An investigation into the root of two of the main vulture threats: poisoning and belief-based use of vulture body parts in Southern Kenya

Master Thesis


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Vultures are crucial scavengers, removing carcasses, and maintaining the healthy and clean environments. However, their populations are rapidly declining. Six of eight Kenyan vulture species are currently listed as ‘Endangered' or ‘Critically Endangered' on the IUCN Red List. Poisoning caused by human-wildlife conflicts is a major threat to vultures after belief-based use of their body parts. A total of 1387 interviews were administered within Maasai Mara pastoral community. We used the ‘Unmatched Count Technique' to estimate the prevalence and distribution of poison use, and direct questions to characterize poison types, usage and sources, as well as belief-based use of vulture body parts. We found that 54% of respondents reported Carbofuran poison, whereas nearly half (48%) of respondents pointed to agrovets as a major source of all poisons and popularly (84%) smeared on carcasses. The vast majority (75%) particularly use vulture feathers for arrows. Further, 22% fence off their livestock against predatory wildlife. We further explored how predation protection measures used predict individual poisoning likelihoods. None of the five main predation protection measures significantly influences poison use. Both fencing and the use of lights as predator control measures attenuate the poisoning risk. However, herding indicated weak signals for poison use amongst pastoralists. We proposed that an effective vulture poisoning risk reduction should be multi-faceted and collaborative. Regulating and monitoring of the import, local trading and use of poisonous substances. Building partnerships and engagements for more support for local livelihoods. Lastly, upscaling fencing and expanding the communal conservancies. These strategies would curb retaliatory human-wildlife conflicts and poison use against wildlife and vultures in Southern Kenya.