Sometimes I take a stroll in the Arabuko Sokoke forest to do bird watching and I never mind where I step because I really have my eyes fixed on the birds. I have been used to hanging my binoculars around my neck and walking with my eyes fixed on tree branches and my ears keen to listen to bird calls. Last week on Friday I joined the Disney hero for snare and cut stem survey and was shocked after completing our 5km transect. I am Silas Ekesa and I am currently coordinating Ngala’s surveys and this opportunity has always given me a chance to unravel a lot of mysteries that still put our conservation efforts into a complex puzzle. We set our journey for Mkongani at exactly 8am, which was precisely 24hrs after I left the same forest at a different location after a whole night of camping to trace the Sokoke Scops Owl. Ngala got me on a motorbike and we were there at exactly 9.30am. Right near to the edge of the forest at the beginning of the transect we came across a relatively open area where most Brachystagia and Manilkara spp had been cut down for charcoal burning and timber harvesting.
We counted up to 21 stems of cut tree within the first 2km and came across a few debarked trees which I couldn’t tell the reason why they were being debarked initially. Shortly afterwards, we diverted and followed the transect deep into the forest away from the main path. Here, the forest became thick and bushy and that is when I started coming across the snares and had to think out why the snares were more common there. I realized that there different types of snares and Ngala explained to me the types according to the sizes and their position. There were snares for Duikers, Elephant shrews, Crested Guineafowls, Bushbucks and some meant to detect the presence of any other person passing through a given path. Ngala and I removed 21 snares by the time we got to the end of the transect and all of them were GPS marked for purposes of management and community-based environmental education.. On the way, we had also counted and recorded over 50 cut and debarked trees whose GPS points were also taken.
During this survey, I noticed two things; one is that trees are poached near the main paths probably because of safety and ease of transport of timber and poles by poachers and two, the traps are laid away from the main paths probably because most of these animals are moving and feeding away from main paths where there is a lot of disturbance. You now know why you need to mind your steps.
There was very few animals we encountered while doing our survey which means there are chances that either they are migrating to run away from disturbance or they have been poached to critical levels. Our major worry and concern is about the local endemics such as the Elephant shrew and the Sokoke Scops Owl whose habitats are being damaged. David Ngala and I will continue with our efforts to conserve our forest and all the natural resources in it and we hope that your support through donations will boost us to conserve this only remaining patch of forest and the endemic species in it till you come to see it with your own eyes. Our pictures may not be of good quality because Ngala’s camera has a broken screen and I therefore used a poor quality camera. Thanks to all of you who are already supporting us and we will keep you up to date with every step we take. Your support of this project is highly welcome through donations to help us get materials such as a good quality camera.