17 February 2010 - 20H12
AFP - Kenya's carnivores -- one of the east African country's big tourist attractions -- could all be extinct in the next 50 years unless action is taken, a minister warned Wednesday.
Fifty years ago Kenya had around 30,000 lions, 10,000 leopards, 10,000 cheetahs, 20,000 wild dogs and 50,000 hyenas, Wildlife Minister Noah Wekesa told reporters.
Experts say the country now has just 2,000 lions, between 800 and 1,160 cheetahs and just over 800 wild dogs.
"If we don't do anything ... looking at these figures in another 50 years' time we will not have any wildlife in Kenya," Wekesa warned as he unveiled conservation measures.
Habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict -- exacerbated by a series of failed rainy seasons -- are blamed for decimating the carnivores' population.
Kenya's human population, which stood at 22 million in 1988, has almost doubled and is expected to double again by 2050, pushing people to settle in areas they would previously have rejected as barren.
Among the strategies by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to boost the animals' population are the setting up of conservation zones on private and community land as opposed to just in protected areas and ensuring that local communities reap tangible benefits for conservation.
KWS scientist Charles Musyoki said the measures, some already being implemented, "seek to provide for the co-existence of large carnivores with people and livestock" by carefully examining the needs of each species.
"Humans have been here for thousands of years as have carnivores and they got on. Somehow it has been coming to a flashpoint recently," said Mordecai Ogada, a member of the KWS Large Carnivore Taskforce.
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org