The impact of light on Kenya’s wildlife

This database catalogues the effects of light at night, both natural and artificial, on wildlife species local to Kenya. Artificial light at night is an understudied threat on the African continent, and by compiling information about the sensitivity of wildlife to light, I hope to encourage further study and sensitivity to the use of light, especially in ecologically sensitive areas.

Granted the 2022 Dark Sky Defender Award by DarkSky International for support of wildlife protection & nocturnal conservation efforts.

animallatin namediurnal/nocturnaleffects of light pollution
LionPanthera leoBothLions have higher hunting success on moonless nights when it’s darker. Brightening of the night sky due to light pollution may reduce their hunting success by making them more visible to prey [1]. Lions don’t display any changes in behaviour relative to full moon cycles, most likely because they are apex predators [2]. Just like to herbivores, African lions are most dangerous to humans when the moon is faint or below the horizon [3].
LeopardPanthera pardusBothLeopards in Kenya are one of many large felines in human-dominated landscapes around the world that avoid humans. Artificial nighttime lighting is seen as a sign of human activity, and leopards tend to avoid illuminated areas [1].
Black RhinoDiceros bicornisBothTypes of artificial light at night like skyglow and point source lights from outside of major protected areas may enable the orientation and navigation for poachers pursuing rhinos [1]. Rhinos also apparently exhibit more intrasocial behaviour in darkness [2].
African ElephantLoxodonta africanaBothSolar-powered LED strobe lights deter African elephants from entering croplands [1].
BuffaloSyncerus cafferBothOn darker nights, buffalo are more likely to form herds, since grazing in groups could provide more safety from predators [1].
Spotted hyenaHyaena hyaenaNocturnalArtificial light at night had no impact on hyena diet or den distribution (this was studied in central Israel and needs to be further investigated on the ground) [1]. Hyena’s show no variance in activity patterns with changing moonlight, likely because they are apex predators [2].
African Wild DogLycaon pictusBothAlthough usually diurnal or crepuscular, African wild dogs hunt at night when the moon is bright, and may choose to be nocturnal in places where daytime temperatures increase [1],[2].
Burchell’s zebraEquus burchelliiBothThese migratory zebras may avoid areas with light and noise pollution as they signify high concentrations of human activity [1].
Plains ZebraEquus quaggaDiurnalPlains zebras are sometimes active before moonrise, maybe in an effort to be unpredictable to lions [1].
Cape HareLepus capensisNocturnalThese hares exhibit freezing or fleeing behaviours in response to lit areas or lights from cars on roads [1].
Common WildebeestConnochaetes taurinusBothWildebeest tend to hide during dark nights, and as nights get brighter, they are more likely to move into dangerous places where they may encounter lions [1]. These migratory wildebeest may avoid areas with light and noise pollution as they signify high concentrations of human activity [2].
Thomson’s GazelleEudorcas thomsoniiDiurnalGazelles show increased activity after the moon comes up [1]. These gazelles are migratory and may avoid areas with light and noise pollution as they signify high concentrations of human activity [2].
African dung beetleScarabeus satyrusNocturnalWhile dung beetles can’t see individual stars, they navigate by orienting themselves to the Milky Way, which appears as a luminous streak to them, and they move in a straight line relative to it. They are the first known species to do this [1].
Cape serotine batLaephotis capensisNocturnalThese bats consume six times more moths in artificially lit conditions compared to in naturally dark ones [1].

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