Country vows to kill a million of them in next six months

Kenya Wildlife Services insists that Indian House Crows are invasive alien birds creating nuisance for tourists, farmers for decades & harming local avian populations

Photo for representation: iStock

The Kenyan government has declared a war on a bird species of Indian origin, announcing an action plan to eliminate a million of them by the end of 2024.

Clarifying that the birds are not part of the priority ecosystem, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) insists the Indian House Crows (Corvus splendens) are invasive alien birds that have been a nuisance to the public for decades, significantly affecting local bird populations.

Charles Musyoki, director of wildlife and community service representing the KWS director-general, said the government is committed to address the house crow problem, following public outcry by hoteliers and farmers at the Kenyan coast region.

He was speaking at a meeting led by KWS with a consortium of stakeholders, including representatives from the hotel industry, veterinarians specialising in house crow control, Rocha, Vipingo Ridge, and the Wildlife Research and Training Institute, to develop an action plan.  

Considering their scavenging aggressiveness, the Indian house crows have become a menace, preying on endangered local bird species, according to KWS. 

The Indian species has significantly decreased the population of small indigenous birds on the Kenyan coast by destroying their nests and preying on their eggs and chicks, according to Colin Jackson, a conservationist and bird expert at Rocha Kenya. Rocha is a global family of conservation organisations working together to carry out community-based conservation projects in response to the worldwide crisis of biodiversity loss.

He added:

When other indigenous bird populations decline, the environment starts to deteriorate. Pests and insects begin to proliferate, creating a ripple effect. The impact of the crows extends beyond just the species they directly target, affecting the entire ecosystem.

Local birds such as scaly babblers (Turdoides squamulata), pied crows (Corvus albus), mouse-coloured sunbirds (Cyanomitra veroxii), weaver birds (Ploceidae), common waxbills (Estrilda astrild) and various aquatic bird species along the Kenyan coast are severely impacted.

The house crow — also known by various other names such as the Indian crow, grey-necked crow, Ceylon crow and Colombo crow — originated from India and other parts of Asia but has since spread to many parts of the world, aided by shipping activities.

They are believed to have arrived in East Africa around the 1940s and have demonstrated a significant invasive potential, not just in Kenya but across the tropics. Conservationists are afraid the invasive crow population might invade special habitats like protected national reserves, wreaking irreversible havoc like diminishing rare, unique or last species of dying breeds such as Sokoke scops owl (Otus Araneae).

Tourism industry is Kenya’s third-biggest driver of foreign exchange earnings after diaspora remittances and agricultural exports. The Indian crows pose a significant inconvenience to the tourism and hotel industries, disrupting tourists as they enjoy their meals, hoteliers complained. 

Farmers also expressed concerns regarding the proliferation of these crows. Talking to local pressmen, local poultry farmer Mwanjani Runya complained about the aggressive appetite for germinating crops and attack on chicks of the invasive bird species.

“The deadly crows now force us to keep monitoring our chicks for a month because they can carry up to 20 in a day. The crows move in huge numbers. They are intelligent in that some distract the mother hens and ducks, while another bunch waits to attack the chicks,” complained Runya.

This is not the first time the government has initiated plans to control invasive bird species. The previous attempt over 20 years ago reduced the bird population, but the exponential rise due to their remarkable adaptability and association with human settlements has necessitated new plans, according to KWS.

The organisation said it’s keen on using mechanical and targeted methods to kill the birds, even as the Kenya Pest Control and Products Board (PCPB) gave hoteliers the green light to import licensed poison.

PCPB cited poisoning as the most efficient way of controlling the population of the invasive bird species, with their burgeoning population estimated to be a million in the Kenyan coast region alone.

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