Conservation and Development of the Kiunga Marine Reserve Area

Geographical location:

Africa/Madagascar > East Africa > Kenya


The purpose of WWF in Kiunga Marine National Reserve (KMNR) is to make a significant contribution to collaborative efforts for the sustainable conservation of the reserve's habitats and adjacent areas, and of its biodiversity as species, communities and ecological processes so that their productivity can benefit local livelihoods and more distant communities forever.

Financial support since 1995 by WWF to the conservation and development of the Kiunga Marine Reserve Area. An evaluation was carried out in February 2000 and suggestions alluded to a 3rd phase. The work from February 2000 to Dec 2002 needs review and the next phase finalised to ensure past, present and future initiatives are in-line with WWF, Kenya Wildlife Service, Fisheries Department, Forestry Department, local government, local politicians and local communities needs.

KMNR's Management Plan developed by the KWS in 2000 with technical input by WWF, is not explicit about Marine Reserve management and regulations nor the long term sustainable management structures and modalities of implementation.

A pre-requisite for achievement of Kiunga's purpose is an enabling environment for marine reserves in Kenya. There is willingness to establish a local co-management board and strategy. This will inspire and sustain partner commitment, and the strategy will provide a detailed treatment of integrating co-management process within the guiding framework of the KMNR management plan, and establish a basis for joint annual operational plans.

The co-management board activities will need to be explicitly linked to benefits readily appreciated by resource users. Kiunga Marine National Reserve has great potential in capitalizing on existing reserve activities by developing joint ventures with the private sector building on these activities including small scale high paying ecotourism; sustainable fisheries, self-financing research and academic focusing on information for better management and the small business recycling business venture. The modalities of implementation will need to be explored.

The need to provide an enabling environment for the co-management programme activities will catalyse joint actions and advocacy to deal with obstacles in the institutional, legal and policy environment.

The linkages between district, national and regional initiatives need to be clearly defined, i.e. with the Lamu Conservation and Development Network, the concept of a greater Lamu Community Conservation area, Dodori National Reserve, Boni Forest and the East African Marine Ecoregion.

Financial support for implementation of the existing project is insufficient. Funding opportunities need to be identified for implementation of the next phase of co-management.

It is proposed to begin this process in January 2003 to capitalise on the work to-date and funding opportunities that may arise in April and to pre-empt impending uncoordinated speculative developments which could undermine the conservation and development of the Kiunga Marine Reserve Area.


Given the high priority of marine and coastal areas as focal biomes for WWF in the Coastal East Africa region, the Kiunga area has been targeted for project development as part of the WWF Coastal East Africa Network Initiative (CEANI). Kiunga was designated as a National Marine Reserve in 1979 and covers 25,000 ha south of the Kenya/Somalia border. The Kiunga Biosphere Reserve, designated in 1980 and covering 60,000 ha, contains a diversity of land and seascapes including mangroves, mudflats, lagoons, sand dunes, beaches, sand islands, raised reef islands, sea-grass beds, and coral reefs. Among the most spectacular species are green, hawksbill, and leatherback turtles; white-cheeked, bridled, and roseate terns (the largest breeding colony in the world); Hemprichii's' sooty gull; pelicans; flamingoes; dugongs; dolphins and whales.

Kiunga is located close to the Dodori National Reserve, which offers an opportunity for combining marine protected area planning with an adjacent terrestrial landscape. Dodori supports elephant, a major breeding population of topi, buffalo, waterbuck, lesser kudu, desert warthog, lion, leopard, and cheetah. KWS, the management authority for both reserves, has enthusiastically endorsed a collaborative project with WWF.


The project's objective is to safeguard biodiversity and integrity of physical and ecological processes of the marine ecosystem for the health, welfare, enjoyment and inspiration of present and future generations.

Specific objectives:
1. Increase and later maintain the biodiversity value of Kiunga and Dodori reserves through effective protection and management of their natural resources.
2. Facilitate dialogue between local communities, Kenya Wildlife Service, administrative authorities, and commercial users of the protected areas.
3. Develop and implement a consensus-based management plan with the full input of local communities and administrative authorities.
4. Help identify and involve expertise from external agencies to address specific thematic development issues.
5. Help local community resource user groups secure their place in resource use within the two reserves and attain the capacity to sustainably manage the resource in partnership with KWS, WWF and other institutions.

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