Factors That Influence the Distribution of Wildlife in East Africa
There are various factors that influence the distribution of wildlife in East Africa.
- Relief type
- Soil type
We shall now discuss each of the factors mentioned above.
The main elements of climate that influence distribution of wildlife
are: - Temperature variation and rainfall distribution. Temperature
variation causes distribution of vegetation to vary such that areas with
low temperatures have different types of vegetation from areas of high
temperatures. For example heath and moorland vegetation occur in low
temperature areas of high altitude while scrub vegetation occur in areas
experiencing high temperature.
Most animals occupy warmer areas of East Africa.Fewer species such as mountain gorillas inhabit the cold mountain regions. Abundant rainfall leads to luxuriant growth of vegetation which provide natural habitat to most wild animals. Areas experiencing aridity have scanty vegation which hardly supports wild animals.
Various soil types support different types of vegetation. Earthworms and burrowing animals like rodents can only live in particular types of soils e.g. crabs are usually found in sandy soils while termite and rodents like to stay in red volcanic soils
Relief or Terrain
The height of the land varies hence results in altitudinal distribution of vegetation. Unique plants are found towards the mountain tops e.g. lobelia, bamboo and groundsel on Mount Kenya. Unlike in the lower altitudes where there is tropical rainforest and savannah grasslands vegetation
Various vegetation types are habitats for different animals e.g. forest are inhabited by elephants, wild savannah grassland are inhabited by a wide variety of herbivores animals.
Well drained areas support a wide variety of plants and animals. Poorly drained areas support a limited number of plants e.g. papyrus, marsh and ferns. Alongside such plants are animals such as water buck.Open water bodies like rivers, lakes and seas are hosts to a variety of organism e.g. flamingoes, herons and pelicans.Animals such as crocodiles, hippos and fish are found in such waters.
Distinction between game reserves, national parks and sanctuaries
A game reserve is a place set aside for wildlife conservation, managed by county councils or local authorities. There is limited human activities in the reserves such as grazing of domestic animals.
A national park is an area which has been set aside for preservation of scenery, wildlife and historical sites, to protect them from destruction. Such areas are fenced off and managed by the central government through Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).
Sanctuaries are areas set aside for specific animals which are endangered. If the sanctuary is mainly for birds it is referred to as a birds sanctuary and if for animals, it is referred to according to specific animals. e.g. Lake Nakuru Rhino Sanctuary and Roan Antelope at Ruma.The sanctuaries are either managed by the central government, local community and individuals.
Location of national parks, major games reserves and sanctuaries in East Africa
Significance of wildlife
Wildlife is of great significance to people in many ways for example
- Wildlife is a natural beauty thereby attracting tourists which makes the country to earn both foreign exchange and income
- Tourism industry associated with wildlife employs people both is hotels and tour firms
- Wildlife sector employs game wardens and forest guards to manage the game parks and reserves, the employed people earn income there by raising the standard of living
- Wildlife provides scientists with a field in which they can study. Students also visit such areas to carry out such studies or familiarize themselves with different animals and plants
- Wildlife provides food for consumption e.g. meat from animals, fruits, honey and leaves
- Forest vegetation helps in conservation of the environment through air purification, hydrological cycle and prevention of soil erosion
- wildlife is a source of raw materials such as timber products from forests, animals skins used to make leather products
- Trees provide a cheap source of energy for domestic and industrial use such as charcoal and wood.
- Some wildlife provide products used as medicine eg herbs, cod-liver oil from fish.
Animate hydrological cycle on page 74 of certificate geography book 3 figures 4.1 to clarify on point 6 above.
Problems facing wildlife in East Africa
Increase of population has led to encroaching of reserved areas to
create room for settlement, agriculture and industries. This has led to
destruction of tree species and habitat for wild animals leading to
migration and death of some of the animals.
Over exploitation of water resources through sportfishing and commercial catching of fish, crustaceans and collection of sea weeds by human beings has gradually reduced the number of marine life in many lakes and rivers in East African. e.g. over fishing in Lake Victoria.
Dumping of industrial waste in water bodies such as rivers and lakes which shelter wildlife has contributed to the death of many wild animals and the remaining migrate to safer grounds e.g. Lake Nakuru has been polluted by industrial wastes from the surrounding industries which has contributed to death of many flamingoes and many others have migrated to other lakes such as Lake Bogoria.
Forest fires (bush fires) started by poachers, smokers, charcoal burners etc destroy large areas under vegetation. This leads to death of animals and migrations due to food shortage.
Natural calamities such as drought and floods lead to mass destruction of vegetation and wild animals.
Wild animals destroy their habitat by overgrazing especially where there is high population of grazers such as gazelles and browsers such as giraffes
East African countries have inadequate capital hence are not able to carry out adequate conservation of wildlife and to develop transport system within the parks or resersves
Human conflicts affects wildlife negatively.
Thousands of animals for example in the Ruwezori National park in
Uganda were killed by the invading Tanzanian army which was out to
remove president Idd Amin from power in 1979.
Pests and diseases are major threats to wildlife e.g. feline
immunodeficiency virus (FIV), the cat's version of HIV, threatens to
reduce the lions population in E. Africa
Poaching is unlicensed and uncontrolled killing of wild animals for the purpose of getting hides, skins, horns, ivory or meat. llegal killing of wild animals has rapidly reduced their population e.g. rhino in Kenya which almost suffered extinction
Management and Conservation of wildlife in East Africa
Management of wildlife refers to careful planning and control of
Conservation of wildlife refers to the protection of wildlife resources for the future generation.
Some of the management measures include:
- Formation of wildlife management bodies
- Training and research
- Creating public awareness and education
Wildlife management bodies
The three E. African governments have established organizations responsible for management and conservation of wildlife namely:
Training and research
The East African countries have established exclusive wildlife colleges e.g. the college of African Wildlife Management at Mweka in Tanzania. The Kenya wildlife service engages in research on conservation issues in all parks and reserves.
Creating public awareness
Creating public awareness and education through concerned efforts among the youth on the need to manage and conserve wildlife.This is done through wildlife clubs in schools, wildlife conservation education centres at Nairobi National Park, Tsavo National Park and Lake Nakuru National Park.Public awareness on management and conservation is also being done through the Media, posters, seminars and meetings.
Other methods of wildlife management include;
Translocation. This involves the movement of animals from one area to another area of similar ecological characteristics so as to reduce pressure of species if they exceed the carrying capacity of the area.
Culling involves killing of older and sickly animals so as to reduce the numbers and give room for the younger ones.
The wildlife conservation measures undertaken include:
- Establishment of game reserves, National parks and game sanctuaries
- Establishment of anti-poaching unit.
- Ban on game hunting and trading in game products
- Establishment of game ranches
- Fencing of forests and national parks
- Non governmental Organizations initiatives
- Gazettment of forests
- Eco-tourism and pollution control
- Rehabilitation if land is damaged by mining and soil erosion
Establishment of game reserves, national parks and game sanctuaries.
Land has been set aside for the above and gazetted to enjoy government protection against destruction by people. For example Kenya has 23 national parks, 4 marine parks, 6 marine reserves, 28 national reserves and 5 national sanctuaries occupying a total of 47,674km2.
Establishment of anti poaching units
The government has set aside anti poaching units which are manned by well trained paramilitary personnel with the responsibility of tracking down and arresting poachers.
Ban on game hunting and trading in game products.
In East Africa the hunting of wild game is prohibited so as to allow for their population increase. In 1978 trade in all wildlife products was banned in Kenya. Example of such products are the rhinocerus horns, hippopotamus teeth, elephant tusks, crocodiles, leopard, lion and zebra skins. This was to reduce poaching. The East African countries are signatories of international convention that prohibits trade on game products.
Fencing of forests and National parks
Forests reserves, National parks and Sanctuaries are fenced off so as to limit human interference.
Non-governmental organizations initiatives
The organizations have played key roles in the conservation of
wildlife in the East African region. For example the world wildlife
fund(WWF) which has given support to the lake Nakuru National Park in
Other organizations are National Save the Rhino Project, Kenya Rhino Rescue project and Conservation Strategy and Management plan for the black rhinocerus, The Youth for Conservation is also an NGO which conducts regular desnaring in major National parks in Kenya, besides conducting public awareness programmes.
Conservation of forests
Forests are homes of many wild animals and birds. There are also many species of trees.Forestry and wildlife conservation in these areas go hand in hand and if properly managed may increase the income from tourism. For example,Kakamega forest, Meru forest and Karura forest.
Eco tourism and pollution control
Eco-tourism in an environment friendly tourism where by a tourist
enjoys watching what nature has provided for enjoyment while at the same
time protects what nature has provided.Eco-tourism enhances conservation
of the wildlife through reduced construction of facilities such as
lodges, roads and airstrips into parks.
Through eco-tourism proceeds from tourism are shared with local communities hence encouraging them to conserve wildlife for example, the Mwaluganje elephant sanctuary in Kwale.
Rehabilitation of land damaged by mining and soil erosion.
The rehabilitation of land after severe soil erosion and mining has
been put into economic use especially where suitable wildlife has been
introduced for example, Bamburi cement company has rehabilitated waste
land after mining of limestone to create Hallers park.
Some research centers have been established to research on wildlife feeding habits diseases reproduction rates, lifespan and conditions needed for their habitation. For example there is a unit established by the government called Kenya Rangeland Monitoring Unit (KREMU)
Establishment of game ranches
Game ranching refers to protected large tract of land, together with
the necessary personnel, buildings and equipment for rearing a specific
kind of wild animals.
These ranches have been established to exploit wildlife for meat and other products while at the same time conserving. For example Galana game ranching research on the boundary of the Tsavo East National park in which eland , Oryx and buffalo are raised, Solio ranch in Laikipia and Nyeri county
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