skip to content

GSSC Seminar Series
24 January 2023


Restoring an unwanted past: Wildlife Extinction and Future Conservation in (Northern) Baringo County, Kenya

Dr. Hauke-Peter Vehrs



Baringo County is located in north-west Kenia and Lake Baringo lies in its northern part, a small freshwater lake in the Rif Valley. This region is inhabited by different groups (Pokot, IlChamus and Tugen people) and represents a beautiful travel destination. It is a well-known bird watching site among ornithologists, as Lake Baringo is home to a wide variety of bird species. Larger wildlife, on the other hand, is scarce.
This was not always the case and the region around the lake was a famous destination for colonial explorers and big game hunters from all over the world in the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century. However, this popularity also had its downside, and by the second half of the twentieth century virtually all big game had been either shot or poisoned. Thus, many places in this region still bear names that commemorate these wild animals, although they are locally extinct. This defaunation process has also contributed to a major change in the land cover from a grass-dominated to a bush-encroached savannah, posing a major challenge to pastoralists in the area.
In this presentation, I explore the historical defaunation process in more detail and outline the history of environmental change. Following the description of the Baringo wildlife landscapes of the past and their decline, I discuss recent developments in the region and current conservation projects that are attempting to both regenerate the land cover and reintroduce wildlife. The latter, however, is a difficult task due to the lost link between local livelihoods and wildlife, as the return of certain wildlife species is now undesirable.


Hauke-Peter Vehrs is a post-doctoral researcher in the DFG-funded Collaborative Research Centre 228 “Future Rural Africa: Future-making and social-ecological transformation” at the University of Cologne. He is conducting research in two countries. In Namibia’s Zambezi Region he focuses on human-animal relations, environmental history and future perceptions against the background of extensive conservation efforts in the region. He also conducts fieldwork in Kenya’s Baringo County on pastoral livelihoods, environmental change, ecological invasions and socio-economic transformations.