Expeditions with Colin Jackson are always a little like sailing close to the wind, it seems, and I think God knows this and thus pulls out the stops to rescue the situation and turn it into something awesome. Taking an A Rocha friend, William, to visit A Rocha’s Dakatcha Nature Reserve recently threatened to be another of those sorts of expeditions. He had just given funds to add c.120 acres of threatened forest to the reserve and was keen to see it. As it turned out, the ‘sailing close to the wind’ was redeemed and we had an amazing visit. We ended up pitching camp as it was getting late (and dark!) in a ‘random’ spot which turned out to be bang on the boundary of the new reserve.
That night we went looking for Sokoke Scops Owl– Africa’s smallest owl and listed as Globally Endangered – but it is not necessarily easy to actually see, so we knew there was some risk to the venture. However, just five metres from where we stopped the car and got out to listen, we heard one – and then located it in a tree just off the track! 10 minutes later, walking farther down the track we found a new boundary marker meaning that section of forest had just been sold to be cleared for growing probably pineapples… a real smack in the face regarding the reality of the threat to this stunning little insectivore and all the other associated wildlife surviving in that forest.
The next day…Walking around the new section of the Nature Reserve the following morning, we saw many birds including Sokoke Pipit (classified as Globally Endangered) and Little Yellow Flycatcher – a coastal speciality which, while common in Arabuko-Sokoke to the south, was the first time I’d ever seen it in Dakatcha. Black-collared Barbet, African Barred Owlet, Mombasa Woodpecker, Southern Banded Snake Eagle (Near Threatened) and Fischer’s Turaco (Near Threatened) were other highlights recorded. It was, however, quite sobering walking through certain sections of the reserve which had clearly been intensely logged for charcoal – many stumps of large trees to be seen and plenty of old charcoal kilns. The good thing was that now we could allow this to regrow and there is already regeneration happening including some of the tree stumps, to me always a wonderful sign of hope.
Dakatcha is a special place and while we may now have almost 350 ha protected, this is not enough for truly viable populations of the scops owl, pipit and the Golden-rumped Elephant-shrew or sengi. There are some sections of forest that are still quite intact and contain reasonable numbers of these wildlife and we are pushing hard to try and acquire this before it gets hammered about and loses much of its wildlife.
We need you…
To succeed we need to partner with friends and supporters to raise the funds for the purchase – can you join us in this exciting adventure? An acre only costs £120 / €135 / US$155 each. We are delighted to have a Kenyan company, Lordship Africa, commit to buying 1,000 acres for the reserve – but we are aiming at 3,000 acres in total. It is also more than simply buying land to protect it. We are working closely with the families we are obtaining land from to help them gain skills and implement ideas for alternative ways of making a living such as bee-keeping or ‘Farming God’s Way’ – a farming method that substantially increases productivity of a field. We are trusting and planning for the long-term – to preserve this awesome part of God’s creation for generations to come, to bring about restoration of damaged habitat and see recovery of declining local populations of wildlife. In a word to bring hope to what otherwise is a hopeless situation. Please join us!