Bunyala Rice Irrigation Scheme: In these rice fields, birds are poisoned using Furadan by the thousands each month
Dear readers, early 2000 marked the start of confronting the problem of poisoning using Furadan by conservationists especially ornithologists amongst others ecologists in Kenya. Furadan had been introduced into Kenya in the early 80′s as an agricultural nematicide pesticide and people, farmers and non-farmers alike had discovered its deadly poisonious nature, harnessing the property for destructive non-agicultural related killing of biodiversity.
In the early 2000s, FMC sent some officials to Kenyafor the first time to come discuss the issue with the conservationists that the pesticide had been observed to be killing birds, especially waterbirds in rice irrigation schemes. At the end of the meeting the FMC delegates left with amongst the agreed measures they had to undertake back at their company in the U.S.A to: brand on Furadan’s label, “Not for use in paddy” and to sell the pesticide in packages of 25+ Kg weight. Everyone then sat back and waited in joyful hope.
Time continued wearing past and the faithful Kenyan conservationists that had shared the same discussion table with FMC ran out of patience, realizing they had been taken for a raw deal. Afterall, none of the agreed on steps to be taken by FMC were implimented and nobody from FMC ever justified the one-sided decision to rubbish the decisions. Meanwhile, the pesticide continued to be abused to kill biodiversity which Kenya, a struggling third world country relies on for its revenue.
It is unfortunate that the turn of events associated with Furadan poisoning caught everyone unawares. But I think it is expected when you understand the sniping nature with which the pesticide operates as a poison and I bet it would be the same with many other poisons. Even the regulatory organizations, PCPB and AAK (their names must have changed) sat tight and did not consider that their role to verify the safety of the pesticide product was an absolute failure and the proof of the pesticide’s safety either by the manufacturer or even by the Kenyan regulatory agencies’ a total sham. Instead the pesticide continued hiding behind wiping completely the nematodes (soil worms) as it was any biodiversity unabatedly.
With just birds as the reference point for Furadan’s foul play and lacking in progressive mortality documentation, there was no much to face the local regulators and persuade them that the pesticides needed their urgent attention. Soon however, whispers of extended foul play of the pesticide in killing other biodiversity in the background grew louder . Two surveys were then undertaken to find out the distribution and general use of the pesticide. Amongst the findings of the surveys were wide distribution of the pesticide extending to non-crop agricultural areas or pastoralist areas and commercial crop farming areas especially rice growing areas. Also, intents for which Furadan was being used in most of these areas was revealed to be downrightly inclined more to abuse as a poison than proper pesticidal use. Furadan had become rogue and even EPA points it out clearly that it is unsafe even when properly used hence its ban in the U.S.
The surveys listed amongst the poisoned biodiversity include birds with especially shocking mortalities in vultures and water birds, also seedeaters, lions, hyenas, wildebeests, warthogs, crocodiles, fish, domestic dogs, domestic cats and unconfirmed human mortality cases. The list is longer and disturbing and drove Wildlife Direct Chaired by Dr. Richard Leakey in May 2008 to organize a stakeholder’s meeting to share and discuss the matter of poisoning using Furadan: The Kenya Wildlife Service, World Wildlife Fund, Endangered Wildlife Trust, National Museums of Kenya, Kenya Society for the Protection and Care of Animals, EAWLS, BirdLife International, Wetlands International, Peregrine Fund, National Environmental Management Authority, JUANCO, PCPB all attended. Numerous presentations were made on cases of various biodiversity poisoning giving testimony to the heineous destruction attributed to the poison and showing how urgent an issue Furadan poisoning had become. While ALL saw the endangering conservation problem associated with Furadan poisoning, Juanco and PCPB saw otherwise with some of the officials from these two organizations declaring some of the studies whose results had been presented non-scientific; data insufficient hence inadequate evidence against Furadan.
While the 2 defenders of the pesticide made their stand clear that ‘Furadan is not a problem’, Dr. Richard Leakey nonetheless led our campaign at Wildlife Direct to end wildlife poisoning by calling for a ban on carbofurans (Furadan and its likes) just days after the meeting. The call was directed at various relevant government ministries: Ministry of Wildlife and Natural Resources, Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries. With Dr. Richard Leakey’s and Wildlife direct’s motive bold, sincere and with natinal interest at heart, unfortunately nobody seemed to heed us. Further at Wildlife Direct, this blog was set up to tell the world on the dangerous, latent, wildlife poisoning issues, focusing particularly on Wildlife poisoning. Other Wildlife Direct blogs also continue to document on the issue as it affects them: Baraza Blog, lionguardians and kilimanjaro lion conservation plroject blog (currently inactive)amongst others.
Fighting almost aloof in Furadan poisoning terrorism, the CBS documentaryin March 2009 rejuvenated our vigour. The reality of mad lion poisoning was vividly highlighted; Over 60 lions killed from the pesticide’s poisoning. It goes just beyond this with various other organisms studied to be under great threat for instance during the meeting in May 2008 lorries of poisoned birds were shown to have been poisoned by Furadan; Vulture population in Kenya has nose-dived with some species such as the Egyptian Vulture possibly extirpated in the region. Instanteneous vulture mortalities in Kenya were reported in 2005 reaching up to over 200 strong which is about the largest congregatory figure of mixed species of vultures. This means a total loss of whole colonies in some poisoning instances; Numerous waterbirds and currently in Bunyala, Kenya montly bird mortalities are projected up to 3000 mixed bird species in one site whose area is hardly 400 ha.
We went further on at wildlifedirect to pursue on getting long term data at one present day Furadan poisoning site in the name of ‘evidence’ for our local regulatory agents, PCPB and AAK because the pesticide continues to be easily aquired for use from agrovet shops despite its evidenced gross abuse. This goes on even after the buy back program by FMC and recently the pesticide has been found broadly displayed in a number of agrovets in one of the capital towns in the country, Eldoret; check Furadan availability on our blog. So after some fundraising, we have been gathering data and documenting the observations on this blog on Bird Poisoning in Bunyala since February this year (2009). Even with this, no expertise has heeded these revelations and no regulatory persona have gotten on the ground to witness this. What it means is that we have hit a regulation stalemate of the pesticide. The regulatory agencies remain put and indifferent despite our monthly updates on Furadan poisoning to them.
With the prevalent stalemate however certain recent developments have occured. For instance various conservationists met with FMC officials in June 2009;Wildlife Direct’s top person met with the Minister for Wildlife on the issue; also we have had some other politicians’ support in fighting against the pesticide in parliament and a parliamentary discussion on the ban of the substance. The problem is that our motive is clear: ban Furadan for human and biodiversity’s safety in Kenya, while the various people and institutions we are meeting are taking too long to take on a sound decision and impliment it.
Please keep reading for more updates and revelations and support us in our campaign to end wildlife poisoning. You realize the case of Furadan availability in Eldoret was from a coleague who is doing his other research. It may not always be the case and it is not possible for me to be everywhere. However, just through a scout located on the site we can be able to integrate the information and make a follow up. The case stresses the need for me to get scouts at areas I refer to as ‘hot spots’ which are essentially intensive poisoning areas. I have done surveys in 3 major rice growing schemes and in two of these I have nobody on the ground. For a start, a scout just needs a phone with a camera option to be able to send me a short text message and to take a photo of the incidence.Such phone locally would cost 90 dollars, so 3 pieces for a start. Further, I have noted Furadan supply is on the increase again but traded on secretly. We therefore need to be clear on Furadan availability, another task that scouts would easily help me accomplish, because most likely there is another supplier or suppliers taking root and the killer will just keep wreaking havoc with its continued supply. While the regulatory agencies are indifferent, I strongly believe with continued gathering of whooping evidence of the cases of poisoning with a diverted approach now to media publicity we still have a greater chance of getting the poison banned.