Database: The Impacts Of Light Pollution On Wildlife In Kenya & Eastern Africa

This database catalogues Kenyan wildlife species which are demonstrably affected by artificial light at night.

Light pollution is a serious threat to the balance of ecosystems, but there has been no direct research conducted on wildlife and ecosystems in Kenya and Eastern Africa. However, some species in Kenya are also found in other parts of the world, and the effects of artificial lighting on these species have been studied elsewhere. Such studies have been cross-referenced with lists of local species to create this database. The information from the research is also summarised to make it readable to a wide audience.

TypeSpeciesSpecies name/ typeLocation in KenyaDocumented effects of light pollutionLink to source
BirdsSeabirdsProcellariiformes (mostly Petrels and Shearwaters, but also affects Alcidae and Anatidae)CoastalBurrow-nesting seabirds are attracted to lights on the ground, and affected by coastal light pollution. This often leads to death from fatal injuries, vehicle collisions, predation, dehydration, and exhaustion.Link
Marine InvertebratesZooplanktonCopepoda, CladoceraLake VictoriaThese zooplankton are most at risk of predation when a full or nearly full moon rises after sunset. Equally bright artificial light that is switched on after a short period of darkness after sunset could be a threat to them too.Link
BirdsSeabirdsGrebesFreshwater bodiesThese seabirds are attracted to bright lights during late night migration, and often die in collision with buildingsLink
MammalsBatsRhinolophus, myotisThese bats are sensitive to light, and avoid artificially lit areas. Unshielded, improperly targeted and bright street lights repel them. The spread of artificial lighting shrinks their available habitat.Link
InsectsMany insects, especially nocturnal insects, are attracted to artificial light at night. Light can be used to trap these insects, but also leads to biochemical, physiological, molecular and fitness changes in them.Link
Marine InvertebratesCoral ReefsCoastalMany coral reefs reproduce in low intensity moonlight. Artificial nighttime light tends to be brighter than a full moon, and impacts many biological processes within the corals, and also affects other life forms that live on it.Link
MammalsBatsIf their water source is illuminated by an artificial light, some bats will either drink water less frequently, or stop drinking altogether.Link
ReptilesSea TurtlesCaretta carettaCoastalArtificial light can disrupt the ability of sea turtle hatchlings to find the sea, which often leads to fatal events on land when they are attracted to the lights there. 'Turtle-friendly' artificial lighting has also been shown to disrupt this ability to find the sea. Link
Mammals, InsectsBats, MothsArtificial light at night makes it harder for moths to evade syntonic bats (bats which use frequencies of 20-50kHz). These bats tend to forage around artificial light sources.Link
Reptiles, Mammals, BirdsSea turtles, Cetaceans, SeabirdsCoastalLighting up fishing nets with LEDs can reduce unnecessary bycatch by alerting some species to the presence of a fishing net.Link
BirdsMigratory birdsNocturnal migrating birds make more frequent flight calls when they fly over areas with artificial lighting, compared to when they are flying over dark areas.Link
Insects, BirdsMoths, Insectivorous BirdsLepidopteraThese moths are very attracted to artificial white light, and a bit less attracted to orange and yellow light. The high number of moths around artificial lights attracts the birds that feed on them, and could increase the risk of the birds dying from collision with man-made infrastructure.Link
MammalsBatsPipistrellus kuhliiMeru National ParkInsects tend to swarm around artificial lights at night. These bats use these artificially lit points as a source of food by hunting the insects that swarm around lights.Link
MammalsBatsPipistrellus kuhliiMeru National ParkThis bat species is shown to be opportunistic, and seeks out artificial light to hunt swarming insects, unlike some other sensitive bats that avoid artificial lighting.Link
MammalsSmall tropical mammalsSmall tropical mammals avoid taking food from feeding stations which have low intensity artificial lighting.Link
InsectsFlies and mosquitoesDipteraMembers of this class of insects often carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans. In general, they are attracted to high-intensity, short wavelength LEDs, but further study is needed. Lighting with dim, red LEDs could help reduce the numbers of these insects in and around homes.Link
InsectsNocturnal mothsArtificial lighting disrupts the behaviour of moths, and can reduce moth populations. Artificial lighting that also emits in ultraviolet frequencies attracts more moths than regular LED lights.Link
Marine InvertebratesCoral ReefsSylophora pistillata, Turbinaria reniformisCoastalLight pollution threatens coral reefs near urbanised areas with light sources. In response to artificial lighting, some coral species showed signs of stress, undergo bleaching, and decrease their rates of photosynthesis.Link
BirdsFeral pigeonsColumba livia domesticaUrbanisation and the nighttime lighting that comes with it makes feral pigeons more nocturnal. Artificial lighting also probably changes their circadian rhythm.Link
MammalsBatsMany bat species are threatened and endangered because of how artificial lights impact their habitat and their bodies. Nighttime lighting can lead to higher chances of mutations of Coronaviruses in bats, which can threaten other species' health, including humans.Link
FishGuppiesPoecilia reticulataLake NaivashaArtificial nighttime lighting affects these fish even though they are not a nocturnal species. Fish exposed to artificial light at night are more likely to leave their hiding places sooner, and remain in open, risky areas for longer. This happens even though the artificial light is only slightly brighter than the full moon.Link
Insects, PlantsAartificial light at night disrupts nighttime pollination. If plants are in brightly lit areas, insects that pollinate the plants visit them 62% less than if the plants are in dark areas.Link
BirdsCommon swiftsApus ApusNesting common swift colonies usually stop being active around sunset if the surrounding artificial lighting is low, but they continue activity into the night under intense artificial light, and may sometimes stay active through the whole night.activiAt the Western Wall, however, swifts remained active throughout the night. This could affect their physiology, breeding cycle, and fitness, and may have cascading effects on their ecosystems.Link