Category Archives: Pesticides

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.

More migrants and an awkward recruiting session in Bunyala Rice Scheme

An early start of the day’s surveys heightens the chances of meeting with poachers who capitalize on the early rising habit of birds while also avoiding the public amongst whom a few ‘Judases’ might give them away to punishment authorities. We intend to approach every other poacher and persuade them to join our course even though we may not win all of them. Today we particularly had an appointment with one reformed poacher who is also a part time electronics repair. It turned out that we were up to a more eventful morning.

Yesterday at about 0500hrs, I woke up to the calls of Fulvous Whistling Ducks, White-faced Whistling Ducks, Wood Sandpipers and Common Greenshanks overflying my camping site as they made way to the irrigated, recently planted and the not yet ploughed sections of the rice scheme. These are rich in insect life and favoured by the birds. This morning was rather mute perharps because of the downpour that extended well into the small hours of the morning. Nonetheless, Joseph and I routinely left to survey for birds and watch out if any of my recruits were executing their new task.

We headed to the most westerly & remote area of the rice scheme & witnessed waders congregating around puddles of water in the irrigation plots. Joseph was particularly focused on the Ruffs which he said he had not been keen before to look at their orange legs. There was nothing exciting in addition to the wader species we had already seen the previous day; Ruffs, Green Sandpipers, Wood Sandpipers and Greenshanks. We quickly estimated the numbers of these and proceeded on to the unploughed but flooded section of the plantation further west. It was not easy to find our way into this section as it has no road leading into its various plots. We were finally able to get to a strategic section and noticed we had some additional palaearctic migrants to add to our list. These were the Black-tailed Godwit and Whimbrel.

A mixed flock of waders (Black-tailed Godwits and Ruffs)


A clearer image of a few Black-tailed Godwits (one in flight) and Ruffs


In-flying Black-tailed Godwits


Whimbrel in the background (with Godwits and Ruffs)

 All the while we had been mostly sedentary at a fairly high, remote point. As we made off our last view of the site picked someone mimicking a farmer propping rice seedlings into the hard ground! This was not possible since the area had not been ploughed. We walked towards this unique farmer just in time to see him chase after a disoriented Sacred Ibis and stash it in a sack. A few more paces and we managed to startle him thereby prompting him to walk away from us. I called out for his attention and beckoned him to come to us. In confusion but still dominated by greed, he picked up another struggling bird on his way to meet us.

An intoxicated Sacred Ibis

It is always an annoying and painful experience to watch a deliberately poisoned, disoriented bird struggling for its life, yet we had to be careful with our words lest we scared the poacher off. The man was clearly afraid that we would arrest him but I told him that all we needed was an opportunity to invite him to work with us which would bring an end to his lawless profession and having to worry about being arrested. I informed him that we were just commencing on a programme to monitor birds and persuade poachers to stop poisoning/killing birds since it was harmful to the birds, the poachers and the consumers.

Okochi with a poisoned, disoriented Sacred Ibis; Joseph explaining to him our activities in local dialect

Okochi, as we found out is his name meekly responded that he would be interested and in any case he was a fisherman rather than a poisoning poacher. I told him he had a few hours to think about what we had informed him after which he was welcome to my camp for further information on our project. I am hopeful he will pay us a visit in the coming few days, probably hours.

Keep reading and supporting our work on this blog.


Children Poachers

Dear readers,

I wish to inform you that I am now in Bunyala, western Kenya and have commenced on the fieldwork on the vigilance strategy. I will try to update you as regularly as possible even though I am constrained by poor network and intermittent power supply besides the long fatiguing days (of which I am not complaining about) preceding the evenings during which I will be consolidating the gathered information and writing the posts.

Yesterday, 2nd of September, I got on site at 0900hrs and immediately set out on a lone survey to investigate and obtain fast hand information just in case there was any poisoning at the time. No poisoning was witnessed during the four-hour long survey, with one of the sections of the rice scheme not yet irrigated and overgrown with weeds. I thought this meant less work for now in the sense that the poaching area was not the entire thousands of hectares. It is however anticipated that anytime the irrigation canals will fill up with water and irrigate the farmland since the water was expected to be pumped into the fields starting the 1st of September.

Child poacher

When I eventually met my lead scout and told him that the situation was looking good he rhetorically asked me if I really thought the situation was so before he proceeded to explain the seeming state of NO BIRD POISONING. He had been excited but concerned by the abrupt cessation in poisoning/poaching of birds until when he recently met a youngster, hardly 12 years old struggling and dragging along a sack of dead birds. As he interrogated the kid, 2 other much younger boys showed up each bearing a live African Openbill decoy bird. This was a case of apprentices taking up the task at a much younger age; a case of children poachers. In the past these would poach with adults up to at least18 years. This is the latest fashion of precautionary measure by the adult poachers to evade arrest just in case they are being watched by ‘the government’. Kids are not obtrusive, many hardly taller than the earth embarkments of the individual paddy plots but then they risk getting intoxicated (the young are more vulnerable than the old) as they handle the poison bait or they could get injured should the panicking, intoxicated birds fight back with their deadly bills especially the African Openbills. Here’s a case of children abuse that we believe the vigilance strategy will also arrest.

Activities of the Vigilance Strategy against bird poisoning

Dear readers,

Counting down about 5 days to the commencement of the vigilance strategy in Bunyala, I wish to share with you the actual activities that will be carried out aimed at mitigating the poisoning activities. I am thankful for your continued support through donations with which we will productively utilize to improve the situation.

Bunyala Rice Scheme

A network of 4 new scouts has been identified around the main irrigation scheme and briefed by Joseph (the chief scout in Bunyala). I will meet them as soon as I am on site and give them a short introduction on why we will be hiring them to watch out for bird poisoning, what is expected of them and the expected results (cutting down or elimination of deliberate bird poisoning).

M.Odino and his assistants in an earlier briefing session during a survey in Bunyala.

I am then going to persuade a few younger poachers some of whom I know have some education. I am hopeful that I will get at least 2 poachers and recruit them as scouts. These I have worked with in the past and they let me into the dark world of deliberate bird poisoning. Because of them I was able to get an insight of the mystery of intensive bird poison-poaching. On a few occasions we discussed the possibility of venturing into ‘cleaner’ trade which they consented to if such opportunities came by and I believe this is one such opportunity.

Martin Odino (on the left) with a rescued wild duck and having dialogue with a poacher against bird poaching.

Getting poachers to constitute the monitoring team will be a breakthrough towards beating the poisoning vice since we will be able to tackle the problem from within; rather, ‘setting a thief to catch a thief ‘approach. Many locals in Bunyala are knowledgeable about birds since the irrigation scheme attracts variety and numbers of them. A few may know about the species in the traditional aspect; their names, what they symbolize and seasonality. Strange however is that this rich knowledge is pitted through practical encounters while poaching, sharpened and locked within the poachers’ mind sets who use it to maximize their bird kills. The poachers are cornucopias of bird ecology and understand well especially the feeding behaviours and relevant microhabitats. They often mimic these aspects and are able to catch unaware and kill whole flocks of unsuspecting species. What more do we need than get poachers who know where there is likely to be poisoning and at what times then having them monitor and persuade their colleagues to join them in watching over the birds?If we can persuade 4 poachers to complete the team of 10 monitoring scouts, the better it will be for this conservation venture.

A poacher preparing (purple coloration is from Furadan poison) then submerging poison-laced bait. Submerging the bait food deceives ducks known to dabble in feeding that they have stumbled on natural food.

In brief therefore, once recruited the scouts will monitor their territories and maintain maximum presence especially at expected poisoning hours. Should they be unable to persuade intruding poachers against poisoning, the incidence will be reported to me with details of what species were poisoned, how many and by whom. I should also be able to support in persuasive negotiations in such difficult confrontations.

I am also faced by the task of modernizing the scouts which should progressively be realized during our weekly briefing meetings. I intend to run informal education sessions and introduce the scouts to contemporary ornithology starting by illustrative identification of birds with the help of guide books. With time, relevant complex aspects shall be introduced in preparation to their more intensive coaching as birding guides 2months after.

Another major activity to be achieved during this project will be carrying out a thorough inventory of the bird (also other larger species) at the site.

A Serval cat in Bunyala known to hunt birds may be an unintended victim of poisoning

The study in 2009 documented ONLY species that were OBSERVED to have been killed from poisoning. This means other species that may have been killed but not observed inclusive of being killed outside of survey days or times were left out. Yet so many species that feed on similar bait as those recorded as having suffered from poisoning are also known at the site.

Black-winged Stilts and Marsh Sandpipers

Spotted Redshank to the right (with Black-winged Stilt and Marsh Sandpiper)

 Above are examples of other palaearctic migrants alleged poisoned in Bunyala but not recorded by the study on bird poisoning in Bunyala.

A further importance of the inventory is that Bunyala is poorly surveyed given its remote location, sometimes absolutely unreachable during the rains and floods. It will be worthwhile to provide a more comprehensive listing of the bird diversity of which interesting species, waterbird richness inclusive of palaearctic migrants and endemicity inclusive of some cross-border vagrants (from Uganda) to impress better on the site as a crucial tourist attraction beckoning for exploitation.

The Broad-billed Sandpiper above is a palaearctic migrant described in Kenya as rare but in the coastal shores region. None of our guidebooks describes it around western Kenya and here they are in Bunyala Rice Irrigation Scheme. The species feeding behaviour is just like for its other sandpiper relatives and therefore a likely victim of deliberate poisoning as well.

All the while we will be scouting and carrying out these activities therefore making our presence unfavourable for poaching birds by poisoning and possibly form an even larger monitoring team that should evolve into conservationist birding guides in the long run.

Keep reading more updates and supporting us on this blog.

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.

Help save impeccable raptor birdlife imperilled by poisoning in Kenya

Dear readers, I wish to thank those who have generously pledged/donated funds towards the intensified vigilant strategy at Bunyala Rice Scheme in Kenya starting next month. I continue to implore your continued support to attain the targeted USD1450 for the successful implementation of the strategy. Please also keep reading, commenting and sharing the revelations of this blog amongst your extensive networks.

Today’s post is an insight into the significance of the bird poaching through poisoning to the birds of prey community. Many of my posts of casualties of deliberate poisoning in Bunyala have depicted waterbirds and seed-eating birds as the victims. It is needless to iterate that human lives have also been depicted to be at stake. This campaign aims at preserving ALL BIRD POPULATIONS thereby SAFEGUARDING HUMAN LIVES and through promoting birding tourism, creating BETTER HUMAN LIVELIHOODS. There is little mention of birds of prey (raptors) which as a matter of fact are vulnerable though reliable important indicators of the state of the environment.

Raptors are not directly targeted for poisoning in Bunyala. The birds of prey are characterized by smaller population numbers hence the more reason that they are more vulnerable than other groups of birds and therefore likely that they will be missed out in the even that they are poisoned.

Above is a lone Peregrine Falcon at Bunyala Rice Scheme observing foraging doves (probably on poison-fouled bait) and calculating on his catch. The quary might be one of the intoxicated and disoriented hence slower on the wing victim.

If only 2 eagles are accidentally poisoned, they may end up collapsing anywhere within the 5000ha rice irrigation scheme. It is even likely that a wandering dog will consume the carcasses thereby forever keep the evidence from us that some 2 eagles were ever poisoned. We can almost accurately guess the fate of the dogs; such is how endless the nasty poisoning chain is!

I have however been lucky to walk on 2, Long Crested Eagles in perfect body condition and seemingly playing poto-dead in Bunyala Rice Scheme. The likely cause of their death was consumption of intoxicated doves or rats that had consumed poison-laced rice cereal bait.

It is not uncommon to find Long Crested Eagles waiting on the ground (as above) for might-be intoxicated prey. At rice harvesting time, seed-eater poison-hunting targeting especially doves, widowbirds, weaver birds just to mention the three groups, is the preferred poaching speciality by poachers.

Seedeaters such as the Jackson’s Golden-backed Weaver and Fan-tailed Widowbirds (images above)are easy to find specialities in this region of the limited ranges of the species in our republic. Here however, they are a poacher’s commodity for sale and may be killers in their intoxicated states to raptors.

Other species of birds of prey also hunt in the rice fields oblivious of the looming poisoning threat.

The Black-shouldered Kite photographed in Bunyala hovers in hunting and will easily snatch up disoriented rats especially during the rice harvesting season. The food source is so reliable that the he-kite and his mate conveniently nest just on the periphery of the rice scheme.

Bunyala generally boasts unique bird spectacles; rare birds and to put it fancily, exotic birds-migrants.

A Western Banded Snake-Eagle: How many times do we find a serpent/snake eagle clasping on a snake? Yet this species may be safe from poisoning but what if the snake-meal that is often derived from the irrigation scheme had feasted on an intoxicated rat? Bear in mind there is no known breeding record of this species in Kenya and the species is purported by a renowned local birds of prey expert as a likely migrant from the Miombo of Tanzania into Kenya during its non-breeding season. Western Kenya and especially the region around Lake Victoria, inclusive of Bunyala is its stronghold.

Wahlberg’s Eagles displaying in anticipation of breeding. These subjects nest in the neighbourhood of the rice scheme where they also derive their food from. It is a dreadful thought that the birds whose Kenyan population constitutes Afrotropical migrants from southerly latitudes do not fall victims of intoxicated prey.

Please keep reading, commenting and supporting us on the blog and help save our birds from poisoning.

Support the vigilance strategy to end bird poisoning in Bunyala Rice Irrigation Scheme, Kenya

Dear readers, this is a personal appeal to you to help me fight this atrocity of bird poaching through poisoning during and after this palaearctic bird migration season.

Poisoned palaearctic migrant waders inclusive of Wood Sandpipers, Green Sandpipers and Ruffs among other species

Maimed individuals of those that do not succumb immediately to the poison.

African Openbill left for dead on the Bunyala poisoning fields.

Poacher collecting Openbills after he poisoned them.

Poisoned mixed species of doves

Poisoned Fulvous whistling ducks. It is worth noting this species in the United States was Endangered and pesticide poisoning was ranked as its leading threat. In Bunyala, it is deliberately poisoned using pesticide poison such as Furadan.

A habitual customer, as are many others, packing purchased birds procured through poisoning.

A mother taking home purchased Fulvous Whistling ducks

I have therefore planned to increase the supportive work force at Bunyala from the current 2 individuals to 10 individuals for the purpose of increasing vigilance and discouraging bird poisoning, poaching activity.

One of my only two scouts alongside myself at Bunyala Rice Irrigation Scheme.
This is because the irrigation area is extensive (and continues to be expanded)-about 5000ha with smaller out grower holdings which also have to be monitored- yet bird poisoning activities occur anywhere around the mega farmland. This will ensure effective vigilance throughout the area.

5000+ hectares of poisoning, rice field….& only 3 persons to keep an open eye for poisoning activities.
The increased scouts’ presence will ‘scare’ the poachers but it is still expected that poisoning activities will still be encountered. For the latter case, the scouts will collect data on the poisoned birds and numbers and inform the supervisor (myself) accordingly.
This approach will be conducted over the next 2 months-September & October 2012- as a primer to an educational and training campaign to follow after the 2 months. The obvious concern with this strategy is that the poachers will likely retaliate directly or indirectly since they will not be left with immediate substitute options of earning income during this time. However, I anticipate that in their discouragement and with the limited options of alternative sources of income, the poachers will join in this initiative as scouts (and be recruited accordingly in time as did my 2 current scouts). An advancement of this project starting November 2012 will then take this initiative to the next level intended to sustain the eliminated/reduced poaching activity. This is an intensive bird-guiding training workshop and rigorous marketing of the Bunyala Rice Irrigation scheme for its birds/avian resource to last one year until the site is established as bird watching and conservation locale.

Your support is therefore needed for the 2 months for the upkeep (also an incentive) and supervision of scouts before these can be initiated into the birding tourism or avitourism as guides for the mitigation of the serious bird poisoning and consumption at Bunyala rice Scheme.
Monthly upkeep for 10 scouts @ USD12.5 (Ksh 1000/person) per week hence USD125/week×4weeks = USD600 or Ksh 48000 per month
Supervisory wages for 1 supervisor @USD125 (Ksh10000) per month

I therefore humbly request that you help us raise USD 1450 (USD 725 for the month of September 2012 and USD 725 for October 2012) to successfully effect this initiative for the coming 2 months and help keep safe Bunyala Rice irrigation Scheme wintering site for migratory and resident bird species while also saving human lives and promoting decent livelihoods.
Through your contribution, you will help maintain the still rich flocks of resident and visiting birds at Bunyala Rice Scheme. I must warn that the actual flocks were more extensive than cut off sections captured in the photos below using my simple narrow angle lens camera at Bunyala Rice Scheme

Mixed flock of the migrant White-winged Terns and the whiskered terns up to 3000 strong at one time

The migrant terns roosting in the Bunyala Rice field their numbers maintaining their ‘thick’ impression.

Black-tailed Godwit. Perhaps Bunyala is a sink for this species classified as Near Threatened with the study in 2009 indicating that they were the most poisoned species of the migrants.

Flock of Fulvous whistling duck taking to the air at Bunyala Rice Irrigation Scheme

Airborne Fulvous Whistling ducks at Bunyala Rice Irrigation Scheme.


It is never about safety

Aphids are notorious plant/leaf-eating pest. I recall during my undergraduate studies hoping onto a bicycle  and heading to the campus farm fields to secure an assortment of substances-neem, sugar solution, etc-up citrus plants of what constituted one of my professor’s project.The aim was to get a substance that would constructively distract a biological set up in favor of citrus fruit production. The microecosytem of a citrus plant constitutes aphids feeding on the plant, attendant ants feeding on the aphids’ sugary secretions and the carnivorous ladybirds creeping in to snatch away and eat the aphids but heavily guarded by the attendant ants. The attractant would therefore get the attention of the attendant ants which would otherwise fight off the ladybirds. In the process, the aphids would be eaten by the voracious ladybirds to the benefit of the citrus plants promoting high yield.

In our last meeting with FMC, they noted that Furadan’s withdrawal would penalize Kenyan farmers that had been using it properly as a pesticide.The chemical product was (is?) a heavily depended on broad spectrum pesticide (deadly poison?) and had served a major role in feeding the world .

The insect pests (some disease vectors others voracious phytophagous-plant feeders ) onslaught seems to be the major threat in the way of desired agricultural productivity to ensure food security. The ideal trend in agriculture has therefore been to employ the strongest pesticide to wipe out the pests. But  this just never really amounts to eliminating the current problem pest per se. The ideal pesticide kills virtually all organisms at least according to Kenya Pesticide Control Products Board boss recently defending the worldwide banned Methyl Bromide because ” it kills all living things in the soil. So it eliminates pests completely,”. But Methyl Bromide due to be phased out completely worldwide by 2015 is said to contribute to global warming, one of major threats to all biodiversity at present.

On the  long road to ban DDT in the US during the early 1970s, initial review of the chemical by the mostly economic entomologists team (inherited from the United States Department of Agriculture) furnished the then EPA’s administrator with seemingly biased findings: that DDT was not an imminent danger to human health and wildlife. Many environmentalists felt the ruling was biased in favor of agribusiness and tended to minimize concerns about human health and wildlife. The decision not to ban thus created public controversy leading to scientific reviews in court hearings, the cancellation of DDTs uses and its eventual ban.

Poison money

its all about….

Nature is fashioned in food pyramids and chains with higher predators consuming lower predators and producers. While this would constitute biological control in agricultural pest control argued arbitrarily to also have its pros and cons, chemical pesticide control threatens the very existence of the natural control of pests employing natural predators. The increase in crop pests due to the loss of their predators to the very pest control chemicals cannot be ruled out. We are developing an irreversible dependance on monster chemicals which turn around and bite us right in our backs with the ultimate expensive outcome of speeded up species extinctions of which man is not exempted.

It may be ill fated that the issue of Furadan in Kenya has to creep through a slow winding path before anything is done. However, with each passing day there is an intoxicated dying organism, certainly a dying bird and most probably a suffering may be dying human being from exposure to carbofuran or any other deadly pesticide when there are better options.

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

Bunyala poisoning May 2011 099

Fish Poisoning in Lake Victoria

Lake Victoria is Africa’s largest lake by surface area & the largest world’s tropical lake. Overall, the lake supports Africa’s largest inland fisheries therefore a remarkable source of fish at least amongst the riparian local communities and extending into the mainland of the three East African (Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania)countries that share the water body.

A middle-man transporting fish from Sio Port to the market away

A middle-man transporting fish from Sio Port to the market away

Lake Victoria’s bordering swamps harbor unique swamp endemic birds. My assignment during the past few months has been to assess these bird species availability and status in the Sio Port Swamp, Kenya’s last but one Important Birds Area.

An example of papyrus swamp endemic bird species

An example of papyrus swamp endemic bird species

Differentiated from my goal however, it appears wildlife poisoning  has followed me with the opportunity throwing itself in my way yet again. While on a lakeward survey for bird species called for by the impenetrability of  the reeds in the swamp, I noted a number of floating fish carcasses as we slowly navigated a little off-shore skirting the swamp while waterborne. Quietly and fearfully, I wondered whether these had been poisoned and as i contemplated asking my guide, one Hamerkop dived onto the surface of the lake picking a sizeable meal of fish carcass. A few meters further on I noticed a flock of Little Egrets also picking lots of floating fish carcasses.

poisoned fish carcass

poisoned fish carcass

poisoned fish

poisoned fish

Little Egrets of which some were seen eating dead fish

Little Egrets of which some were seen eating dead fish

That was not all; Reed Cormorants, Lesser Black-backed Gull and a Grey Heron gorged themselves on the fouled meal! and more likely victims were about such as the migrant Osprey.

grey heron


At this point I was almost sure the fish were victims of poisoning. As a formality, my guide (a fisherman beyond this temporary guiding task) proclaimed that the floating fish carcasses had been poisoned by unscrupulous, greedy fishermen to boost their catch. He dis not know the name of the substance used in poisoning the fish but certainly said it is a chemical substance bought from agrovets (therefore a pesticide) both in Kenya and across the border in Uganda which is just across the Sio bay.

Later on I inquired from a few security personnel that I have befriended at the police base where I camp if they consume fish from the nearby reservoir and are aware they could be intoxicated. Indeed they said the fish poisoning  cases had been so rampant in the past few years and that they had to arrest a couple of deviant fishermen. While they believed the fish poisoning incidences had declined, they acknowledged that there is a likelihood the deal might have assumed an underground profile with many cases going unreported.

Humans at the site and beyond as well as birds are therefore consuming the intoxicated fish likely by pesticide poisons & there is no immediate telling of the effects of the hideous poison.