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that poor governance and abuse of public property is rapidly eroding development achievements.  Poverty – defined as earning less than $1 a day – shackles at least 43 percent of the population, and agriculture and livestock still form the Kenyan people’s main source of livelihood.  Kenyans, who attach strong importance to land, have an average of less than 1/5 hectare per rural inhabitant for cultivation – an amount well below the average for the rest of the continent.

In this context exist the environmental problems described below. These negative trends are increasingly made worse through inadequate planning, lack of adoption of sustainable land uses, and ineffective governance.  There is a need for an improved set of policies supporting conservation and equitable natural resources management in Kenya as well as an attitudinal change that supports sustainable development.

5. Key environmental sectors facing threats in Kenya today

5.1. Wildlife resources and terrestrial biodiversity

5.1.1. General statistics and trends.

Globally and regionally important resources in wildlife and biodiversity.  According to the World Conservation Monitoring Centre in the UK, Kenya is among the world’s top 50 countries in terms of species richness; neighboring Tanzania and Uganda also fall into that range.  Kenya’s tropical moist montane forests, East African woodland/savanna areas, and Rift Lakes wetland areas rank it among the highest geographic priorities for USAID’s biodiversity conservation goals, according to the Agency’s unpublished Biodiversity Strategy of 1996.  Other global conservation rankings support this conclusion: Kenya encompasses habitats identified by Conservation International’s list of “hotspots,” World Wildlife Fund’s Global 200 ecoregions recommended for conservation, BirdLife International’s Endemic Bird Areas of the World list, and World Resources Institute’s Reefs at Risk indicator.  This international consensus supports USAID/Kenya’s emphasis on wildlife and biodiversity conservation.

The threat to many of Kenya’s animal and plant species is considered to be high, relative to other countries with similar rankings of species-richness and endemism.  Table 1 illustrates this point with recent statistics from the IUCN Red Lists.  Note that the percentage of mammals threatened in Kenya is higher than all other countries listed except Madagascar, which has experienced widespread habitat loss; Kenya has one of the highest numbers of total mammal species in Africa; Kenya’s percentage of threatened plants is also quite high.  This helps indicate the relative severity of threat to Kenya’s biodiversity, in the global and African context.

Table 1.  Number of globally threatened2 species in Kenya, compared to select other high-biodiversity African countries




Freshwater Fishes



359(a)       21(b)        43(c)

12 (d)

844(a)        6(b)         24(c)

2.8 (d)

unknown (a)

unknown (b)

20 (c)

unknown (d)

6000(a)    265(b)    158(c)

2.6 (d)


154(a)       3(b)        11(c)

7.1 (d)

469(a)       1(b)        8(c)

1.7 (d)




2.9 (d)

3128(a)       un(b)        23(c)

.74 (d)


105(a)       84(b)        46(c)

44 (d)

202(a)       104(b)        28(c)

14 (d)


un(b)        13(c)

33 (d)

9000(a)       6500(b)        189(c)

2.1 (d)

2 Threatened is defined by WCMC/IUCN as critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable.  Note:  Threatened status underestimates the threat to biodiversity because the data are usually old or insufficient, and by the time a species is registered as threatened, many years have often passed since the threat began to take its toll.  

Kara PagePage 710/23/2006

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