Swollen Lake Victoria threatens to render Ndere National Park extinct

Kenya Wildlife Sevice (KWS) is facing a big dilemma on whether to relocate hundreds of wildlife from Ndere Island National Park as rising waters of Lake Victoria threatens the existence of the protected tourist site.Already, part of the island which is home to several breeds of wildlife including the rare Sitatunga antelopes is submerged by the erratic waters.

The island is one of the tourist sites in Kisumu and is protected by the service which has also introduced a number of wildlife including waterbucks, baboons, monkeys, impalas, Zebras and Warthogs. It is also the home of several species of birds as well as hippos and crocodiles.

But with the rising water levels, KWS could be forced to seek alternative homes for some of the wild animals even as residents continue to decry the frequent human-wildlife conflict that has soared in the past few months.

Interviews with a number of senior Kenya Wildlife Services and residents established that there are fears the rising waters could have devastating effects on the wildlife kept at the site.

With a huge chunk of their grazing fields already lost in the lake, some of the animals have migrated into homes near the shores to scavenge for food escalating human-wildlife conflict.

“It is a concern because we do not know how high the water levels will rise. It is a rare phenomenon that has affected the park adversely,” said a senior warder who sought anonymity.

Questions however remain where the animals could be relocated to after its other facility based in Kisumu Impala Park is also facing a similar fate after the rising waters submerged part of it.

A spot check at the two parks indicates that their shores has already been submerged by the rising waters which is wreaking havoc to the establishments along the Lake.

A KWS officer said that they have now been forced to up their surveillance as they struggle to respond to the environmental crisis.

“We are facing a major challenge because the waters keep rising at the park and we cannot rule out total submergence given what we have already witnessed around the shores of the lake,” said the officer.

Should the lake reclaim the island, it will rob the region of one of the iconic tourist sites where hundreds of visitors have been streaming in before Covid-19 to enjoy the beautiful scenery of the lake and the wild animals.

Experts are however painting a gloomy picture on the state of the swelling waters and have attributed it to climate change.

According to experts, the levels of the water has continued to rise with Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute saying that it has gone beyond two meters.

Yesterday, Christopher Aura, a scientist with the Kenya Maritime Fisheries Institute told The Standard that climate change is the reason behind the swelling waters.

“The waters of Lake Victoria are swelling as a result of climate change. Several rivers are also having levels of water that is draining into the lake,” said Aura.

And with the developments, KWS now joins the list of other establishments that are counting heavy losses as a result of the swelling waters. Other State entities, like Kenya Ports Authority, too is counting losses after some of its jetties were consumed by the swollen lake.

For KWS however, the developments mean they have to pay the price through compensation to the several victims of wildlife attacks especially snakes and hippo attacks.

Yesterday, members of a community living next to the island on the mainland presented a petition to KWS to complain about the frequent attacks by the wild animals from the park.

The petition was signed by three environmental activists Michael Nyaguti, Haggai Kadiri and Joshua Nyamori, an advocate.

They claimed that the compensation for the victims of the attacks was being done unfairly and are also pushing to have KWS to construct a ring-fence around the park to prevent the animals from escaping and attacking innocent villagers.

About a week ago, senior KWS officials confirmed that four people had been attacked and killed by hippos and crocodiles within the county in the past two weeks.

Several other victims too are on their recovery path after being attacked by free-roaming animals from the park and other submerged places around the lake.

Records from KWS seen by the Standard indicated that in the past three months the number of cases has rapidly increased to 300 with more than 100 cases reported per month.

The increasing number is a result of the rising water levels from Lake Victoria which has left a trail of destruction, displacing wildlife forcing them to invade homesteads killing domestic animals, destroying crops, and causing adverse human injuries.

Ali Juma, a resident from Usoma protested the slow-paced compensation from the KWS, Juma claimed even after reporting the matter of several attacks mated on his family by wild animals no action has been taken.

Juma said, hippos have destroyed his 20 acres of rice fields and a baboon attacking and injuring his son last week.


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