Tag Archives: David Ngala

Recap: David Joins With Group for Monitoring in Boni Forest

In early November, David travelled to Boni Forest, a protected area located along the Kenya-Somali border, to conduct environmental monitoring and assessment surveys alongside a team led by National Museums of Kenya. For two weeks, the group, which included David, Fleur Ng’weno of Nature Kenya, as well as Simon Musila and others from NMK, spent their days trekking through the bush in search of important fauna. During this period, they successfully surveyed the following areas: Kibotho, Sankuri, Mangai, Boni, Dondori Creek, Kiboni, Banahalisi, Kombunu, and Jilokonathi.

Credit: EDGEBlog

Credit: EDGEBlog

According to David, the ecology of Boni Forest is fairly different from that of Arabuko Sokoke Forest, with a more patchy distribution of forest cover, interspaced with stands of Croton shrubs and palms. White, sandy soil predominates the region. While Boni Forest faces similar challenges as ASF—in terms of encroachment and heavy use by forest-adjacent human populations—David and the group were pleased to see large numbers of resident mammals, such as the Adder’s Duiker and the Boni Shrew, something that is increasingly rare in ASF and an indication that the ecosystem is thriving despite all the human activity.

For David, the highlight of the trip came in the form of two birds the group came across, neither of which he nor Fleur (both very experienced birders) were able to identify. David described this as absolutely exhilarating. Also, aside from the fauna of Boni, David found the human community particularly kind, and quickly made friends with many of them. The future holds some exciting prospects for David—already a visiting birder has expressed interest in returning to Boni Forest with David to help identify the two unknown bird species, and several of his new friends from the local community have requested that he return to teach them more about birds, other wildlife, and conservation.

Back in Gede, David has resumed his weekly surveys and monitoring activities within ASF. He remains as enthusiastic as ever…if not slightly more than usual, reinvigorated by the trip to Boni Forest.

Luck of the Draw…or Complex, Socio-ecological Interaction?

Looking over my field notes after a recent survey of human activities in Arabuko-Sokoke Forest near Matsangeni village—which involved trekking through the forest with David (rather, stumbling along, clumsily trying to keep up with him) for the better part of the morning and afternoon—I was struck by what seemed to me to be an inconsistency: the existence of two significant, yet seemingly contradictory relationships regarding illicit human activities in ASF. The first, and more predictable, is an apparent negative relationship between the extent of human activities and distance from the forest edge. In other words, the further one travels from the forest edge into the forest interior, the less evidence of human activity one usually finds. The second, related to this ‘usually,’ is a correlative relationship between human activities and habitat type. It appears that certain human activities are tightly linked to habitat, or forest, type, and occur regardless of distance from the forest edge.

That day, David and I first followed a well-worn path 2.5 kilometers into the interior of the forest, traversing from Mixed to Brachystegia forest—and finding much evidence of harvested trees, as well as both inactive and active snares. However, around the two kilometer mark, evidence of human activity began to decline and by the 2.5 kilometer all evidence of human activity ceased, even though the path ahead appeared well-worn and recently used. Unperturbed, we re-traced our track to the forest edge, found another well-worn path running in the same direction as the former (south ? north), and set off anew.

We kept to this second path for some time, traversing from Mixed to Brachystegia to Cynometra forest over 3.5 kilometers. However, whereas evidence of human activities decreased with distance from the forest edge on the previous path, evidence of human activities actually increased with distance on this new path, especially in the deepest, Cynometra forest section. There, David and I found evidence of an industrious pole-harvesting operation; there were numerous piles of freshly-cut poles, 5-10 centimeters in diameter. Likewise, the number of snares we located in this section, intended for Duiker, Suni and Bushbuck, more than doubled our day’s total count.

Sitting at the Kenya Wildlife Service offices, I tried to allay my confusion by asking David a clarifying question: Had we been lucky in locating the large amount of illicit human activity on the second path, in relation to the first? Or, was something else at work?

David chuckled. His answer: “Both.”

As anyone who has ever conducted a survey of human activity in ASF with David, much of what is found is done so by chance. Pick the wrong path, and you will be disappointed to find no evidence of human activity. (Or, rather, you will be excited, as this is a good indication conservation is working by serving the needs and interests of the forest-adjacent communities, while providing for biodiversity conservation.)

However, distance from the forest edge, “agency” of the harvester, and the habitat type are significant factors in determining the spatial distribution of illicit human activities within ASF. Generally, evidence of illicit activities decreases with increased distance from the forest edge. This is understandable; the forest is quite dense, and one’s ‘returns’ decrease with the increased exertion that extracting resources from within the forest (e.g. timber from a felled tree) require. However, as David and I found on the second path, this precept does not always hold. Rather, if one is seeking out a specific forest resource, for a specific purpose (e.g. sturdy, long-lasting pole for constructing a living structure), one is apt to disregard distance and increased exertion in order to acquire the specific forest resource. Furthermore, forest resources are not distributed uniformly through the forest as a whole, or even within homogenous sections of the forest (i.e. Cynometra forest, Mixed forest, etc.). For example, due to species-specific requirements (soil type and water content, sunlight penetration, etc.) Manilkara sulcata, which provides poles of exceptional quality, and is therefore highly-sought for building, is found mainly within areas of Cynometra forest. Distance from forest edge and human valuation aside, if the requisite ecological conditions are not met, a certain tree species will not grow in, or a certain animal species will not colonize, that specific area in the forest. Effectively, while space matters, socio-cultural, economic and ecological conditions matter as well (and potentially, even more) in determining the spatial distribution of illicit human activities in ASF.

For us, David explained, this means that its a combination of luck and the above knowledge that enables successful surveys. David certainly seems to possess both, and continues conducting his surveys multiple times a week in an effort to produce more comprehensive records of illicit human activities occurring within ASF for the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Management Team. The hope is that this group of stakeholders will utilize the vast amount of information David provides in formulating more robust, responsive forest management policies. An upcoming meeting of ASFMT will feature David’s data, in GIS (i.e. ‘map’) form; we’ll have to wait to see how the team harnesses it.

Ornithological Congress

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

Research Computer fixed

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.

Trapped monkey

KFS rangers holding traps

Maps ready

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


Personal history


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.

Donations possible once again to support David Ngala and his forest conservation work

After WildlifeDirect were sadly unable to continue handling the donations to all the different projects they support on the website, it took those of us who’re not so blog / computer / internet savvy a bit of time to figure out how to get a paypal account set up and link it to the blog.

A huge thanks to Hannah who is volunteering for A Rocha Kenya and who has been willing to help get this set up – and who has done a great job in doing it. You will now find a ‘Donate’ button on the right hand side of the screen which links to the Friends of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest paypal account – of which 100% of any donation made will directly fund David Ngala’s work with conservation of this amazing last remaining patch of East African coastal forest.

As can be read on this blog, David is active in surveying for illegal activities such as poaching of trees and animals in the forest and also spends time talking with community members and persuading them to protect the forest rather than go cutting it and trapping in it. David also in involved in doing bird surveys – he being The Best bird guide in the forest and hugely knowledgable about where to find birds in it.

David is supported by Patrick who is there to ensure that David’s work will not just stay in notebooks and computer hard drives but will end up on the desk of the Warden and Forester of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest so that they can take the appropriate action where possible to reduce the illegal activities.

The main costs for the work are David’s salary and the motorbike costs for getting him into the forest to do his work. Patrick has been working mostly voluntarily but we are keen to give him something to support the really important part he plays in the project.

For one illegal activity survey it costs on average just US$18 to cover the fuel and maintenance for David’s motorbike.

David is currently part-supported by some very supportive and generous supporters of his work but we need more to cover the full costs. We are therefore looking for any donations from even as little as $10 – every cent will make a difference to making sure the work can be sustained. To really make a difference, however, we would invite you to join us with making a standing, regular donation of $25 per month. Just 10 people doing this would cover almost all of the core costs of the work.

One other request is for a donation to buy David a new tent for camping in the forest when he does his fieldwork. His current one is literally falling apart and is seriously not worth even calling a tent. For this we’re looking for $250 to get a reasonable one and that will last.

THANK YOU for those who have supported David and the work of FoASF in the past – and thank you in advance to anyone who is keen to help with this critical work.

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Why do people trap Golden-rumped Elephant-shrews??

After the last post, Dana commented asking why anyone would want to trap such a small mammal. The reason is as suggested – for food. Not a lot of meat on an elephant-shrew, but plenty enough for someone who doesn’t have any other meat option.

We have been trying to introduce alternative sources of meat / protien including keeping and raising guineafowl, chickens and rabbits but we were not able to really follow through so it hasn’t had much effect. The potential is there, however, to really be able to provide an alternative to bush meat.

Giant Pouched Rat trap in forest

Boys trapping rare Intra-African migrant birds near the forest

Last month David Ngala told me about finding some boys at Lake Chemchem just to the north of Arabuko-Sokoke who had trapped Allen’s Gallinules, Lesser Moorhen and other waterbirds. He managed to photograph them and I’ll post the pictures below. This is something which we really need to work on – educating the kids not to do this and instead to be proud of their birds and protect them.

Two Allen’s Gallinules

Lesser Moorhen

Black Crake

The culprits with their prey…

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The nest of the eagle shown in the picture below has been active for about 20 years and I have known it for the last 8 years. In October last year I took a visitor to the site and we both saw the eagle on its nest but there was a tree close by that the bird used to rest on before going to its nest which had been felled (see other posts).

Crowned Eagle Nest that I found in forest last year

This picture I posted last year showing the nest and the adjacent cut tree.

I reported the matter to the Kenya Forest Service and then later took them to the site. The Forester decided that forest guards should return to the site every day to see if the poachers had returned for the timber as they had not yet split the trunk into planks. However over the following days that they went to check, they didn’t find anyone there.

After some time I went on a safari for two days to Mlima wa Ndege on the western side of the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest which is 80km from the Gede forest station. I had gone to educate the community about setting up a community run nature reserve in their area.

When I returned back I was told the shocking story by one of the game rangers of how the tree had been cut by a power saw and that it happened over four days but during the night. This activity took place from 7/12/09 to 11/12/09. I was told that the forest rangers and the forest guards had been informed when it was happening because people around Mida and Arabuko area could hear the power saw working in the forest during the night.

According to the story I got, when the forest guards and game rangers heard about this they took the boundary road on the north side of the forest instead of taking the elephant track which would take them faster to the place. I was told that they did this because there were many elephants on the tracks and it was therefore dangerous for them.

This information made me feel bad because I thought that the rangers and guards would use their thunder flashes to move the elephants away from the track but they decided not to do so and therefore missed the poachers!

The day I went back there with the rangers we saw how the tree had been split into pieces of timber and that they had collected almost everything as you can see in this picture. 
you can still see the eagle nest in the background


I guess at least they tried and it was very good to be able to work with them and show them where the nest was. Let’s hope next time they are able to get their quicker and catch the poachers.

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