The term exotic means different things to different people, and when referring to animals it can be said that exotic animals are those which are not native to their current habitat. These animals were either brought into their current homes accidentally or intentionally by man. As populations grow, so does the need for farmland or urban development lead people to infringe on the natural habitats of many animals. This forces the animals to migrate to safer areas, sometimes traveling thousands of miles and end up in new homes.
Kenya has benefited from the migration of different animals from their natural habitat and while this has boosted the wildlife population of the country, it has also come with its own challenges. Poachers and those who would love to capture the exotic animals as pets, keeping them on private farms or ranches which is actually being very selfish. Exotic animals should be allowed to roam freely so visitors and tourists can view them and learn about how to conserve them.
There are a vast number of exotic animals found in Kenya currently and most are now on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Critically Endangered species. Thankfully, Kenya has come up with ways of protecting not only these but all endangered animals in our land. Laws have been enacted that prohibit any activities involving listed species without proper permits. In March 2014, a Wildlife Crimes Prosecution Unit was set up with thirty-five prosecutors. These prosecutors have successfully prosecuted 26 cases of poaching with 78% conviction rate. A small step in the right direction, but one nevertheless. In addition, conservation habitats like Selenkay which is 16kms from the northern border of Amboseli and Lewa Wildlife Conservacy are doing much in the preservation and conservation of these endangered species.
Here below are some few exotic animals found in Kenya.
1. SITATUNGA (MARSHBUCK) – Tragelaphus Spekii
The Sitatunga or Marshbuck is Africa’s only true amphibious antelope. It’s native habitat is Senegal and Sudan, but a few are to be found in Kenya. No doubt these ended up in their current habitat due to migration as the Sahara Desert expanded and affected their homes.
Some of the Sitatunga are found in Saiwa Swamp near Kitale in the Rift Valley province while few numbers can be found in Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania as well as around Lake Victoria. Their main predators are humans, pythons, crocodiles, leopards and lions. They flourish in dense vegetation of perennial and seasonal swamps, marsh clearings within forests, riverine thickets and mangrove swamps. They are most active at dawn and dusk.
2. THE NILE CROCODILE – Crocodylus Niloticus
The Nile Crocodile is the second largest extant reptile in the world. The male adult can grow up to a length of 20 feet and this animal is said to have the strongest bite in the animal kingdom. They were introduced to Kenya through the River Nile which has its source in Lake Victoria, and populations of this formidable reptile are to be found along the swampy regions of the lake in the three East African countries.
The Nile Crocodile’s life is spent mostly underwater and the placement of its eyes, ears, and nostrils on top of its skull enable it to remain submerged all day under water. Added to that are the benefits of its having olive coloring which isn’t easy to spot, and many animals and humans have fallen victim to it. The greatest threat to these large reptiles is human beings who hunt them in large numbers for their skin, and local residents who are terrified of them. Man has to protect himself and his animals and so does this by hunting them down and killing those they find, especially the young ones.
3. VERVET MONKEY – Chlorocebus Pygerythrus
The Vervet Monkey is an arboreal animal, spending most of its time in the safety of the trees. Its preferred habitat is acacia woodland along streams, rivers, and lakes. Though populations of this animal are to be found in mountain areas of up to 1300 feet, it does not inhabit forests or deserts. Though the animal is found all over Kenya, the populations have greatly reduced in recent years, which is serious cause for concern.
This is a very perky animal which is known for its great mischief and on Tuesday, June 7th, 2016, one of these monkeys caused a nationwide power blackout in Kenya. The biggest predators are humans who kill it for its skin and meat and also to prevent the animal from destroying crops on farms. This is another endangered animal found in Kenya.
4. AARDWOLF – Proteles Cristata
The Aardwolf or ‘earth wolf’ in Afrikaans and Dutch is native to Southern Africa and also found in Kenya. Though this animal is of the same family as the hyena, it doesn’t hunt other animals, nor is it a scavenger. It’s a small insectivorous mammal that feeds on termites and insect larvae. The Aardwolf thrives in shrublands, open lands covered with stunted trees and shrubs. It is a nocturnal animal that rests in burrows during the day and hunts for insects at night.
The IUCN has rated them as ‘least concern’ endangered animals but they are hunted by man in large numbers because of the mistaken belief that they prey on livestock. In fact, they are actually good for farms as they eat the termites which can destroy crops in a matter of seconds. Dogs and insecticides on farms are the major causes of death of these animals. They are also hunted for their fur.