Nairobi’s leopard is threatened by human encroachment, scientists say

By David Njagi

leopard

The leopard population in Kenya’s Nairobi National Park is on the decline due to what scientists link to disturbance of their migratory corridors.
A seven year study has found out that encroachment of the leopard’s migration corridor is restraining the female to venture out to look for a male. This disrupts their mating cycles.
For instance, the study, conservation biology for the leopards in Kenya, says a male leopard needs to control a terrain of about 100 square kilometers.
The Nairobi national park, which hosts about 17 leopards is 117 square kilometers big. This means only a single male can control this territory, explains Yumi Yamane, a guest researcher at Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).
“It can lead to violent confrontation for females and territory among the males leaving them severely wounded,” explains Yamane. “This can affect their mating ability.”
But the leopard also likes to live in secrecy and explore its territory under the cover of the bush, she says.
“This means the female leopard cannot go out to look for a mating partner because the migratory corridor has been disturbed by infrastructure development,” argues Yamane.
According to the researcher, Nairobi national park is a very important habitat for the leopard because it likes to perch on trees.
But huge infrastructural projects in road, railway and housing have led to the felling of trees within the leopards’ migratory corridor to pave way for construction.
“Leopards like to perch and move around where there is plenty of tree cover,” argues Yumi. “If the migratory corridor is disturbed then their numbers will decline very soon.”
KWS officials say they are trying to solve the problem by relocating the Nairobi leopard into other habitats like Meru national park.
However, this is proving difficult because the newcomers must fight for acceptance in the new habitat.
Oftentimes, the bullied cats stray into communities leading to increased human-wildlife conflict, argues Geoffrey Bundotich, an official at the Meru national park.
“The communities are against the re-introduction of leopards from other parks because the cats often move and resettle outside the parks,” explains Bundotich.
It is a challenge that KWS is grappling with, and according to Yamane, there is no solution in sight since the leopard is very difficult to monitor.
However, Edin Kara, KWS officer in charge of parks and reserves, says the important thing is continued monitoring to find out how the re-introduced animals can be able to adopt.

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About seventysixthstreet

Science and human rights journalist, Kenya
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