Securing the Future of the Largest Ruppell’s Vulture Colony in Southern Kenya
Kwenia has been identified as an Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) by BirdLife International and lies outside of any of Kenya’s protected areas in the Southern Great Rift Valley region of Kenya.
At an altitude of 4082 ft above msl Lake Kwenia is a seasonal lake overlooked by an impressive 15 km long and 140 m high line-up of cliffs that is home to the largest breeding population of Rüppell’s vultures in southern Kenya with up to 220 adults and 64 active nests at its peak.
Several other endangered raptors species live here too, such as the Egyptian Vulture, Taita Falcon, Peregrine Falcon and Lanner Falcon, Verreaux Eagle, and a large number of locally endemic Mountain Kestrels. The Martial Eagle and Brown Snake Eagle used to nest here and could return in the future. In addition, numerous water birds appear seasonally when the lake fills.
Establishing The Kwenia Vulture Sanctuary
The landscape is home to a resident Maasai community, whose long-practiced livestock activities are adapted to the variable semi-arid habitat. Maasai pastoralists have inhabited the rangelands of southern Kenya far back in time in which they have developed a nomadic pastoral lifestyle in co-existence with wildlife. This community is unique in that it can continue these traditional practices due to the remote location.
The establishment of a Protected Area (PA) in the form of the Kwenia Vulture Sanctuary will be made possible through collaboration between the landowners who recognize that in a fast-developing country this rare and valuable piece of the Rift Valley is in critical need of protection. The proposed Sanctuary will cover approximately 130sq km of land (12,600ha), constituting a membership of 16+ landowners who form a perimeter around the seasonal lake and vulture breeding cliffs.
The proposed Kwenia Vulture Sanctuary is a result of twenty years of interest and commitment to protect this unique corner of the Rift Valley. The Kenya Bird of Prey Trust has monitored the Kwenia cliffs for over ten years. During that time a relationship has been formed with the local landowners that we hope leads to the long-term protection of the Kwenia ecosystem.
Robert Kaai, the Kwenia Project Coordinator out in the field talking to members of the community.
Why Kwenia is important
Kwenia serves as the central hub for Rüppell’s vultures that venture out in search of food across the region. The map below shows regional vulture movements in early 2021.
The Kenya Bird of Prey Trust works with a grant from the International Conservation Fund of Canada (ICFC) to formally establish a protected area around the Kwenia cliffs. The Kenya Bird of Prey Trust will facilitate the process of formally establishing the Kwenia Vulture Sanctuary under Kenya law in close collaboration with landowners and local partners.