Distribution and predictive niche modeling of five endangered raptors
species in Kenya
Raptors are apex predators threatened globally by electrocution,
collisions, and habitat fragmentation. Most species of raptors are
understudied and largely unexplored. Top predators like raptors depend
on the sustainability of the ecosystems in which they live and migrate.
Knowing how endangered raptors are geographically dispersed, as well as
the factors that may influence how they use their habitat, is critical
for their protection. This research focuses on Kenya, where there are
gaps in knowledge on appropriate habitats and raptor dispersal patterns.
With several species of raptors endangered, it is crucial to determine
their distribution patterns for management and conservation. To evaluate
the size of the realized niches for five Kenyan raptor species at the
risk of extinction, we applied species distribution models (SDMs)
through an ensembling approach using occurrence data from the Global
Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) and environmental covariates.
These species were: Martial eagle, Secretarybird, Bateleur, Steppe
Eagle, and Southern ground hornbill. The five raptors’ distribution
within and outside protected areas and the role of key environmental
predictors in predicting their distribution was estimated. Our findings
indicate raptor distribution in several areas in Kenya that is
predominantly in the south-western region, extending into the country’s
central region. Martial eagle had the largest niche range amounting to
ca.49,169 km2 while the Southern ground hornbill had the smallest niche
range amounting to ca.4,145 km2. Secretarybird had the highest
distribution outside protected areas at 77.57% followed by the Martial
eagle at 76.89%. Significant predictors of raptor species distribution
in Kenya were; precipitation during the warmest quarter, precipitation
during the driest month, and precipitation during the coldest quarter.
Key areas for raptor conservation listed here could serve as foundation
for a number of additional Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Kenya,
according to the A1 Global IBA Criterion for species that are globally