This video of struggling intoxicated African Openbills, recorded about a month ago sums up the current situation of bird poisoning in Bunyala, Kenya.
During 2009, the first study of this kind in Kenya documented tallies of deliberately poisoned birds for human consumption in Bunyala Rice Irrigation Scheme. Over 30 species of birds were affected with over 3000 dying from poisoning out of the 8000 observed live individuals during 10 day surveys for 10 months . The dire effects of the practice to the human population have not yet been assessed but there is no doubt that humans continue to suffer unknowingly. These activities were highlighted on this blog and were for long regarded inaccurate and unreal, atimes outrageously branded as unlawful creations of the main authors of this blog; that we would direct the poison-poaching activities on the ground to create the scandalous effect then broadcast it to the public. Misunderstandings therefore ensued characterized by accusations and denials especially between WildlifeDirect and relevant government and other responsible departments with little action to arrest the situation. Nonetheless, we eventually settled on negotiations with a successful multi-institutional fact-finding trip to Bunyala during last year. Unanimous practical recommendations were passed by all involved but one year later, there has been no action to implement even the most vouched for effective recommendation- education campaign to the public.
Surveys during December 2011 – January 2012 observed an auspicious situation (although isolated cases of bird poisoning were still reported) with poaching teams reported disintegrated and absorbed in other trades particularly fishing and rice farming. This was attributed to the fact-finding trip that was regarded by locals as forewarning of the soon to follow punishment by government authorities. Local administrative officers on the site also stayed on high alert. In the few months that followed, I was informed on the improving situation on the ground mostly by telephone correspondence.
My visits at the site starting April 2012 however observed an escalating situation. On my first day of the survey, an intoxicated Openbill was pursued and captured on my camping grounds. The poacher immediately strangled the bird unaware that he was being watched. My 2 scouts also reported that there had been a massive dove and pigeon harvest through poisoning during March into April 2012. I noted during the few survey days that I was on site of May, June and July 2012, poisoning of Fulvous Whistling Ducks and the African Openbills. During this period there was flooding of the rice fields in preparation for the planting of the crop thereby attracting large flocks of water birds.
Above is my illustration that we are still faced by the dreadful problem of deliberate bird poisoning characterized by dismal attention from relevant authorities, meagre man power in the field and lack of the much needed funds. Yet someone has to act to rescue all biodiversity at stake here; to end the massacre on the birds at these important concentration centres for the species and potential human intoxications. We are just starting the Palaearctic and Oriental bird migration season into Kenya and other southerly territories. Poison-poaching activities will therefore conveniently peak at Bunyala and other major rice irrigation scheme with this problem to maximize kills on the abundant avian resource. I will therefore kindly call on your support in the next few days for localized education campaigns, advocacy initiatives and poacher recruits as scouts and birding guides.