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A haven for bird life is under threat – these new rangers could hold the key to protecting it

 

The coastal forests of Boni and Dodori are home to a huge diversity of birds and are a significant stop-over and dispersal site for a number of migrating bird species from other neighbouring countries. The birds that you can find include the Basra reed warbler, white-headed vulture, lappet-faced vulture, martial eagle, Somali ostrich, southern banded snake eagle, Fischer’s turaco and plain-backed sunbird. But the future of the areas where these birds and other wildlife live is under threat. Sadly, vast areas of the forest are being cleared for timber, agriculture and human settlement as well as incoming large-scale infrastructure development.

A martial eagle in Kenya © Michel Terrettaz/WWF-CanonA martial eagle in Kenya © Michel Terrettaz/WWF-Canon

Diversity is so great that the region has been declared as a globally important bird area. Understanding and monitoring these bird species is an important way in which their conservation status, and that of the wider ecosystem, can be assessed and used to inform management decisions.

This month we’ve been supporting the training of eleven community conservancy rangers who are drawn from local Aweer villages. This was a refresher course, following a similar one held in April 2014, and the focus was on developing their knowledge of birds and plants in order to improve monitoring. Detection, identification and documentation of species were top of the agenda.

Rangers identifying birds © Ann KomenRangers identifying birds © Ann Komen

The training was carried out in Arabuko-Sokoke, which is a forest in neighbouring Kilifi County and one of the largest stretches of coastal dry forest remaining in East Africa, as conditions here are good for training. The forest is uniquely rich in biodiversity with an unmatched number of rare and endemic species in the region.

The trainers were local eco-tourism guides – Said Chidziga, David Ngala and Willy Nganda – all of whom are great ambassadors for conservation and experts in botanical and ornithological surveys. In spite of their lack of formal education, the local trainers were skillfully able to inspire the rangers and provide some appreciated mentorship. The value of local knowledge simply cannot be overstated!

The community rangers will put this new knowledge into practise patrolling in the conservancy area which forms a corridor between the Boni and Dodori National Reserves. This conservancy was registered in 2013, with the support of Northern Rangelands Trust, with the aim of strengthening community management of natural resources and the sustainability of natural resource use.

Rangers identifying plants © Ann KomenRangers identifying plants © Ann Komen

Like the forests of Boni and Dodori, the conservancy area hosts a diverse range of vegetation and wildlife. We’re potentially starting to see the impact of this on species – local knowledge suggests that certain animal species are decreasing and this is linked to the disappearance of certain plant species.

Well-trained community rangers help us to understand and monitor the unique Boni-Dodori ecosystem. With this knowledge, and the enthusiasm and commitment of the rangers, we’re able to better tackle the threats being faced and, we hope, secure a future for this wonderful place.

To support this and other conservation work, and help us protect our natural world, visit our donation page.

We wish to acknowledge and thank the financial support offered by Size of Wales and the UK Government through the Darwin Initiative and DFID.

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