Tag Archives: Nature Kenya

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.

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

Final day at the forest!

Final day at the forest!

After the long day and the near encounter with an elephant, the crew may have just need this trip to mida creek. Mida creek is a small creek (ok not small but big creek in my opinion), it is a great place where birds feed, migrant birds can also be found here and they come here to feed as well, the place is spectacular, if you are a keen birder and love to see all types of birds, then I suggest a trip to mida would do just fine.

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at mida creek.

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peter confirming the bird he saw.

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Peter takes a closer look – at the mud flat

So they headed to mida creek and we drove to the entrance towards the board walk and bird hide. This board walk is really something, built by A Rocha Kenya for their ASSETs programme ( for more information on this vist the A Rocha blog or ASSETS blog or www.arocha.org) the place is built on suspended board that are held together by long strong ropes, the broad walk suspended above the mangrove roots. Its really cool, at first walking on the board may seem like you are walking on air, however there are two ropes that you can hold on to give to a balance, if you are afraid of heights, well try it , your fear will be gone in a second! ( although its not so high), the board walk is about 260 meters walk so breeze yourself before you start walking, as you walk there are stop point along the walk that have more information on mida creek and the mangrove, when you get to the end of the board walk the view of the ocean is great, you can see the mouth of the creek and about three islands if you use a good pair of binoculars, at the mud flat you can be able to see birds feeding, its great!

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board walk at mida.

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Noreen tries to get across at the board walk.

After the great afternoon at mida creek we got back to the camp site at the forest to prepare for dinner and the long day ahead. The following day we embarked on mission – clean up watamu beach, we headed to watamu, we quickly took a pit stop at watamu turtle watch, Rob the Project officer was kind enough o takes us round and explain to us all about watamu turtle watch and local ocean trust (for more information visit Watamu Turtle Watch blog or email [email protected]),

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Rob talking to us about the turtle.

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after a briefing on Watamu Turtle Watch we headed to A Rocha Kenya for a short briefing before embarking on the beach for the clean up, we started the clean up at the beach outside A Rocha towards Turtle bay, this seemed like a long day as the scotching sun made it seem much harder but finally we managed to reach our target. Our mission was accomplished!

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Baech clean up.

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rubbish collected.

We headed back to camp to have lunch and visit the famous Nyari view point, this is the point where you can see the canopy of the forest, the view is great, what a way to climax the trip, we were done, we cleared the nature trail I think more that 3 km of forest road was cleared, we had fun, we saw the beach and now it was time for the team to head back home, back home in Nairobi. As the team was packing up, a certain feeling of sadness engulfed me, I sat and thought, here there are we thought they wouldn’t make it but they have, that really touched me, well done the team!!! I thought to myself, and off they went, leaving Arabuko-Sokoke forest trail better than before, well done team, that was great work!

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hard at work.

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part of the clearde trail.

Asante sana – Thank you very much.

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Day three of forest trail clearing

Day three of forest trail clearing.

That evening as a reward I took the group to visit one of the community based projects of Arabuko-Sokoke forest, the Kipepeo butterfly project. This project is located at Gede Ruins Museum, the project has become a success and has become a replica in other parts of the country. It started as a simple idea to help the community living adjacent to the forest value the forest and earn an income, the founders of the project saw fit for the community to start farming butterflies and exporting there pupa and in return the community gets income. The project now works with 27 other community groups and exports butterfly pupa to countries such as Japan, UK and USA for displays in museum and also for replica in fashion designs.

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getting a lesson on butterflies inside the butterfly house.

The group was excited to learn about this project and for some it was a dream come true to finally visit Kipepeo after hearing and learning about it from media sources. We proceeded on to Gede ruins to learn more about the ancient Swahili town and why the occupants of this town left in such a rush!

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the team being shown around at the Gede ruins

It was great to learn how these people lived, according to me they were real conservationist, our guide Samuel explain to us how they used to reuse their water and how they would filter it, they had very interesting ways of living which were eco-friendly. That afternoon after the tour at Gede we headed to blue bay beach in Watamu for more exploring of the water.

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the excited team at Gede.

Day three saw the group arise early to carry out the morning birding, they were joined by Rob Markham of Watamu Turtle Watch a keen birder and Jessica Rawley a Peace Corp volunteer with Nature Kenya. The morning birding was great and they were able to identify some new species to them.

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Keen birders in the group.

After breakfast, the crew headed straight to work. This particular day seem a lot more easy than the previous days, could it be because they were getting used to the hot temperatures or because they were getting used to holding the pangas and slashers ( a type of machete) ? Work went on quite smooth and it seemed we were to wind up quite fast.

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one, two three, pull…….

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and the ladies clear.

As we carried on with our work, part of the team was destructed to some rather wired noise, it wasn’t the noise of a axe cutting a tree, or a slasher on the weeds or a panga ( a type of machete) on the shrubs, neither was it the noise of one teammate telling the rest to watch out as a cut tree fell, no that was not the destructing noise, rather it was the noise on an elephant in the bush, would you believe it? An Elephant!!!!, good thing I didn’t see it because I think I would have fainted due to fear, and good thing it was a lone as it quickly went away, what remained was the dung and the mountain of sand it had dug up. That was a close call.

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a close up of the dung.

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Dug up sand, done by the elephant.

On our way out of the forest we visited one of the tree platforms in the forest built by A Rocha Kenya, the view from the platform was magnificant, no word can describe it, what a way to close the day!

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part of the team at the tree platform.

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background view of a swamp from the tree platform

We headed back to camp to prepare for lunch and visit the nearby mida creek later on in the afternoon.

Caroline

FoASF Manager

To be continued

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Day two of nature trail clearing

Day two of nature trail clearing in the forest.

Day one of the trail clearing ended well, with most volunteers exhausted and drained by the hot sun, it was all the same a very successful day as a good portion of the trail was cleared and our KWS transport vehicle could now pass with ease.

The team was so exhausted after about five hours of serious work in the forest the previous day.

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Part of the cleared trail.

The guys decided to visit the beach, as some of them have never been to the coast and had never seen the ocean, you know living quite close to the ocean you tend to think that everyone has seen the ocean only to find out you are wrong, I was a bit shocked when some of the volunteers admitted that they have never seen the ocean, this made me open my mind more to reality.

Day two saw the volunteers rise before the morning sun to do birding, David Ngala our conservation officer and a guide at Arabuko-Sokoke forest was delighted to direct the group in the birding activity.

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Early morning birding.

Later on that morning, we embarked on the hard work, slashers, axes, and pangas ( a type of machete) were among the tools were took with us. Working as a team we mobilized ourselves and we were able to clear a large portion.

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come on lets clear this.

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Yuda busy chopping a tree that had blocked the road.

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Mercy is helped clear the shrub by the KWS ranger.

We took a break at mid day to look back at our progress then embark back on the work.

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Break time. – the team having snacks.

It was song and laughter as we continued working, we figured making a bit of fun easiness the job, and true to that before long, we were done for the day, only to begin again the next day.

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lets have a laugh – Onesums seeem to be telling the rest.

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End of a tiresome day – the team waiting to be transported back to camp.

A day well spent, as we waited to be ferried back to camp, we couldnt wait to relax at Gede ruins and the beach!

To be continued…..

Caroline

FoASF – Manager

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Day one of the forest trail clearing.

Day one of the forest trail clearing.

So this group of young guys from Nature kenya – Nairobi decided to come all the way to the coast in Arabuko-Sokoke forest, and to do what? To help clear the nature trails in Arabuko-Sokoke forest.

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The camp site at sokoke pipit at the forest.

They set up camp at the forest camp site, they would be there for four days so they better have things set up right, from putting up the tents, to the kitchen and assigning duties of cooking and washing, everything had to be in order.

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setting up the tents.

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who knows how to cook best? Onesmus or Susan?

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watch me cook! Tony seems to be telling the crew.

I must admit the first thing that came into my mind when I saw them was – will they really do it?, can they really manage?, how about the heat will it drain them before they begin?, and the women can they make it?, so to give them the benefit of the doubt we set out to the elephant track a trail in the forest that is used to tourist who especially want to see the elephant. The elephant roam around the area freely and many times we find elephant dung on the roads, fallen trees and huge mountains of dug up sand, this was one of the trails that really needed a lot of work and this is an intriguing trail as well, as elephant can surprise you any time.

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Fresh elephnat dung on the trail.

So off we went, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) provides a truck to ferry the 18 volunteers to the site, the long journey to the site was really tiresome and I kept on praying that we don’t say “hallo to mr ndovu” – the elephants. A trained ranger accompanied us to the site, but still my heart was in my mouth. Since I was somehow leading the team I had to show some sign of bravery, and not my fear be revealed.

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Preparing to be ferried to the site.

The trail were in such a state that needed help like yesterday, trees overgrown blocking the roads, all types of trees, thorny trees, shrubs and even dead logs.

And the work began, it didn’t take me long before I thought I think they will make it…….will they?

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And the work began!

To be continued…….

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Nature trail clearing at Arabuko-Sokoke forest

Nature trail clearing at Arabuko-Sokoke Forest.

This past week has been a hectic and busy week for us here at FoASF. The nature trails in Arabuko-Sokoke forest have been overgrown with trees. Elephants have not made it easy either, by trampling on trees and blocking the roads. The trails have hence not been used for a while especially the elephant track which has long needed some work to be done on it.

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one of the overgrown trails at the forest.

From 6th November 2008 to 10th November we had a visit from the Nature Kenya Youth committee from Nairobi, who came with an aim to help out clear the nature trails and create awareness on the importance of the forest.

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Arrival day – all clean and smart!

This group was a fun some group which energized youth ready to help out in the forest. So could these urbanists (most of them were from the big city- Nairobi) really slash and cut trees, considering they are not used to this, how were they to cope with high temperatures of 30?C and above at the coast, would they really make it? The next four days were days well spend in the forest and can only be described visually.

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We are here to work – (part of the team)

To be continued……

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About Friends of Arabuko Sokoke Forest (FoASF)

What’s special about Arabuko Sokoke Forest.

The forest covering over 400 km2, is the largest piece of indigenous coastal forest remaining in Kenya and also East Africa. As such it is a key site for the global survival of six bird and three mammal species. It is noted for its high biodiversity arising from a history of gradual isolation and the fact that it has three forest types in one.

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View of Arabuko Sokoke Forest.

Dense Cynometra thicket dominates the higher ground on a dark red soil and is home to the tiny Sokoke Scops Owl. There are also areas of open woodland with grasses and flowering plants growing on a light sandy soil under the delicate spreading canopy of the Brachystegia trees. Here the globally threatened Clarke’sWeaver, Amani Sunbird and Sokoke Pipit can often be seen.

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A picture of the globally threatened Amani sunbird.

The mixed forest dominated by the wonderful shapes of the Afzelia trees with twisted boughs and dark green foliage is the favoured habitat of the Golden-rumped Elephant-shrew, another endangered species. Arabuko Sokoke Forest is situated to the west of the road between Malindi and Mombasa, and extends from Gede, south of Malindi, almost to Kilifi, approximately half way along the main road to Mombasa.

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A map showing Arabuko Sokoke Forest.

Apart from local people’s understandable need to make a living for their families from whatever resources they find to hand, elephants and baboons often leave the Forest and damage the crops of people living on its margins.

The Forest is therefore in constant danger from poachers of wood for charcoal, building and carvings for tourists in the nearby coastal resorts, and of animals for food. It is also threatened by people wishing to clear it for agriculture and to rid themselves of nuisance animals.

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Poachers cut tree for wood craving.

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Tree logging at the forest.

The Forest is now also being harvested sustainably by local butterfly farmers who earn an income from the sale of pupae to the Kipepeo Project, which collectively exports them to live butterfly exhibits overseas. In addition the forest provides vital medicinal plants and firewood for the local communities living around it.

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A butterfly species that is found in the forest.

History of FoASF

Friends of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest (FoASF) is a support group, consisting of individuals, institutions and businesses who in some way would like to contribute to a positive future for Arabuko-Sokoke Forest. Gazetted as a Forest Reserve, the forest is under a joint management agreement involving four institutions:- Forestry Department, Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya Forestry Research Institute and National Museums of Kenya.

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Monitoring in Arabuko Sokoke forest.

However, it is recognized that substantial support and interest comes from many individuals and organizations outside this framework. In the past there has been help with the battles over degazettement, reports of illegal activities, updates on natural history sightings, suggestions for management improvements, and financial contributions that have allowed more diverse activities to take place. Friends of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, utilizing this interest and concern aims to contribute to ensuring that the forest is enjoyed and used sustainably for generations to come.

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David Ngala – FoASF ‘s Conservation Officer in the forest.

Friends of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest (FoASF) was only started in October 1999 by concerned individuals and institutions to link people interested in the conservation of the Forest with the present Forest Managers. In mid-December 1999, the British High Commissioner for Kenya, Sir Jeffrey James – himself a keen birdwatcher and conservationist – officially launched the FoASF on the same occasion as the constructed Tree Platform was opened by the Mayor of Malindi, Gideon Mung’aro.

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Tree house at Arabuko Sokoke Forest.

FoASF’s Mission

Friends of Arabuko Sokoke Forest (FoASF) seeks to work with local communities to conserve the internationally important Arabuko-Sokoke Forest . This is done through biodiversity conservation action, awareness creation, community work and improving eco-tourism facilities for visitors at the forest. FoASF also supports any activity which helps local people and therefore makes them less eager to destroy it or steal from it for short term gain.

The FoASFFriends scheme.

Friends of FoASF (sometimes known as members ) offer both technical and financial support and also get actively involved in joint ventures relating to the overall care and conservation of the Forest. These activities have helped raise awareness about the Forest and have encouraged more people to use it for recreation. A voluntary committee is responsible for the day to day running of Friends of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and for organising activities that will involve members in different ways. FoASF has employed three staff members who are responsible in the daily running of activities, the team reports to FoASF committee monthly.

In mid-2000 FoASF has almost 80 “friends and is growing slowly all the time. Anyone interested in becoming more involved with such work is very welcome and should email [email protected] or contact the Manger on [email protected].

FoASF logo

The Golden-rumped Elephant-shrew is a strange-looking animal which is thought to be distantly related to the aardvark and to elephants, hyraxes and sea cows. It is only found in the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, so its survival is dependent on the continued ecological health of the Forest. It was therefore chosen as the logo of the Friends of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest.

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The Golden-rumped Elephant Shrew – the flagship of friends of arabuko sokoke forest.

More on the Golden-rumped Elephant Shrew….

The Golden-rumped Elephant-shrews practice facultative monogamy, meaning that they pair for life, but will take any opportunity to mate with a ‘widowed’ animal which has not yet found a new mate. Since the pair live together in their own territory, the males chasing off any male interlopers, and the females seeing off other females, one rarely sees more than two together. They feed mostly on insects dug up under the leaf litter, and sleep in nests of dry leaves swept into a small hollow in the ground. They do not bu
rrow or climb trees, so are vulnerable to predation by wild carnivores and, more recently, by domestic dogs. In the early 1990s when Clare Fitz Gibbon was studying the animal, she estimated that there were 20,000 individuals in the Forest.

Some of FoASF Achievements

Friends of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest has now been in existence since 1999. In this time it has achieved a number of things in particular raising awareness about the forest, raising awareness about illegal activities happening in the forest and working together with Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the Kenya Forest Service (previously known as the Forest Department – FD) to take action to stop them, providing a high quality service to visitors to the forest station Visitor Centre and providing a forum for interested people and parties to get involved and be able to contribute directly to its conservation.

FoASF’s role :

1. To lobby in very tense situations.

2. To work with the “friends” of FoASF to educate the local communities on the conservation of the forest and awareness raising. FoASF also holds trainings for the community members.

3. To create awareness within the stakeholders and outside as a way of getting both local and international support for the conservation of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest.

4. To provide information on the destruction of the ecosystem which public servants may not provide even if they wanted or are obliged to by the nature of their position.

5. Publicize any information (both good and bad) that the public should know, especially about resource misuse by officers entrusted with the responsibility.

6. To stimulate efficiency and transparency because of fear of being exposed.

7. To enable groups with opposed interest to come together and establish dialogue.

8. To push for policy change through its Friends who constitutes professionals. [using professional skills within the membership ( friends)]

9. To establish a strong link with the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest managers.

10. To collect funds that can be used directly to support the conservation and management of Arabuko-Sokoke Forest.

Challenges that FoASF faces.

The organization has faced many challenges as it strives to achieve its goals. Due to lack of funds the organization (until recently) was not able to hire more personnel to help out in its activities. This has been a big challenge fand has lead to reduced activities within FoASF. We are currently working on getting full time support to effectively carry out some of FoASF’s activities.

FOASF NEEDS YOUR SUPPORT.

How you can support FoASF.

FoASF needs your support in carrying out its activities.

You can: –

Raise awareness by informing others correctly about the forest.

Increase vigilance by being in the forest and reporting on human activity and natural history sightings.

Become involved in on-going research and monitoring programmes or in one of the conservation projects.

Provide financial support and fundraise when necessary.

Effectively lobby when necessary at different strategic levels.

Encourage visitors to use the forest for recreation.

Donate to support Foasf activities.

Join the friends scheme and annually subscribe to be a friend.

Benefits of being a friend of Friends of Arabuko Sokoke Forest include:-

You will receive FoASF newsletters throughout the year.

With 10 or more other members you can request an illustrated talk about Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, but basic transport costs for the speaker will need to be covered in most cases.

You will be able to use the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest general reference library, situated at the Education Centre, Gede Forest Station, on production of your membership card.

You will be invited to join in any FoASF events during the year.

Join in the effort to help FoASF conserve Arabuko Sokoke Forest.