David writes: It is said that that in the past, the Coastal Forest reached all the way from Mozambique up to Somalia. But due to growing human population many areas have been settled and the forest has gone.
The coastal people still remember the past situation compared to today. Every corner of the coastal forest is still giving thanks to the British Government before independence who demarcated and gazetted the natural forest as a Forest Reserve, protected by its own department and as a result the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest is now the largest forest on the Kenya Coast.
Some years after independence, some politicians began to demand some areas of the forest to be given to the community to settle. They did this to further their own campaigns. We are very thankful to the community elders around the forest who managed to stop the degazettement, and thereafter they were helped by the Birdlife International Conservation Project from the UK with community projects and later various other donors who supported the construction of an electric fence around the forest to stop elephants from destroying their crops.
On the Kenyan Coast, during dry seasons, some areas of grass and plantations catch fire. In the last dry season, we had fires in the plantations and some grass areas, and a large number of hectares were burned. Birds like rollers and bee-eaters fly into the smoke to look for insects escaping from the fire and I found some that by bad luck some were burned.
This year, there has been global climate change. We were informed by the Kenya Meteorological Department that there will be very little rain during the coming rainy season. We were told our planting should happen very soon before the rains stop. The majority of farmers in the coast had planted maize as their staple food. Some of the crops are almost ready, many are not – and the rains now seem to have stopped.
In the forest, there are some water ponds but due to the global climate change, the rains were not sufficient to fill the ponds. The result of this is that the wild animals will suffer from water shortage.
The Kenya Wildlife Service at Arabuko-Sokoke Forest faces a hard job to help the animals get water up to the next rainy season, which arrives in September. This is a major challenge and we are as yet unsure what strategy they will employ to solve the problem.