NAIROBI, Feb. 6 (Xinhua) -- The survival of iconic vultures that roam the vast plains of southern Kenya is at stake due to retaliatory poisoning of wildlife and livestock carcasses by herders, conservationists said on Wednesday.
According to conservationists, poisoning of vultures has spiked at the world-famous Maasai Mara Wildlife Reserve as herders avenge death of their livestock after an attack by carnivores.
"The existence of vultures is crucial to society because they are productive and provide countless environmental services to humanity and biodiversity. Their survival is not just protected by Kenya's obligations under international law, but also under Kenya's vision 2030 commitments," said the conservationists.
They spoke in the wake of the death of 20 critically endangered vultures on January 27 after they fed on a poisoned hyena on the periphery of Maasai Mara National Reserve.
Paul Matiku, executive director of Nature Kenya said the latest death of vultures was a wakeup call for conservation lobbies to promote training of first responders like rangers and communities on decontamination and safe disposal of poisoned carcasses.
"We need to establish a strong response team that is committed to ensure that vulture mortalities arising from poisoning are at a bare minimum," said Matiku.
Nature Kenya and partners have since 2016 stepped up efforts to stamp out the scourge of poisoning that is to blame for a declining population of vultures and scavengers within the Mara wildlife habitat.
The interventions to eradicate retaliatory poisoning of vultures by aggrieved herders include training first responders on how to decontaminate poisoned carcasses, research and community awareness.
Such efforts have led to a 50 percent decline in the death of vultures from poisoning within the Mara wildlife habitat in the last two years.
Rebecca Garbett, vulture conservation manager at Birdlife International in Africa, decried rampant poisoning of the bird species but called for targeted interventions to eradicate the vice and maintain an ecological balance in the wild.
"The good news is that we have a strong network of people at all levels, working together to respond to a poisoning incident, saving birds from dying, and creating awareness about the value of vultures for the Maasai Mara and beyond," said Garbett.