David Ngala is no ordinary man. For over 30 years he has been working and fighting for the conservation of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest – the home to six threatened species of birds among many other interesting and intriguing rare wildlife. David’s passion and commitment to conservation has led not only to this blog being set up to raise awareness and give you the opportunity to support him directly, but also to him receiving a number of accolades for his efforts. The latest of these has been the incredible honour of being awarded one of just six Disney Conservation Heroes for 2012. This is a wonderful tribute to the man who knows Arabuko-Sokoke Forest better than anyone alive today and who has it in his heart to keep pushing for better conservation action for it.
The Peregrine Fund, through Munir Virani who David assisted with his Masters project on Sokoke Scops Owls in the early ’90s and which set Munir on his path of raptor conservation now as P Fund’s Africa Programs Director, put David’s name forward for the award and he was selected and awarded it in Nairobi at a ceremony in the Kenya Forest Service headquarters. None other than the country director, Mr D.K. Mbugua awarded David with his award and it was great to have Munir present together with Raphael Magambo, A Rocha Kenya‘s National Director, since David is working very closely with A Rocha in Arabuko-Sokoke.
Munir has posted some great photos of Ngala receiving his award on his own blog including this one:
Congratulations to David for his awesome efforts – and thank you to all those who have supported and continue to support him in his conservation work of working with community members and surveying cut trees and removing snares in Arabuko-Sokoke Forest. If you would like to support him further, please donate through the donate button on this blog.
David received an invitation two weeks ago to atted an ornithological congress by the Pan African Ornithological Congress (POAC) which will be held at Arusha in Tanzania.The congress will be held on 14th to 21st of October.
PAOC is a regular congress which is held after every four years to talk about African Ornithology with the aim of promoting conservation of African birds.
He has been requested to make a presentation of the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and the bird monitoring programme he has been working on.
David in one of his Bird surveys
It has been almost three months since the last post on the electric fence.The research computer that i was using to do Davids work crashed and had to be taken for a repair.It was a major problem which took some time to be fixed.Because the problem was major,the GIS programme which i use in producing maps was lost.This also took some time.We have two volunteers here who worked and were able to re install the programme.The computer is now fully fixed.
Research computer fixed
While the computer was not functioning, alot of activities were on with David.David has been going into to the forest with KWS and KFS staff more frequently now.Last week David and the rangers were in the forest and were able to rescue a trapped sykes monkey.
- KFS rangers holding traps
Earlier last week, David went to the western side of the forest around Malanga area where the forest is covered with cynometra thicket. As he was walking along a path,he met with few community members who were talking about the electric fence project that has stopped.They were complaining that,that side is the only side remaining to be covered by the fence.It is about 5 km area where the fence is yet to be put.
This area is a threat to the community members since wildlife like the elephants could come out through this area and cause problems.Because of this,David took the initiative as a community member to write a letter to the Director of the Kenya Forest Service to ask him to allow for the completion of that remaining area.
In his letter,David told the Director how the idea and the funding of the fence came about and asked,his office to help complete the remaining area. The letter was copied to the forest management team and all the stakeholders of the forest.
It has been a while now and David has not gone to the forest.Over the last one month David was struggling on taking his daughter in and out of hospital and unfortunately last month his daughter passed on.It has been a tough time for David and he is still very destructed from this loss.His daughter died on 10th of April and was burried on 14th of the same month.David has been in his village ever since and he came back just a week ago.
However there has been alot of work going on in the office, finalizing the data entry and arranging all the data from the previous year.I have been able to produce last years maps and have started doing this years maps and report writing.It has been very interesting to see the maps after a struggle in putting all the the data in order.This is the beginning of what we will be doing every month, to produce monthly maps and reports to help the Arabuko-Sokoke team in conserving the forest
Two weeks ago David received an invitation from Ngomeni Mangrove Conservation group who wanted to share ideas of mangove conservation.Ngomeni is on the south west side of Arabuko-Sokoke forest. This part of the forest is covered by the cynometra tree species.
David honored the invitation and went, first meeting with one forest guard who is in charge of controlling mangrove forest in the area. Mr Evans Jefwa,one of the forest guards, who is doing a very good job in training the community to plant trees, took David round the area and showed him the mangrove seedlings planted.
He later explained to David that there are two groups which are working to plant mangove trees.David was very excited to see these efforts and encouraged them to continue with this and also to start other projects on rearing chicken and also fish farming. This will later help them in generation of income.
After last weeks survey in which we discovered two camp sites, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) took immediate action and on Wednesday15th David and I were accompanied by the researcher at KWS plus two rangers, to the camp sites. We set out at 8:40am this time with the KWS Car. On our way we saw a dead Eastern Bearded Scrub-Robin( Cercotrichas quadrivirgata). We could not tell the cause of death but David thought it could be a snake bite.
We arrived at Munir site around 9:16am and set up everything to go in. After only 300 metres walk we saw a cut tree log written TOKENI HATARI which literally means LEAVE DANGER. There were two ways we could take this message written on the cut trees 1) The tree poachers were trying to communicate with their partners and warning them that they had been found out, or 2) The message was meant for us, attempting to intimidate and scare us away from their camp… As we went further to the campsite we saw the same message more than twice. On reaching the camp we were able to judge that the messages were meant for us since there was one which said PLIZ CALL OR SMS FOR MAELEWANO YA KAZI which is to say that “WE SHOULD CALL FOR NEGOTIATIONS”.
At the same site there was another writing which was a warning to the other poachers that they should leave since we had been at the camp site (TOKENI JAMAA WAMEINGIA HADI HAPA meaning “Get out of here! The rangers have come right to this spot!”). They must have seen our footsteps from our first survey.
After taking pictures,we continued with the survey and took another path. This path had a lot of snares and less tree cuttings. The KWS rangers took note and said they will be surveying that area regularly. It was a very cloudy day and later on the path it rained on us but luckily it was not a heavy downpour. We walked out of the forest at around 1:00pm.
It was a shocking and scary day since we did not know what the poachers were up to with the intimidating messages and this was the first time that I saw this. It was at least safer with the two rangers who were on high alert after seeing that there were a lot of writings.
Rangers reading message
David has been continuing with the surveys in the forest while I am still doing the final reports for last year. Last week on 04/02, David and I went to the forest to do a survey. We went to Komani area to a place known as Munir site, which is in the middle of the Arabuko-Sokoke forest .It was a very rough ride since it is a very sandy road and we were on a motorbike, but David rides well. We arrived safely and started the survey at around 8:30am.
We were very lucky to see a Red duiker from afar immediately. We finished setting the GPS for the survey. This was my very first time to see a Red duiker and I was very excited. I wanted to take a picture, but the camera could not zoom in well ,the duiker was meters away. David explained that before, it was possible to see many of this species but due to destructions in the forest, we were very lucky to see one.
Again, this was a very lucky day for us to see another animal, and, this time, it was a dwarf mongoose. They are very fast animals and we were not able to take a picture, again, since it dashed away on seeing us, though it was very close. As we went further into the forest, we saw alot of destruction on the brachyleana tree species which is mostly used by poachers for carvings.
As we went further, we saw an abandoned camp site which had left overs of the carvings and also feathers of guinea fowl plus lots of paper bags.This path we took led us to another campsite, which we saw as active and though the poachers were not there. There was clear evidence that they had just left maybe to get other things since they left everything there. Water, cooking utensils, sleeping nets and even few of the carvings were left. We have already reported this to the concerned authorities – Kenya Forest Service(KFS) and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), whose support we really appreciate.On this day we were not able to finish our survey, as David suddenly started feeling very sick that he had to go rest for 30 minutes. So we ended our survey at around 1:30pm. I had to ride back since David was not well.
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.
The East Coast Akalat is a rare bird at the Arabuko-Sokoke forest. It is known to occur in small groups in various other forested patches, however, the single largest known population is found in the Arabuko-Sokoke forest (Matiku et al. 2000). The East Coast Akalat has been classified as Near Threatened (likely to be seriously threatened in the near future), due to habitat fragmentation and loss in the forest in which it occurs (BirdLife Internatinoal 2008, IUCN 2007). (*From a report written and produced by A Rocha Kenya*) David usually conducts 12 East Coast Akalat surveys during December of every year. Last year David and Andrew , who is a research assistant at A Rocha Kenya, went to Komani, which is almost in the middle of the forest,
Ngala reading the GPS during the survey
to do this survey.
They went out at 5:50 am and on their way they observed few suni footprints, which they were happy to see, as it is rare to see suni due to the trapping which was been taking place in that part of the forest. Despite the seemingly reduced number of mammal activity in the forest, there was still the usual abundance of birds calling in the forest.
It was a nice morning for a survey and they were able to identify 11 different East Coast Akalats calling along their transect. They were not fortunate enough to see the bird, as it was calling from within dense forest, but they closest one they heard was a mere 5 meters from the trail.The survey ended at 8:15 am.
On their way out of the forest David took Andrew to see the Sokoke Scops Owl; another rare bird in the forest. After hiking 50 meters off the road along a barely discernable path through the dense forest, David pointed out two of the owls roosting 5 meters above their heads in the forest canopy.
David and Patrick are currently working on writing an end-of-the-year annual report to give the the KFS to assist them in the protection and conservation of the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest. We will hopefully be posting some of his results and observations on the blog in the weeks to come.