Our very own Arabuko-Sokoke Forest was recently included to be part of the biosphere reserves protected by UNESCO worldwide. Up until last year, the reserve had only covered the Marine National Park and Mida Creek tidal inlet. The forest, which is home to so many rare and endemic species, got the much-deserved biodiversity recognition last year and since then has seen conservation organisations and national government officials pay closer attention to the largest remaining fragment of coastal forest.
Arabuko Sokoke Forest is home to six of the rarest and globally endangered bird species; Clarke’s Weaver, Amani Sunbird, East Coast Akalat, Spotted Ground Thrush, Sokoke Scops Owl and Sokoke Pipit. It is also the only home for the Golden-rumped elephant shrew, among so much butterfly and plant life flourishing in the undergrowth. The forest is an important part to Mida Creek as it acts as a water catchment area, providing the freshwater needed for the flourishing of the seven mangrove species in the creek. These factors among others, have won it this global acclamation. But do people really understand what a biosphere reserve is?
A biosphere reserve is an area comprised of terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems that promotes solutions reconciling the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use. The Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) was launched by UNESCO in 1971, aiming to establish a scientific basis for the improvement of relationships between people and their environments. It comprises of three zones:
- The core area comprising a strictly protected ecosystem.
- The buffer zone surrounding the core areas. This is used for activities compatible with sound ecological practices that can reinforce scientific research, monitoring, training and education.
- The transition area is where the greatest human activity is allowed, fostering economic and human development that is socioculturally and ecologically sustainable.
By doing this UNESCO allows the constructive coexistence between humanity and nature. The biosphere reserves are nominated by national governments and remain under the sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located. Their status is however internationally recognized.
A Rocha Kenya is already contributing to a branding workshop for the reserve, supporting the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Wildlife Clubs of Kenya Malindi (WCK), and other government institutions and community groups. A Rocha Kenya’s ASSETS programme meets the economic and social needs of the local communities, whilst promoting the conservation of these two of Africa’s most important ecosystems. We are grateful for your support and continue, stronger than ever, to conserve this ecological giant.