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Kenyan wildlife population at risk due to 'alien invasion'

05 December 2013, 09:17

Nairobi - Invasive alien species are one of the biggest threats to Kenya's wildlife conservation areas, a government official said Wednesday.

Environment Cabinet Secretary Judi Wakhungu told journalists in Nairobi that the plant species have been able to displace indigenous species in the wildlife conservation areas.

"Kenya is therefore reviewing all its environmentally related laws in order to promote the control of the invasive species," Wakhungu said during the launch of the National Strategy for the Management of Invasive Species.

Currently, Kenya has no single comprehensive law or policy that specifically addresses invasive species. The ultimate goal of the strategy is to preserve and restore health ecosystems that constitute the wildlife protected areas.

These alien species come in the form of plants, animals and microbes that have been introduced into areas from other parts of the world.

She said that although not all alien species will become invasive or threaten the environment there is need for a clear policy.

"This is necessary because of their potentially wide ranging impacts when they became invasive," the cabinet secretary said. The Nile perch which was introduced in the Lake Victoria has had mixed results.

"It has improved the fortunes of fisherman but it has also resulted in the loss of endemic species of the lake," she said.

Wakhungu said the introduction of invasive species can be both accidental and intentional. "Intentional methods are mostly motivated by economic environmental and social considerations," she said.

She added that preventing new invasive alien species should be taken serious. "This is because they cause great damage and become increasingly expensive and difficult to manage if they get established," he said.

Ministry of Environment Director of Wildlife Conservation Stephen Manegene said that Kenya is a signatory to various treaties and conventions that address invasive species globally.

He said that the importance of protected areas with regard to conservation and restoration of biodiversity cannot be over emphasized.

"These zones play a critical role in the adaptation to climate change, which is one of the emerging threats facing biodiversity and other ecosystems," he said.

Manegene noted that wildlife based tourism contributes about 70 percent of the gross tourism earnings and ten percent of total wildlife sub-sector employment.

The director said that as a result of growing international commerce, reduced barriers and increasing human influence, species are now moving easier around the world. "So, natural systems are suffering drastic changes," he said.

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Director William Kiprono said that the threat of invasive alien species is at par with that of global warming.

He said that alien species impose enormous costs on agriculture, forestry, fisheries as well as human health.

The director said that Kenya has a wide range of ecosystems including coral reefs mangroves, dry savannah and moist forests.

"The productivity of these areas often decline when they are invaded by harmful alien species," he said.

According to KWS, proactive management of aquatic and terrestrial areas increases their ability to be resilient against the establishment of invasive species.

KWS Vice Chairperson Margaret Mwakima said that indigenous species and habitats are at risk of displacement and degradation by non native species.

"This is because the new invaders quickly become competitors and predators and at the same time cause diseases to our indigenous and domesticated plants," she said.

Mwakima said that research and development on biodiversity is currently facing challenges as result of limited funding. "We will therefore seek effective partnerships so as we develop innovative ways of resource mobilization," she said.

KWS Assistant Director in Charge of the Ecosystems Erastus Kanga said that the problem of invasive species is further compounded by environmental destruction and habitat fragmentation.

KWS Deputy Director Biodiversity Research Samuel Kasiki said that quick detection and containment of invasive alien species is one of the most efficient approaches to addressing the menace.

He noted that use of exotic species that made the threat posed by invasive species to grow at an alarming rate.

- Xinhua


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