Sidney Shema

National Museums of Kenya
BII expert in: Birds

I am based at the Ornithology Section of the National Museums of Kenya. My main focus is on growing the coverage of the African Bird Atlas – which includes our local project in Kenya, the Kenya Bird Map. I am also very keen on birds of prey and have done some research on raptors in southern Kenya.

I have seen dramatic changes in land use over a very short period on the Athi Plains of southern Kenya, where I did focused raptor surveys from 2016 to 2018 and have continued to monitor on a more ad hoc basis since then. Some raptors that were fairly common when I began surveys in the area, such as the Eastern Chanting Goshawk, are now becoming harder to find. The trend has mainly been a shift from wide open livestock rangeland to a fenced mosaic of housing developments, flower farming, small-scale subsistence farming, and mining, with fragmented patches of rangeland remaining. Electricity and transport infrastructure has also expanded exponentially and I have recorded some mortalities on new power lines. These changes began long before I started my surveys but the rate of change seems to be accelerating. Several bird species, such as the Kori Bustard, seem to prefer the short-grass plains of the heavily-grazed rangelands to the longer grass in the protected area (Nairobi National Park). Such changes may therefore affect their local population significantly. Loss of rangelands is also negatively impacting the local community, as they are primarily pastoralists and therefore depend on the rangelands to graze their livestock.