(Kilifi, Kenya – 28 March 2023) – Marine megafauna are under the spotlight as scientists begin an aerial survey to assess undersea wildlife along parts of the Kenya coast.
As Kenya’s first major maritime survey in 29 years, scientists hope to learn vital information that will show how populations of sea life have thrived and deteriorated. It will also look at how sea life has responded to man-made threats such as climate change, pollution and overfishing.
The Exercise surveying giant sea creatures off the coast of Kenya, it is being conducted by Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), the Wildlife Research Training Institute (WRTI), and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).
Dr Patrick Omondi, Director of WRTI, said healthy populations of marine megafauna are a key indicator in assessing the health of ecosystems and play a crucial role in maintaining their balance.
“Worldwide, we have seen a decrease in important marine megafauna, such as sea turtles and sharks, inspiring a call for worldwide action to protect these creatures and their habitats,” said Omondi.
“Kenya is committed to implementing international conservation measures—including this census which is expected to inform the national blue economy plan. This survey will provide scientific information to support marine spatial planning, pinpoint areas that need to be protected to conserve marine megafauna and identify potential new tourism opportunities. This will help ensure a healthy environment for a sustainable blue economy and preserve marine megafauna populations.
Maurice Nyaligu, the Eastern Africa Regional Head of Programs for IFAW, underlined the importance of the survey to Kenya's Vision 2030 regarding the blue economy, IFAW's marine strategy for Eastern Africa, and the economic benefit for the counties involved.
"The survey has come at a crucial time to show the conservation and economic value of Kenya's marine resources to the nation and the region in general," said Nyaligu. "IFAW is proud to be part of this process at such a pivotal moment, given that the future of our marine life is on the line" " he concluded.
The survey uses a crewed aircraft to traverse parts of the sea off Kenya’s Indian Ocean coastline to photograph aquatic creatures such as whales, dolphins, and dugongs and without disruption to the animals. In the first test flight on, March 28, 2023, 20 dolphins were spotted in the Mombasa region and there are hopes that more will be seen.
Dr Erustus Kanga, Director General of KWS, said the survey will be beneficial in creating Kenya’s marine ecosystem management plans and species conservation approaches.
“The survey will help broaden marine conservation areas to meet the 30 by 30 agenda. This partnership will also be helpful in pinpointing prime locations to be incorporated into Kenya's marine conservation areas, making environmental protection a significant part of the Kenyan blue economy and diversifying nature-based tourism projects,” said Kanga. "The cooperative spirit of this project exemplifies the Integrated Coastal Zone Management approach.
The Wildlife Research and Training Institute (WRTI) is a State Corporation established under the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act (2013). It is mandated to coordinate and undertake wildlife research and training in Kenya. WRTI ensures the national wildlife research agenda provides reliable scientific information on emerging wildlife conservation and management challenges. Visit www write.go.ke
Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) is a State Corporation established under the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act (2013). KWS is mandated to manage and conserve wildlife in Kenya. KWS manages wildlife-protected areas in Kenya and seeks to secure the biodiversity heritage of Kenya and align conservation measures to global standards. Visit www.kws.go.ke
About IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare)
IFAW is a global non-profit helping animals and people thrive together. We are experts and everyday people, working across seas, oceans and in more than 40 countries around the world. We rescue, rehabilitate and release animals, and we restore and protect their natural habitats. The problems we’re up against are urgent and complicated. To solve them, we match fresh thinking with bold action. We partner with local communities, governments, non-governmental organisations and businesses. Together, we pioneer new and innovative ways to help all species flourish. See how at ifaw.org
Dr Mohammed Omar
Principal Research Scientist
M: +254 722 764691
m: +254 713202210
Kenya Wildlife Service
M. +254 722 656119