Africa’s Raptors Face Extinction: Inside Kenya’s Rescue Efforts

The sanctuaries trying to save birds of prey from extinction in Kenya | Wildlife

The Plight of Raptors in Africa

Simon Thomsett, a veteran vet, gently unwraps a pink bandage from the wing of a wounded bateleur. This short-tailed eagle hails from Africa’s savannahs, where birds of prey face an escalating risk of extinction. A sobering study by The Peregrine Fund, a US-based non-profit, revealed a startling 90% decline in the raptor population across Africa over the past four decades.

The Soysambu Raptor Centre: A Safe Haven

Thomsett runs the Soysambu Raptor Centre in central Kenya. He takes care of approximately 30 injured raptors, including an 18-month-old bateleur, distinguished by its red beak and black body. This sanctuary, nestled in the Soysambu reserve, is one of the few places where these endangered birds are safe.

The Causes of Decline

Multiple factors contribute to the dwindling raptor population. For example, vultures and other scavengers often fall victim to poisoned livestock carcasses, a method adopted by cattle farmers to keep lions away. The rampant deforestation and the mushrooming of power lines across Africa also pose deadly threats to these birds.

Challenging Prejudices

However, the challenges extend beyond physical threats. Birds of prey, particularly vultures, suffer from an image problem. They are perceived as ugly, dirty, and repulsive. Some communities even kill species like owls and lappet-faced vultures, associating them with bad luck. Therefore, it is essential to educate people about these birds’ crucial ecological role.

Education and Conservation

Shiv Kapila, who manages a bird sanctuary at the Naivasha national park, organises school trips and community visits to shift public opinion. Juliet Waiyaki, a young vet working at the Naivasha sanctuary, notes a significant change in attitudes. Despite the daunting challenges, the team remains committed to their cause.

The Road to Recovery

The Naivasha sanctuary provides a temporary or sometimes long-term home for injured raptors. The staff often travel across Kenya to rescue wounded birds. Remarkably, 70% of the rescued birds recover enough to return to the wild, providing a glimmer of hope amidst the dire circumstances.

Optimism Amidst Challenges

Despite the grim statistics, Thomsett remains optimistic. He takes solace in the success stories, where seemingly hopeless cases recover and thrive. Some of the birds even return to greet him years after their release, making his endeavours extremely rewarding.

To conclude, the tireless efforts of conservationists like Thomsett, Kapila, and Waiyaki illustrate the enduring struggle for bird conservation in Kenya. While the challenges are immense, their commitment and success stories fuel their continued fight against the extinction of Africa’s birds of prey.