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Kenya Space Agency, Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy collaborate to intensify wildlife conservation efforts

The five-year agreement will see both organizations investing in the development of skills, expertise, competence, experience and mechanisms for ecological monitoring in support of ecosystem conservation.

Mountain bongos at Fairmont Mt Kenya Safariclub hotel in Nyeri county on July 8, 2019. PHOTO/ COURTESY

The Kenya Space Agency (KSA) and Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy (MKWC) on Tuesday announced a collaboration, marked by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in geospatial technologies for biodiversity conservation.

Focused on the critically endangered Mountain Bongo and its habitat on Mount Kenya, the five-year partnership aims to leverage space technology for real-time monitoring, community engagement, and sustainable land management.

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The Mountain Bongo, which is native to Kenya and is listed as “Critically Endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), is on the verge of extinction, with less than 100 individuals remaining in the wild.

“The collaboration’s primary goal is to restore the severely endangered Mountain Bongo population and its habitat, Mount Kenya, with a secondary goal of encouraging community involvement in the conservation of the ecosystem, which also houses an important water tower,” the two agencies said in a statement

The agreement involves mutual investments in the development of skills, expertise, competence, experience, and ecological monitoring techniques to aid in ecosystem protection.

“This partnership heralds an exciting era of technology-infused conservation and will also go a long way in facilitating the local communities to witness how space science can be used to improve their immediate environment. The collaboration identifies conservation education as a key intervention and will seek to create opportunities to inspire the young people into futuristic conservation,” they added

In the deal, MKWC will have a dedicated setup to demonstrate the use of space technology in animal and habitat conservation.

Brig. Hillary Kipkosgey, Acting Director General of Kenya Space Agency, stated;, “This MoU signifies a commitment between KSA and MKWC to collaborate in using space technologies in managing and conserving our wildlife as part of our national heritage and a natural resource that serves as a great tourist attraction to our country.”

The collaboration also places an emphasis on education, with KSA’s Space Clubs and MKWC’s Education program collaborating to inspire and educate young people about cutting- edge space technology and conservation. The MoU facilitates collaboration in assessing land 
use changes, deforestation, and soil degradation, providing crucial data for shaping sustainable land management strategies.

“We are excited and proud to be utilizing space technology and earth observation data through the partnership with Kenya Space Agency. This collaboration will take us to the next level in understanding the Mountain Bongo’s habitats and behaviours, using space technology to provide real-time monitoring capabilities and valuable data to inform our conservation strategies.” said Dr. Robert Aruho, Head of Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy

The partnership aligns with global practices where geospatial technologies have successfully been employed in wildlife conservation. Both KSA and MKWC are optimistic that this fusion of space technology and conservation efforts will make a profound impact on preserving the critically endangered Mountain Bongo and enhancing Kenya’s biodiversity.

As the world focuses on global solutions and climate action this week at COP28 this partnership demonstrates commitment by KSA and MKWC to contribute towards the 1.5° C target for limiting global warming to reduce the harmful effects of climate change and reduction of harmful emissions by 1/3 through ecosystem restoration.

In April this year, the Kenya Space Agency (KSA) launched Taifa-1 Sat, Kenya’s first operational 3U Earth Observation satellite to provide precise and timely earth observation satellite data to stakeholders for decision support in natural resources management (including wildlife conservation), disaster management, and environmental monitoring, among other applications.

MKWC works closely with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Kenya Forest Services (KFS) in managing the 776-acre Mawingu Mountain Bongo Sanctuary.

The Conservancy supports its purpose through the ongoing breeding and rewilding of the critically endangered mountain bongo; providing expert care for orphaned, injured, and abandoned animals at the conservancy’s Animal Orphanage; and instilling a passion for conservation among youth through community education programs.

The Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy is in Nanyuki, at the foot of Mount Kenya. It is home to 28 different animal species, and a population of roughly 1,200 different animals.

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