Armed herders invade Kenya’s most important wildlife conservancy


Eastern Escarpment of the Great Rift Valley, Northern Kenya (Photo by the Luxury Safari Company)

GR: Combine global warming-forced drought with politics and you get indigenous people destroying nature so that they can live a richer life than their neighbors.

Drought in Samburu, to the north of Laikipia, has led to herders ranging further afield than normal. Photograph: Stephen Morrison/EPA

“Thousands of heavily-armed herders are invading conservancies, private properties and smallholdings in Laikipia, one of Kenya’s most important wildlife areas, as they search for pasture for their cattle.

“Over the past couple of weeks, about 10,000 nomadic herders, armed with automatic rifles and driving 135,000 cattle, have left a trail of destruction and chaos in the county, just three hours drive from Nairobi. The herders have indiscriminately killed wildlife – from elephants, giraffes, zebras and lions to family dogs. Residents have been injured, some seriously. At least one person has been killed, according to reports.

“This is just the latest but most serious clash between the herders and the residents of Laikipia, after a series of incursions dating back at least a few years. This time private game lodges, ranches and smallholdings owned by farmers are being targeted systematically. David Mwaweu, who owns a small farm, said that armed herdsmen passed his way as they marched towards private land where they have since been “stealing grass for their cows”.

“The wildlife deaths appear to be a tragic byproduct of the violence. At least six elephants have been killed in the last two weeks, and graphic photos of a decapitated zebra and a skinned buffalo, among many others, have been posted on Twitter and Facebook.“

An elephant carcase found at a Laikipia waterhole. The elephant had been shot. Photograph: Laikipia Farmers’ Association

“The elephants are being shot for several reasons,” said Max Graham, CEO of Space For Giants, a conservation organisation headquartered in Laikipia. “First, the herders are coming into conflict with elephants at water points, and shooting at them to scare them away. Second, some of these herders now in Laikipia, but not indigenous to the area, are traditionally hunters: to kill an elephant is a rite of passage in their culture.” –Adam Cruise, Armed herders invade Kenya’s most important wildlife conservancy | Environment | The Guardian

Rangeland forage availability and management in times of drought – A case study of pastoralists in Afar, Ethiopia

Poor Management of Livestock Grazing

Wild Horses and Weeds

Wild Horses on a Former Great Basin Shrubland Destroyed by Livestock Grazing, Invasive Plants, and Fire. Abusive practices allowed by U. S. land management agencies continue at this site even now that little is left.

GR:  The researchers that performed this study end their report with an urgent call for range science to make Ethiopian grazing sustainable. It is probably a futile call. Range scientists studied and developed sustainable grazing systems in the U. S. almost a century ago. U. S. government land-management agencies applied various “rest-rotation” systems to millions of acres of public lands beginning in the 1930’s. Nevertheless, U. S. ranges have steadily lost productivity. Vast areas have deteriorated beyond any hope of recovery. This happened because desires of an industry consisting of ranchers and corporate conglomerates opposed scientific management from the beginning. U. S. Government agencies under the control of politicians representing the grazing industry never properly applied the restrictions required for sustainable management. Along with lost cattle-raising possibilities, there has been a massive loss of wildlife and native plants. It is now clear that range science cannot prevent short-term human desires from trumping wise management and long-term sustainability.

Grazing Research Highlights

  • “Afar pastoralists mainly depend on natural rangeland resources for their livestock.
  • “Supplemental feeds (e.g., crop residues) were not frequently used.• Average herbaceous cover of rangelands was <25%.
  • “In times of severe drought, migrating with livestock was most common.
  • “Afar pastoralists applied little rangeland conservation and mitigation efforts.

Grazing Research Abstract

Many Eastern African rangelands comprise marginal land, where climatic conditions are poor, access rights are increasingly limited, and land degradation is progressing. We conducted participatory land use mapping and vegetation assessment to identify the most important rangeland locations and their condition in Afar, Ethiopia. Further, we conducted 79 interviews across six villages to assess pastoralist adaptation strategies during drought times. In the dry season, livestock feed resources represented rangelands far away from the village (in 76% of the cases) while 50% and 40% of pastoralists also used cake concentrates and crop residues, respectively. During the wet season, rangeland resources close to villages, albeit with rather low herbaceous cover (<25%), contributed 80% to livestock forage. In times of severe drought, migrating with livestock was the most common (70%) adaptation, in combination with purchasing feed (50%) while <40% of the pastoralists sold or slaughtered animals. Afar pastoralists applied little conservation and mitigation methods, most commonly they removed livestock pressure to allow the pasture to recover. Overall, pastoralists in Afar still strongly depended on natural rangelands and their resources. Hence, to manage these sustainably a monitoring scheme must urgently be established for investigating rangeland quality and resilience to drought and grazing pressure.” –Anna C. Treydte et al. (Continue reading:  Rangeland forage availability and management in times of drought – A case study of pastoralists in Afar, Ethiopia).

Watch “The Sagebrush Sea” Tomorrow

The sagebrush vegetation of the Great Basin is the most abused and devastated ecosystem in America. Livestock grazing, introduced invasive plants, and wildfire have replaced it with invasive alien plants.

Natural History Wanderings

This Wednesday, May 20 the PBS show Nature is showing “The Sagebrush Sea”, a documentary shot, edited, and produced by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s multimedia team. The film focuses on wildlife and conservation in the threatened sagebrush region that covers 250,000 square miles of North America. Watch the trailer at Sagebrush Sea Trailer. Check your local PBS station for broadcast time. Learn more at The Sagebrush Sea.

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Forbes Billionaires Top US Welfare Ranchers List

welfare ranchingWhat do the Koch Brothers, Ted Turner, and the Hilton family have in common with Cliven Bundy? They’re among a group of powerful welfare ranchers that take from the public and keep for themselves.


GR:  Effective lobbying to control Congress requires lots of money. So it’s no surprise that much of the subsidized rangeland is owned by the ultra-rich.
The photograph illustrates one of the devastating aspects of ranching on the western US ranges. After rains, ranchers haul in livestock and water so the cows can clean up the weeds and grasses that spring up. When the new growth is gone, it’s back to the feedlot. The problem is that wild horses, pronghorn antelope, deer, rabbits, mice and many more needed that flush of growth to survive. It’s not surprising that their numbers are declining.