Wildlife species and numbers in Taita Wildlife sanctuary
The sanctuary’s location forms a critical dispersal and migratory area for Tsavo’s wildlife. Coupled with the fact that it lies within a biodiversity hotspot area, it holds great ecological importance and species significance. It is therefore crucial to ensure the retention of the ecological integrity of this habitat through application of efficient and effective best management practices. This is achievable through accurate and reliable monitoring data that then guides on management decisions.
The total ground count is carried out annually in documenting the spatial distribution of all species of animals found in the sanctuary. The wildlife road count was initiated in 2013 is conducted twice in a year, during the wet and dry season, so that spatial and temporal distribution of wildlife can be compared seasonally.
The sanctuary hosts diverse species of mammals that include Elephants, Lion, Buffalo, Giraffe, Eland, Oryx, Lesser kudu, Zebra, Impala, Dik Dik, Water buck Gazelle, Cheetah, Leopard amongst the 56 animals recorded in the sanctuary.
The sanctuary was delineated into 6 blocks which were defined by features such as roads, river, escarpment edges, hills or the sanctuary boundary and only those wildlife spotted within the respective blocks were recorded by the team to minimize double counts. Data collection was done using sampling route method which involved driving on the roads in the sanctuary, making observations and recording data on wildlife species including intrusive livestock. Distribution maps were created using ArcGIS software 10.4 (ESRI, 2015).
Each block was allocated to a counting team equipped with a 4×4 wheel drive vehicle, a GPS, Compass, writing material, a team of observers and a guide. The teams drove along elevated grounds and recorded all wildlife and livestock spotted, noting GPS location, distance to animal, species, age and sex, and activity. All wildlife along the block boundaries was noted and their numbers compared with neighboring teams. Each team was accompanied by a ranger who had qualified knowledge of the sanctuary and in identifying wildlife species.
All animal species that were spotted and recognized from the vehicle or ground including livestock were counted.
Birds checklist of the Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary
An annual bird wildlife count is carried out in the sanctuary to establish the bird species trends and diversity. During the wet season of 2019 the avifauna totaled were 57 species from 24 families. Of these, seven species recorded are listed by I.U.C.N red list species, three are under Nearly threatened (NT) that includes the White-backed Vulture Gyps africanus, Rüppell’s Vulture Gyps rueppellii and White-headed Vulture Trigonoceps occipitalis. Four of the species are listed by I,U.C.N as endangered (E) and these are the Lappet-faced vulture, Torgos tracheliotus, Speckled Mousebird Colius striatus, Black-lored Babbler Turdoides sharpie, African Grey Flycatcher Bradornis microrhynchus