Category Archives: FoASF staff

The nature of our Nature Reserve

Going by the definition of “Nature Reserve”….a nature reserve should be an area with predominantly untouched flora and fauna in their natural state and high conservation value. This week, Silas and Ngala went out to the Nature Reserve part of the Arabuko-Sokoke forest to do disturbance surveys. I had this definition on my mind and therefore expected it to be well protected. We began our five hour survey at  8am and we were to cover at least 5kms. None of us had a water bottle..all we had was a “piki”, GPS, clip board, data sheets and a pen. We hung our binoculars on our necks as usual and we therefore don’t consider that part of anything new with us.

 

 

 

 

 

Walking through the forest is not an easy task and really requires preparedness. We walk sometimes, we crawl other times and we even run, well, there are elephants and buffaloes unhappy to see us traverse their territories! Sometimes we are even more scared when we come across footprints of a likely poacher. If you met a poacher during a survey in the forest without the company of any ranger, your life hangs in the balance. They can do anything; strangle you, pierce your belly with a poisonous arrow, stab you in the throat or even worse enough, tie you around a tree. These are challenges we have faced and even sometimes evaded and we still go on with or without rangers.

When we arrived in the Nature Reserve part of the forest this week, we parked our “piki” on the forest edge and randomly followed one of the active paths leading into the reserve. There was no any form of disturbance seen except some footprints of what we suspected to be poachers heading back to their camp site after fetching some water. We passed through Cynometra and Brachystagia vegetation and all the cut stems were as old as maybe several years back. No new cut tree or laid snare was seen as we walked through.

On our way back after completing 6km, we decided to take a different route in order to explore other parts of the forest. We came across several water pools where elephants and buffaloes drink water and some of them were rich with very healthy grass. There were still no signs of poaching until we came across a stunning observation. Here, we realized that poachers have also taken their techniques a notch higher. When you talk of watch towers, security is the word that comes on your mind and the same thing, happens to come on the mind of a poacher. Visualize this scenario; a bed of poles constructed by tightening thin strong poles together is tight on two horizontal and parallel branches on a tree to make a comfortable stand where one can sleep and sit as well. And this bed to make it worse, is overlooking a water pool rich with healthy grass!! This definitely means that our guy is a person hunting buffaloes that come to graze in the pool as well as drink water. High-tech, isn’t it?? We however saw it and took its coordinates and all that remains is the rangers to go and take a look and get hold of this person.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other than that, we could as well see some signs of death like the skull of a dead Suni. We proceeded towards the edge of the forest and when we came across the Cynometra forest, Ngala turned to me and whispered, ” Hey Silas, this looks like a perfect habitat for the Sokoke Scop’s Owl. Can we walk through and have a critical look?” My response to that was……..

We were very impressed with the state of the reserve and we are happy that the level of disturbance in the nature reserve is very low. However, due to the fact that there are still signs of poachers in the area, there is need to keep a close eye on the reserve in order to ensure that no poacher interferes with the resources in it. We are happy to continue doing our surveys even when situations are extremely hard to operate in. We hope that when we will have sufficient resources, we will put our protocols  a notch higher.

Thank you for reading this blog and recommending it to another person. Most importantly, we thank you for your financial support as well as good wishes.

Mystery Unravelled!!!!

I am talking of our never ending sojourn that has seen us get to learn a lot about natural resources and of keen interest, the threatened species of birds. Ngala is known for being the man behind Sokoke Scops Owl in Arabuko-Sokoke forest and I have accompanied him a couple of times to camp in the forest and be on the move at the crack of dawn as we follow the hooting Owl within thick vegetation. This is just one of the endangered species and at least there has been significant information about it on the web. However, there has been another species whose information is meager that you have to travel all the way to the Kenya coast in order to see it and learn something about it. This is the Clarke’s Weaver!! First was the breeding site discovered in Dakatcha woodlands over a month ago and since then, Ngala and I have been focusing specifically on wetlands within and around Arabuko-Sokoke forest. On 25th of March, this man with incredible mastery of the forest decided to ride his motorbike right on the edge of the forest and towards the south-west edge of the forest, he discovered a wetland. It was early evening and  birds would be returning to their roost sites. He decided to park his “piki” and have a closer look at the site and there he saw the Clarke’s Weavers. Most of them were female in their post-breeding plumage and there were a host of other species including the Zanzibar Red Bishop, Fan-tailed Widowbird and Grosbeak Weavers. Later on, last week, we undertook a visit as a whole team from Mwamba field study centre to witness this discovery by the Disney hero. The wetland as I saw it, was the perfect habitat for breeding of the species-made of sedges and reeds- and with abundance of water.

 

 

 

 

After spending two hours at the site between 5pm and 7pm, we set back to Mwamba and organized for a hike in the forest to all the wetlands. We managed this easily because we could pinpoint the pools from the Google maps. On a rainy Tuesday morning we set out in the forest again, this time without Ngala, to visit all the pools and assess the potential of them being breeding/roosting  sites for the Clarke’s Weavers. Out of the ten we planned to visit, we managed to trace eight and out of the eight, three were perfect for Clarke’s Weaver habitation. We had to stop after the eighth pool because the remaining two were three kilometres apart and it was totally rainy and windy.

 

 

Ngala and I are looking forward to visiting these three potential wetlands during morning and evening hours and spend some time monitoring any Weavers come in or fly out. We are certain that even if we don’t see them this year, we will see them next year during the breeding season between March and April. It is a puzzle to us still because we haven’t seen their nests but we won’t tire in monitoring them until we see them nest in some of these wetlands.

Well, we have the roost site unravelled around the forest for the first time since starting  our ten-year search. What’s next? leave it for us and follow us on this blog and you will definitely be the first to get the information. Your support either financially or through reading and recommending this post to other conservationists gives me the spirit of motivation to keep pushing with Ngala until we bring sufficient information about this threatened bird species.

Now, it’s time to wind up with this weird and wonderful!!!

Sniffing the poachers…..in Arabuko Sokoke forest-Kenya

Poaching is a subject that comes on the mind of almost every conservationist but the task is differentiating between this illegal activity and the entire exercise of getting down to the poacher. David Ngala and I are like “sniffer dogs” but we sniff a rather different thing. We search, GPS mark and remove snares from Arabuko Sokoke forest as well as surveying all the illegal tree logging going on within the forest, We do this by faith and by the fact that even the biblical context calls upon us to be stewards of God’s creations. We do this regularly to help bring the true picture of the kind of illegal things that are happening as a result of ignorance by man over God’s creation. We work closely with Kenya Wildlife Service and the Kenya Forest Service who then make a follow-up. The bible in the book of Jeremiah 12:4 says…”How long shall the land mourn, and the herbs of every field wither, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein? The beasts are consumed, and the birds; because they said, He shall not see our last end”.

 

 

 

 

 

On 8th of March we set out early to a transect in the forest in an area that has been thought to be one of those areas bordering the tensely populated community around. We chose this area randomly as always and when we arrived at the place, we even encountered some men emerging from the forest with machetes. There was little that we could do as we have no authority whatsoever to arrest anyone. We were determined to cover about 5km into the forest using active human paths. We encountered several small trees cut for poles at the beginning and as we moved further deep, we began encountering the heavy stumps that were freshly cut. I could not believe my eyes seeing such huge trees that are home to birds, tree squirrels and even beautiful snakes having been heavily logged. As usual, we did take the GPS points and moved on to other areas. There were decreased number of animal species and less often, we could hear Greenbuls calling and at one point we came across two Crested Quineafowls. It was hot and we were very sweaty and thirsty. Unfortunately, none of us had carried a bottle of water-Ngala does it the camel style-taking a lot of water before starting the transect,  and for me, I was just lazy not to carry a bottle of water because it would become just another burden so hard to bear later on.

It is awful to realize that our forest is being heavily logged and the action being taken is not being fully implemented. Although environmental education has been incorporated, most people have been adamant to practice conservation. A Rocha Kenya is playing its role through creation of awareness through the ASSETS program which targets the surrounding community near Arabuko Sokoke forest by providing bursaries to students around it in order to ease the burden from parents who have to poach into the forest in order to raise school fees.The good news is that some of the forest trees that have been cut down in the past are now regenerating and we saw quite a number.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On our way back, we came across a huge baobab tree, perhaps a few decades old and we were tempted to measure the circumference and try to calculate its diameter. It was about 8.4m in circumference which gave us about 2.7m in diameter. Such a tree grown to a height of about 30m, that’s HUGE!!!  Indeed, the forest has massive resources.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As always, we are determined to use the little resources we have to bring this to you and create awareness through our surveys to the people around the forest and around the world. We apologize for the poor quality of the pictures as they were taken using a phone.

You can also send in your donations through the Donate option on top right. Thanks very much for your support as you have just saved the habitat for an animal in Arabuko Sokoke forest.We also give our thanks for the support we are getting from our sponsors-both corporate and individual as this will propel us to the next level and help conserve the  resources in this forest.

 

Change of staff working with David on the mapping

As regular readers will recall, a year or so ago David was joined by Patrick to help him manage the data on the snares and cut trees that he does regular surveys for. Patrick did a great job with streamlining the system of receiving the GPS data from David and making it usable for mapping and reporting. At the end of 2012, Patrick was offered a post with the government offices in Malindi and sadly has left us for it though we wish him all the very best in his new work – he is already missed!

The good news is that in his place we have Silas Ekesa who recently joined A Rocha Kenya as a Research Assistant and who is very keen to work with David and help him in his surveys and getting the results out to the authorities – Kenya Wildlife Service and Kenya Forest Service. Silas holds a degree in Wildlife Management from Moi University and comes with a passion for birds and conservation and so is the perfect match for working with David!

Silas ringing a Crab-plover

Silas will be the one doing the regular updating of this blog on behalf of David and answering questions from readers on David’s work – please do make comments and encourage them both in this important work.

Personal history

Hallo

My name is Patrick. It has been a while since I started working with David and I am so excited to be doing this. I have been concertrating so much on the GIS WORK.

I was introduced to conservation in 2003 by a very close friend who was working at Arocha Kenya here in Watamu. After a year in the organisation, i got a job as a monkey reaserach assistant for a student from Columbia University who was doing his Phd research. This was a start of my love for wildlife. I worked for a year and a half and later got the same job from a student in Moi University

I actually worked for four years as a research assistant with different students from different countries. During my work as a research assistant I spent some time using a GPS in the course of my field work. Recognizing it as a valuable research tool, I  wanted to know more about how they work the various advantages of using them. That is when I got to know some volunteers at A Rocha Kenya who not only taught me more about a GPS works and how to effectively use it as a research tool, but also how to use it in conjunction with GIS (Geographic Information Systems), a digital mapping program.

That is what i am now doing with David. I work with the data that he brings from the forest to produce reports that are used in helping inform managers how best to conserve the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest. Watch this space for more of my personal history.

Creating maps from David’s snare data

For some time now we have been keen to streamline the process of linking David’s data collection to of illegal activities in the forest with useful outputs that the forest managers can use for the effective control of such activities in the forest. It also helps other conservation organisations such as A Rocha Kenya and NatureKenya focus their community conservation work in the areas which are therefore shown to be where the most illegal activities are happening.

We are therefore delighted that Patrick who has been volunteering with David’s work for a year or more as and when he was able to, is now settled into a regular spot each week to enter David’s data, produce maps of where the snares and cut trees are, and write short reports for the managers, Kenya Wildlife Service and Kenya Forest Service.

More will be added about Patrick, his artistic skills and interest and expertise in GIS that he has learnt over the last couple of years from visiting volunteers at A Rocha Kenya on the “Meet the Team” page – watch this space!

Patrick entering data and producing maps

Patrick entering data and producing maps

Patrick has started working on maps and reports for David and we’ll be posting examples of what he has managed to produce together with updates and news about David’s work – Patrick’s task will be to be writing on the blog and giving you information about the critical work that David is doing. Please respond with comments and also if you are willing to contribute to assist in covering both David & Patrick’s costs, that would be hugely appreciated.

Colin Jackson – FoASF Chairman

New GPS for David Ngala!

Today a new GPS arrived from England, a donation for which we are very grateful! This new GPS will be a lot easier to use, as the previous GPS was getting quite weathered, and the screen was getting difficult to see.  The GPS is the most important piece of equipment used by FoASF. It is used for marking all sites of illegal activity, as well as building all of the maps for the area.

David with GPS

David with GPS

David and Patrick are very happy with the new GPS!

David and Patrick are very happy with the new GPS!

Donations such as these help FoASF and other organizations to carry out important conservation work, so please consider supporting us through the paypal link on the right-hand side of the blog.

GIS training in Samburu

GIS Training in Samburu.

Geographical Information System (GIS) is a conservation tool that is slowly gaining momentum in today’s conservation world. Recently the Ecological Society of Eastern Africa also know as ESEA organized for a GIS training that was held at the Earth Watch Institute in Samburu – Kenya.

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Participants at the GIS training.

The training targeted users of GIS in the field in conservation work, its aim was to help users become familiar with the use of GIS as a conservation tool and how to use it in mapping issues of importance in conservation.

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Participants are shown how to use a GPS.

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Elepehants at Sambur Nature Reserve, where we carried out our field work.

The training drew participants from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. This training gave the participants insight on the of GIS and the use of a GPS as a data entry tool. The FoASF manager, Caroline Lumosi was among the participants who benefited from the training. The new skill gained will be of a valuable resource for FoASF in mapping the illegal activities in the forest.

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GIS training participants.

For more information concerning training opportunities with ESEA kindly visit www.ecsea.org

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Final day of Darwin Film editing course

Final day of Darwin film editing course.

What has a beginning has an end, the final day of the five day editing course finally came. It was hard to believe that within a short time we were able to edit 9 different film all targeted to various audience. The beginning looked almost impossible, however the impossible became possible. We produced 4 – 5minute films and 5 – 9 minute films all on various aspects of the environment, wetlands, waste, forests, rivers and fish.

We will be soon uploading the videos.

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The whole editing crew.

Caroline Lumosi.

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Day two of Film training

Day two of film training

Day two of film training started rather on a frustrating note, we were to edit our previous films geared towards a different audience, the trick was locating our capture scratch, the raw material, most of the files were offline and we could not locate the source of the disk to reconnect them on line. It was a bit frustrating as we did not have enough time to work on our films yet we were taken quite a back, by the time we located our files we had almost lost a half day and we had to burn the midnight light to keep on track.

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during the training

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Busy at work

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