A Rocha Kenya’s quest for endangered species and habitats spans wide from underwater marine to the coastal forests surrounding the area. One such forest is the Arabuko-Sokoke, the largest remnant of a dry coastal forest that originally stretched from Somalia down to Mozambique. Identified as an Important UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, this dwindling expanse of forest cover houses five globally threatened bird species namely; Amani Sunbird, Spotted Ground Thrush, Clarke’s Weaver bird, Sokoke Scops Owl and the Sokoke Pipit. This makes it a haven for birders and birdwatchers worldwide and the forest even has guides stationed to guide tourists through the forest and take them to these rare birds’ hideouts.
However, over the past years, Arabuko Sokoke has gradually evolved into a threatened habitat due to commercial exploitation by human activity. Local communities have been clearing the forest for firewood in their efforts to make a living. Large tracts of forest land have been cleared for hardwood timber and cultivation. These activities which started at a small scale nature soon caught the eye of unscrupulous loggers and poachers, spiralling the extent of the two vices out of control. This growing trend prompted A Rocha Kenya to join forces with the local environmental bodies and help in ensuring the protection of these rare bird species as well as other flora and fauna which consider the forest their home.
It has been over a decade since A Rocha Kenya begun it’s Conservation activities in the forest. By establishing the Arabuko Sokoke Schools and Eco-Tourism Scheme(ASSETS), a great decline has been noted in the rate of deteriorating of the habitat by the local community. ASSETS encourages the local people to value the forest by equally distributing the benefits they receive from Eco-Tourism. Aside from that, A Rocha Kenya’s Environmental Conservation team together with scouts and Forest rangers conduct regular mapping surveys of the area.
David Ngala, a recipient of the 2012 Disney Conservation fund, has spent his life learning about the forest and everything in it. He would later begin working with a Rocha Kenya and the local forest and wildlife protection bodies in combating poaching activities. For so many years poachers and illegal loggers have been a menace in the forest. A most recent survey of the area uncovered poachers’ snares and found a poachers camp in the forest. A few of them were apprehended by the authorities while the rest fled into the forest. Evidence found around the campsite showed that they were indeed poachers of species of antelope known as Dik-dik and Suni, as well as conducting illegal logging of the area.
The capture of these poachers marked a small win for the team, but so much is left to be done in the quest of saving this glorious expanse of God’s creation. The A Rocha Kenya team will continue in its task to protect God’s beautiful earth and it invites anyone who would want to help in this quest be it by volunteering, donating to the organization, as well as spreading awareness of this initiative. Every small effort counts. Invest in God’s earth and see its fruits multiply.