Category Archives: carbofuran

Decoy Poachers

Dear readers,

Preventing poisoning or any other poaching of birds in Bunyala entails never getting into the ‘comfort zone’ that the situation is now contained however it may seem. The poachers will always try to outsmart my team in order to procure bird meat as the scouts strategize against the likely manoeuvres to be employed by the poachers. It is therefore often a game of counteractions!

It has been over a week since I resumed monitoring with my scouts after my trip away from Bunyala. There has been rigorous scouting especially following the poisoning of migrant waders nearly 2 weeks ago. While my presence warrants some degree of reverence from the still practicing poachers, we have remained on high alert knowing that some poachers might be masqueraded amongst the many farmers working in the rice scheme and these could quietly perform their hideous poaching activities. Nonetheless, the situation has remained auspicious with no incidences reported. Further, flocks of migrants have come and migrated on successfully while others have swelled more the numbers of those on site. During this month, we have noted drastic increase in the palaearctic migrant species inclusive of Yellow Wagtails, Ringed Plovers. Black-winged Stilts and Little Stints. The numbers of Ruffs, Green Sandpipers, Wood Sandpipers, Marsh Sandpipers and Common Greenshanks have also been building up and while other flocks of these have been noted to have likely migrated on, currently these seem at home on site. Yesterday, after close to one month, a flock of about 200 Black-tailed Godwits were observed on site. This is a new flock since the other migrated from the site about a month ago. Such data collection has been the norm in building the site’s bird inventory by my team when the situation has been peace and quiet for the birds. Further, I have been photographing the individual species and my followers on Facebook are able to view some of the images.

This evening however when we were about to head home, one of the renowned poachers passed my scouting pair-with Joseph- as we were watching a resident Grey Kestrel hunt at the central section of the rice scheme.

The Grey Kestrel that we were observing today at Bunyala Rice Scheme

A few minutes later, we noticed a second person, estranged to the both of us, watching us from a distance. He pretended to be inspecting his rice plot but clearly his gaze was in our direction most of the time. Joseph then discovered a boy probably in his early teenage run away in what seemed to be a dash to chase birds from a rice seedbed. This was however a move to fool us. We found out that he had laid a decoy bird with bait and then headed away from the set up to avert our attention from the decoy bird.

Decoy African Open-billed Stork; waders preparing to roost in the background

A keen scrutiny through our binoculars and we discovered the decoy bird standing sentry, feathers all ruffed up with characteristic rubber band on beak. This was an Openbill decoy! Around the bird were snail baits laced with a purple poison that locals refer to as Furadan.

Openbill decoy bending in an attempt to eat the snail baits

 

Snail bait showing purple poison purported to be Furadan

I walked towards the bird beckoning the boy to come over. The young man however fled and Joseph also noted the other well-known poacher walk hastily away. The whole point in using this boy in the staging the bird poisoning was because the poacher knew well that we would recognize him but not the boy and we would therefore not pay much attention of the poisoning activity being executed right under our noses.

Examining the decoy Openbill, he was in bad shape with the bill-that should be open-fastened tightly with a rubber band like the shearing ends of a pair of scissors! We were nonetheless able to set free the bird and hopefully he recovers from the trauma.

 

Tightly fastened bill of the decoy bird

 

Untying the rubber band from the decoy bird’s bill then setting him free

No bird was poisoned today and we remain focused to keep the site safe from the poisoning. We therefore continue staying vigilant in Bunyala against the poisoning and other poaching and urge our readers to keep reading, sharing and supporting us.

Scouts’ supervision still key in Bunyala Rice Irrigation Scheme

Dear readers,

Apologies for not posting updates for some time. I was away from Bunyala from the 9th until the 14th of this month on a Western Kenya bird guiding trip but also on a marketing mission for this work against bird poisoning in Bunyala. I anticipate more support from the pledges from my friends that I was with during the trip and I am hopeful this will extend the project for an even longer time.

As my birding trip neared its end on the 12th of October, I received the first text message bearing news of poisoning from my lead scout who I had left in charge of the monitoring for poisoning of birds. The coded text read, “50P-R, WS”; this when translated means 50 birds poisoned-Ruffs and Wood Sandpipers. My first reaction was to travel back to Bunyala as soon as the safari ended in Nairobi. This I did.

I got to Bunyala on the morning of the 15th & proceeded to do the inspection of the site for any obvious signs of poisoning. It was easy to predict the area with easy likelihood of poisoning. This was the eastern end which has since last month been the area focused on for rice planting. With change of dress code and not bearing my customary grey & white strap bag (those that follow me on Facebook know the bag well; if you wish to follow me on FB please just search and add Martin Odino), I was not easily recognizable.

One notorious and stubborn poacher therefore ended up walking right into my company brandishing a bait sack-bag and hoe for digging up earthworms and insects. These he had mixed with poison-allegedly Furadan- and he was off to lay it out in the fields which continue to be ploughed and sown with the rice crop. The fortunate thing however is that his plans did not match having taken note that I was back in the neighborhood.

I had also been informed that one of my scouts was playing a double role also as an informant to the poachers briefing them on my available on site in exchange for a small fee. While he objects to the allegations, he has been reprimanded and warned that he has attracted possible reporting for his arrest.

The recent past days have been characterized by extended scouting hours from early morning with a few hours break after midday then gain a late afternoon-into-the night watch. We however sometimes have to work in smaller teams at the moment as the scouts also have to work in their fields and these rotate as time-tabled so that each also has crop cultivated for their sustenance. We have also had to approach a few local elders who have complied to persuade the obstinate poachers against the poisoning. While the only poisoning incident this month seems to have taken us aback and short of attaining our goal of ensuring absolutely no poisoning this month we are still hopeful that the situation will be contained and the project’s effect enhanced through the intervention of the village elders. I am further required to keep my appearance pronounced at the site for the sake of preventing any further poisoning incidences and I am therefore camping on a few yards just from the rice scheme.

From an early morning scouting session; taking off my binoculars

That aside, the site continues to thrive with more and more migrants alongside local species.

 Migrant Ruffs at Bunyala congregating for the night time

Migrant waders joining in foraging resident egrets

Representatives of some of the migrants in Bunyala; Common Greenshank, Wood Sandpiper and Ringed Plover

A few more of the increasing numbers of White-faced Whistling ducks that were nearly all poisoned just a few years back

Please keep reading for updates and support our work.

Haunting scenes of torture & death by poisoning

Dear readers, I continue to illustrate what we are standing up against and continue to call on your support. The following images depict what I have had to endure for the sake of getting evidence that was once challenged as non-existent.

I (myself above) have counted dying and dead birds with the help of particularly my scout Joseph Achieno

Palaearctic Migrant waders
Borne the excruciating agony of intoxicated individuals

The Near Threatened palaearctic migrant, Black-tailed Godwit
Seen populations of threatened species continue to be subdued by undue poisoning pressure.

And bountiful harvests  of Afrotropical bird species through poisoning.

Watched helplessly as poachers gather, pack and take their kill to the market.

But enough is enough and though just simple individuals, we will watch over and guard the birdlife as we would domestic animals this migration season if that is what it takes. Keep on supporting our vigilance strategy as we count down to the start date come 1st of September.

Dying birds of of the world in Bunyala

Bunyala Rice Irrigation field may just be known as the most westerly paddy plantation in Kenya and possibly one of the most expanded in recent years.

But the area is the heartland of  a once remarkable macrobiodiversity area. The neighborhoods are known by names of  animals once known of the area. Budalang’i area, once locally reminiscent  of the biblical Noah’s floods  due to its yearly seasonal flooding depicts a place of Lions. Close by is an area whose name translates to the Eland and tales and evidence of skin souvenirs of Jackals, Hyenas and Cheetahs among others can be found hung high up in the sheds of small domestic livestock. Tales are also told of gazelles and hares that were once numerous and would spring out of any other bush in the area.In many youth’s memory is also the Southern Ground Hornbill. The mostly biped bird currently listed under the Vulnerable threat category by the IUCN Red list of threatened species quietly matched out of the area to oblivion!

Human pressure like elsewhere on the continent and beyond is to blame for this undocumented and huge biodiversity wipe-out in Bunyala. Bunyala Rice Irrigation Scheme came as a blessing to the human residents …but also a curse in disguise to humans consuming intoxicated birds and a pure curse to primarily the birds. Phenomenal flocks of local birds visit the site to forage.

Photo taken in January 2011

Photo taken in January 2011

A flock of Black-tailed Godwits from northern Europe at Bunyala Rice Scheme

Photo taken in January 2011

Photo taken in January 2011

Collared Pratincoles at Bunyala

Other species not easily found elsewhere have found a home in the wetland conditions of the plantation even probably synchronizing their breeding patterns to fall between the planting/harvesting seasons to maximize on their breeding success.

Photo taken in June 2011

Photo taken in June 2011

Locally uncommon Greater Painted Snipe in Bunyala

Photo taken in June 2011

Photo taken in June 2011

The unobtrusive & restless Little Rush Warbler in Bunyala

But perhaps the most worrying scenario is that of famished migrating birds some from far northern Europe and even Asia which are mostly waders . These come to Bunyala Irrigation Scheme to gorge themselves, fueling up for their southern-bound and then the return northern-bound journeys. Here, I have seen thick flocks of birds that blot out the sunrise! the density so gross than I have ever witnessed during waterbird counts by Nature Kenya and the Ornithology section of the National Museums of Kenya at some of the remarkable water bodies of the Rift Valley known to harbor large numbers of such birds.

Photo taken in January 2011

Photo taken in January 2011

Flock of the palaearctic migrant, White-winged Black Terns at Bunyala Rice Scheme.

While these are not directly targeted for poisoning, the stampede that ensues while poisoning other birds, mostly Openbills scares the birds away.

Photo taken in January 2011

Photo taken in January 2011

Waders at Bunyala Rice Scheme

The sandpiper waders inclusive of the Spotted Redshank (to the left), Black-tailed Godwit (the bulkiest in the photo and categorized as Near Threatened by the IUCN red list) as well as the Ruff (at the foreground of the photo) above are targeted for poisoning. Others include the Wood Sandpipers documented in earlier posts. The list is long and a total of 33 species of birds are at risk of which 9 are migrants.

A study I carried out during 2009 found estimated mortality losses of 3 in every 10 birds on either the northern or southern bound journeys due to deliberate Furadan poisoning of the birds. Over half the number of individuals that use this site are therefore lost to poisoning every year. Yet migrating birds maintain remarkable fidelity to their stop-over or winter sites. Therefore, as long as there is still poisoning in Bunyala, this vital site for birds remains a dreadful sink for numerous resident and migratory bird species.

Please continue reading the blog and support through donations or otherwise our campaign to end wildlife and bird poisoning in Bunyala and elsewhere.

Bizarre bird poisoning scenes this week

This is Carbofuran being handled with bare hands by a bird poacher.

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This poacher is comfortable with his catch when it is stored under his shirt!!

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This is not a humane way of handling birds, even though they may be intoxicated.

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In a rice field the sight of sacks evokes the thought of harvested rice grain. This troupe is transporting live and dead birds secured through poisoning.

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Bird meat business flourishes on professional etiquette like any other business. The customer is allowed to select freely from the assortment.

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The poacher then proceeds to pack the goods selected by the customer.

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Finally money changes hands (3.75 dollars for 4 pieces of intoxicated carcasses).

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Rescued ‘she’ Knob-bill

Dear readers,

Today’s story is a guest post by my assistant and apprentice, Terry Andenga. Terry is helping me survey for the status of bird poisoning using Furadan in Bunyala, Kenya. I hope to work with her on the poisoning issue even elsewhere beyond Bunyala. We both have a passion for birds.

Martin and I had an encounter that was so sad yesterday seeing this female Knob-billed Duck gasping for the breath of life, her whole body quaking (Martin has taught me it is rightfully termed as tremors) and foaming on her mouth. Certainly she was battling against the intoxication-Furadan intoxication! But luckily the amount of poison consumed was an under dose for the lethal limit.

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Intoxicated knob-billed Duck

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Foaming on the mouth as a result of Carbofuran poisoning

She could barely swim when we found her and at this time the poacher who had laid the deadly bait was preoccupied with chasing after and maiming her already wobbling mates. Martin had to wade through two paddy plots to reach and rescue the half drowning wader. The responsible poacher then noted our presence and to his shocking disappointment, his treasure in our custody! In these lands it is a life threatening move to pick a bird suspected to be baited by a poacher. Worse still, the poacher was a stranger even to Martin who has dealt with the tough band before. Nonetheless, we summoned our courage and went on to meet him.

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Martin (on the left) negotiating with the poacher (on the right) for the live duck

We were firm and determined to bail out the creature despite the poacher’s mean look. Our other advantage was that we were evidently strangers to him as well and no doubt defenders of wild birds! Overwhelmed by concern for his security the poacher let go of the wild duck. I could only imagine of strangulation or wing dislocation had we lost our petition for the bird. This case settled and the poacher quickly made away with his day’s catch thrown over his shoulder; numerous, already dead Fulvous tree ducks.

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Poacher with his kill

Our next worry was where to release our bird so we kept walking as far as possible from the rice field heading back to camp. She gradually emerged from the trauma and the tremors stopped. She muted severally and the foaming on the mouth also stopped. She then started nibbling on Martin’s arm support and her tugging for escape got progressively stronger.

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She duck feeling cosy on Martin’s arm support

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She duck protesting (biting) for her release

Soon it was time to let her go or the confidence she had earned with us would degenerate into trauma from the sense of bondage and captivity. About 2 km from where we had rescued her, we set her down on the ground and bingo! she took to the air!

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On the wing again at last!

We know her chances of survival are dismal and we badly wish we owned a sanctuary elsewhere we could translocate her and others rescued. We can only hope she learnt from the experience as has been seen of other intelligent individuals but as long as Furadan can reach the hands of poachers, then no bird is safe….but so are the consuming humans. Nonetheless, we hope she survives.

Please keep reading on the blog.

Continuing Bunyala Bird poisoning Woes

Dear readers. Its been 3 years since Furadan was pulled off by FMC from Kenya. That notwithstanding, Furadan is still in full scale availability and use in some of our rice irrigation schemes but sadly for anything but proper agricultural application. The source of the poison enjoys loyal concealment by the poachers with varrying and confusing tales of its distributors such as it is the old stock that some vendors keep to date and sell it to the poachers at exhorbitant rates. Others say it is crossing in from Uganda while other openly lie that it can be purchased across the counter from local agrovet shops.

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Rice mixed with Furadan for killing ducks

In Bunyala, the local rice irrigation scheme boasts an endless expanse attracting lots of birds and we (my assistant, Terry & myself) could not stop being baffled that at least 5 waders from the palaearctic region- Common Greenshank, Ruff, Black-winged Stilt, Ringed Plover & Curlew Sandpiper- are still foraging and roosting at the site way past the time they should be gone to their breeding lands; probably just shows how optimal conditions are for the varied species.

At the moment, the Fulvous Whistling Ducks are congregating in historical large numbers as has ever been witnessed in any local’s remeberable past.

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A flock of Fulvous Tree Ducks at Bunyala Rice Irrigation Scheme

This species is said to come from a nearby large scale farming enterprise-Dominion Farm-apparently because food and wetland conditions have turned in their favor in Bunyala. The congenic White-faced Whistling duck used to be more common in Bunyala but has since been seen to decline to almost none due to poisoning by poachers. The fate of this duck is therefore uncertain but there is a high likelihood of it being exterminated at the site as well.

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Poacher collecting intoxicated Fulvous Whistling Ducks

Other species at risk have also been observed and include the Knob-billed Duck

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The Knob-billed Duck

and the African Yellow-billed Stork.

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A pocher’s catch: Openbills & Yellowbill.

The explicitly poisoned African Openbill is still faced by its merciless killing woes employing live decoy individuals to attract them to poison bait.

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Captive Openbill decoy

Generally, sacks of birds are harvested from the site each day.

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Poacher carrying away a sack of birds-Openbills and Yellowbills

Furadan 5G still enjoys legal status in Kenya with these destructive effects to Kenyan Wildlife and likely, to people.

Bunyala poisoning with Furadan in May 2011

Birds procured using "furadan" in Bunyala today

birds procured using "furadan" in Bunyala today

Dear Friends, this is the scene in front of our Martin Odino who is on the ground in Bunyala. The poisoning of birds and fish using Furadan continues despite FMC’s promise that the product is not available throughout East Africa (a HUGE lie) and despite the Kenya Governments promise to do something about it.

Martin writes about these photos

“Poacher preparing bait to ”burry’ in the mud in the plots;mimics
underwater food and dabbling ducks will discover it, feed and get
intoxicated. The rice (still in husk) is looking purplish because it
is laced with Furadan.

Poisoned  Fulvous Whistling Ducks

Live, intoxicated duck by Furadan”

Victim of Furadan poisoning - Fulvus whistling duck

Victim of Furadan poisoning - Fulvus whistling duck

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Furadan 5G, Furadan 4F & Furadan 5G 4F in Kenya

It has been over a year since FMC began repurchasing stocks of Furadan (carbofuran) from Kenya and the whole of East African region. We appreciate the gesture of goodwill to wildlife conservation in EA by the withdrawal of this chemical that through gross abuse had turned its toxic potency meant to counter insect (and nematode) pests to other unsuspecting biodiversity, notably big cats (especially lions) and birds; vulrures and wetland birds visiting rice irrigation schemes (the case of Bunyala Rice irrigation Scheme) being particularly the most vulnerable. What is more, the effects to human health particularly the ignorant communities in Kenya & Uganda that devour intoxicated bird meat procured through Furadan poisoning still remains a mystery but the halted supply of the pesticide should control the situation. Indeed juanco sps is to be thanked for actualizing the buy-back of the product on the ground which they once distributed.

Notably, we no longer see the explicit display of Furadan on the shelves in our Kenyan agrovets an indicator of a job-the buy back-well done. We are strongly hopeful this move promotes human livelihood & wildlife conservation.

There is however concern over an unending trend of twists and turns of the mystery about Furadan, simply comprehended as the deadly pesticide poison. Are the lethal doses modestly precise? must it be used for crop farming?is the notion about secondary poisoning by carbofuran valid?is it true its absence will result in reduced crop yields (at least in Kenya)?has its supply in EA by FMC been frozen for real? OR has it just been replaced by a slightly altered formulation?

We know that FMC authorized a buy back in Kenya of  Furadan ® 5G, however in the news section on FMC’s web page,Furadan ® 5G & Furadan ® 4F are both used to refer to the product that they initiated a buy back for in East Africa during 2009.

Furadan 5G (also displayed as Furadan 5G 4F)

Furadan 5G (also displayed as Furadan 5G 4F)

Based on my simple experimentation,Furadan ® 5G  formulation is not readily water soluble (the solvent that is directly exclusively used in  farming). Furadan ® 4F is an aqueous suspension containing 480g of active ingredient per litre, designed to be diluted with water according to Pesticide Formulations & Applications Systems. Apparently juanco are displaying Furadan ® 5G 4F as one of the insecticides they are distributing and under the product information (subsection Furadan® 4F) the product is described as a highly soluble formulation for use exclusively in drip and micro irrigation systems. Certainly this is not the product that we understand  was being repurchased by FMC.

Based on the US product registration, the status of Furadan ® 5G nematicide-insecticide is indicated as canceled. Furadan® 4F nematicide/insecticide status is still active. Further, I cannot seem to find additional information on Furadan ® 5G 4F (using this precise brand name) other than on juanco’s website. It appears this is a ‘hybrid’ -if there is such combination- of a canceled (Furadan ® 5G) and active (Furadan® 4F) products as per the Pesticide Action Network (PAN)pesticide database.

And there are still cases of bird poisoning in western Kenya with alleged source of Furadan 5G from across the border in Uganda.

Poisoned Openbills in Western kenya during 2010

Poisoned Openbills in Western kenya during 2010

The poison used by the poacher to kill the Openbills claimed to be Furadan from Uganda

The poison used by the poacher to kill the Openbills claimed to be Furadan from Uganda

Actually in a currently running project on assessment of the impact of poisoning on Kenyan lions funded by the National Geographic Society, there are reported cases of Furadan being obtained from Tanzania to poison lions.

This is the status quo & this post is well meant to refresh a call to commitment in tackling the problem of Furadan, a pesticide turned poison  for the goodwill of safeguarding human livelihood and protecting wildlife.

Vultures poisoned in the Masai Mara

Dear Friends,
It’ is another sad day for wildlife in Kenya. We have just heard that at least vultures were poisoned after consuming a wildebeest carcass laced with a pinkish-purple powder in the periphery of Siana Conservancy adjacent to the Masai Mara National Reserve.This could be Furadan or Marshal (a carbosulfate) – both are produced by FMC.
It is not clear why the local community would lace a wildebeest.
The information has been sent to us by Munir Virani from Will Cowell, Leleshwa Camp, Paul Kirui, Sammy Nkoitoi and Lesaimon Sankai. We thank then  for all their help. Enoch from WildlifeDirect is on the scene as well as Kenya Wildlife Service who have taken samples.

We will post updates as information becomes available