Tag Archives: Sokoke Scops owl

David Ngala receives Disney Conservation Hero Award from Director of Kenya Forest Service

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.

East Coast Akalat surveys in Arabuko-Sokoke

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

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.

Saving Bird Species in the Dakatcha Woodland

Sokoke Scops Owl

Sokoke Scops Owl

Dakatcha Woodland is an important area for fauna and flora lying c.20km due north of Arabuko-Sokoke across the Sabaki River. Many conservation organizations have taken part in educating the communities about the importance of forests and how to conserve their heritage in their areas.

A private Italian business came through the Council of Malindi and persuaded the members of the Malindi Council and other stakeholders to propose the area to be taken by the business to plant Jatropha for biofuel. Formally, they proposed the area from Baricho to Adu to be a Jatropha plantation  – an area of 50,000ha, but the business was allowed to start with only 10,000 hectares for just a trial and thereafter see what they would do.

Dakatcha Woodland is on the north-western side of the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest approximately 20 km directly and 80 km in a car as one must go around the river at Sabaki Bridge. The woodland has many patches of Cynometra, Brachystegia and other bushes. This is important because we get Clarke’s Weaver in the Brachystegia trees and Sokoke Scops Owls in the Cynometra trees and other vegetation.

Dakatcha Woodland is also a Government Crown Land. The area has many households and elder’s sub-divisions in it, but it has not been officially demarcated by the Ministry of Lands and Settlement. The Department of Lands have demarcated the area in the eastern part of Marafa, a few kilometres from Marafa town.

Therefore, before the land department reaches the habitats concerned, I would be very interested to go there and track the area so that the fauna and flora could at least have a place to stay and also that the area would be recognized as a forest reserve.

I am therefore inviting any interested individual or conservation organization who is willing to donate to support me to go to the Dakatcha Woodlands in order to carry out surveys as to what birds and trees can be found there.

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.


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.