By Peter Tyrrell
At least 15% of the world’s surface is governed by laws to protect its living species, including plants, animals and fungi. But this is not enough. The most recent estimates suggest that an additional 30% of the planet’s surface needs further conservation attention. Without this additional protection, the world will continue to lose large numbers of species.
What does this look like when we scale down to the country level?
Our research focuses on Kenya – a country renowned for its natural environment, in particular, its large mammals such as elephants, rhinos and lions. We looked into whether Kenya’s protected areas and policies adequately conserve its less well-known mammals, birds, and amphibians.
We examined a total of 1,535 species. We used this snapshot of the country’s biodiversity because of the availability of data for these groups and because many are under threat.
In Kenya, protected areas that are governed by wildlife laws fall under three categories. These are national parks (managed by the Kenya Wildlife Service), national reserves (managed by county governments) and conservancies. National parks and reserves cover about 8% of the country’s land surface. About 160 conservancies protect about 11% of Kenya’s land.
These protected areas were generally established in areas with large populations of big mammals and are the focus of the current wildlife policy. This policy aims to protect these species inside national parks and reserves and help landowners coexist with wildlife in conservancies. It gives landowners the right to benefit from wildlife, for example through revenue from eco-toursim and compensation for the costs of living with wildlife.
The number of wildlife conservancies has grown to protect many of the large mammals which are found outside government-protected areas.