zebra, the world’s rarest zebra species, was the one hardest hit by drought.
Founder and CEO of Grevy’s zebra boxBelinda Low Mackey told CNN that the species’ mortality rate will only rise if no significant rain falls on the area.
“If the approaching rainy season fails, Griffy’s zebra risks starvation,” she said. “Since June, we have lost 58 Grevy’s zebras and deaths are on the rise as the drought intensifies.”
Even the most drought-resistant animals are affected. One of them is a camel known for its ability to survive Long periods without water.
“Camels are a valuable resource for many people in this region,” Sus van Meijn, NRC’s director of emergency response in East Africa, told CNN. “The deserts of Kenya… are now full of their corpses.”
Kenya on the brink of failed fifth rainy season, forecast by the Meteorological Department “drier than average conditions” for the rest of the year.
Conservationists worry that many endangered species are dying out.
Says Frank Pope, who heads the Kenya-based conservation charity Save the elephants.
“We’re seeing herds split into smaller units… and they’re trying to make a living,” he said. “The calves are being abandoned, the old elephants are dying. Without rain, others will soon follow.”
As the drought continues, other endangered wildlife is rapidly becoming extinct.
Drought also exacerbates poaching for bushmeat, which has increased among pastoral communities in the north as drought affects other sources of income.
Mackie says Grevy’s zebras are now being hunted in grazing reserves.
“The drought has led to an increase in Grevy’s zebra poaching as large numbers of livestock congregate in grazing reserves,” Mackey said. “This has led to inter-ethnic conflict (sometimes animals get caught in crossfire) and poaching, with pastoralists resorting to subsisting on wildlife.”
The pope of Save the Elephants said the conflict between humans and wildlife has also led to the deaths of dozens of elephants who were forced into close contact with humans as they chased diminishing sources of food and water.
“Last year, we lost half as many elephants to conflict with people as we did 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 rate in Kenya since 2005, according to a 2012 report By serving the country’s wildlife.
Since October 2020, four consecutive rainy seasons have failed in parts of Kenya and the greater Horn of Africa. The United Nations says this is an area Worst drought 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 helps endangered species survive drought through supplemental feeding.
“We have one dedicated feeding team in each of the three national reserves (Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Sheba). On average we use 1,500 bales (of supplemental hay) per week,” Mackie said, adding that other species such as oryx and buffalo were also benefiting.
However, elephant-level interventions that can make a measurable difference are challenging, says Pope.
“Providing new sources of water can be counterproductive, for example, causing local desertification,” he said. “Save the Elephants focuses on helping local people protect themselves from conflict (with stray elephants) and helps respond to incidents when conflict occurs.”
Bob is also concerned that when it finally rains, there may be a little weeds due to overgrazing of the cattle.
“The biggest concern is the overgrazing that is starting to turn the fragile landscape into a desert. When it rains, there will be less weeds, even with increased stress on the landscape.”