Posted on 23 November 2012
Conservation efforts by WWF and other environmental organizations have continued to forge ahead following Kenya designating the Tana River Delta as a Wetland of International Importance. With the Ramsar Secretariat’s
announcing that the Tana River Delta is now a Ramsar Site, the 163,600-hectare delta (02°27’S 040°17’E) becomes East Africa’s second most important river mouth wetland after the Rufiji Delta in neighbouring Tanzania.
Kenya already has 5 designated Ramsar sites in the Great African Rift Valley, namely lakes Naivasha, Elementaita, Nakuru, Bogoria, and Baringo; providing enhanced tourism, employment for Kenya’s tourism sector, vibrant horticultural industry around Lake Naivasha, steam geysers in Lake Bogoria, and Kenya’s first sanctuary for the critically endangered black rhino in Lake Nakuru National Park. In total, Kenya's 6 Ramsar Sites cover 265,449 hectares.
The Tana Delta forms an area of rich biodiversity for sea species including fish and prawns, five species of marine turtles. There are a host of terrestrial animals such as the African Elephant, Tana Mangabey, Tana River Red Colobus, and White Collared monkey. In addition to more than 600 plant species, the Tana Delta is a home for many bird species and is a critical transit point for migratory water birds such as waders, gulls and terns.
According to Coastal East Africa Initiative leader Peter Scheren, the importance of the Tana Delta to Coastal East Africa cannot be underscored enough considering the numerous challenges facing the region.
“The Tana Delta is an important ecosystem for Coastal East Africa which continues to face several challenges. Statistics indicate that a mere 10% of the original coastal forests of Eastern Africa remain, fragmented into 400 patches that cover 6,250km² in Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique. The fact that the Tana Delta is now the latest Ramsar Site in Africa is a boost in efforts to conserve the remaining forest cover and help secure the livelihoods of communities’ dependent upon this important ecosystem,” noted Mr. Scheren
Currently, over 20 million people live in and along coastal forests and landscapes in eastern Africa. The survival of these people is highly dependent on the availability of basic natural resources such as timber, wood-fuel and charcoal, which are extracted from forests, causing a serious dilemma; their dependency and consequent exploitation of these resources destroying the very basis of their existence. The pressures are rapidly rising as the population is expected to double by 2030 putting a serious and already present strain on the meager natural resources present in Coastal East Africa.
WWF implements several conservation projects at the Kenyan coast including the rehabilitation and protection of the Kaya and Boni Dodori forests, the conservation of sea turtles and livelihood enhancing activities.
By John Kabubu
WWF Coastal East Africa Initiative