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Trapping mammals (with cameras) in Kenya’s coastal forests

 

My legs are in pain and I’m covered with scratches. The adrenalin is flowing due to a near encounter with a snake. Fresh marks on the forest floor indicate buffaloes are nearby and the fear of bumping into them increases the tension in our group.

Not even the presence of two armed forest guards accompanying us can calm our nerves.

We’re in the forests of Arabuko Sokoke in north-east Kenya – a world-renowned habitat for rare and endangered mammals and birds. We are learning how and where to place mammal camera traps, before deploying them in the forest. All of us are excited and can’t wait for the training to end so we can begin applying our new skills.

The team preparing to set a camera trap. The team preparing to set a camera trap. Photo: Kiunga Kareko/WWF

I am very keen, just like my colleagues are, to be able to set up camera traps to capture photos of larger animals – particularly large and small mammals.

The trainer insists on following a set procedure to make sure we get good quality images. These cameras are no ordinary ones. They are specifically designed to capture images of animals with minimal or no disturbances, thanks to their infra-red capability.

Already-set-up-camera--Photo-by-KKBlending in to the background – one of the cameras is set up and ready to go. Photo: Kiunga Kareko/WWF

“All the equipment we need to set up the cameras must be checked before leaving for the field!”, our team leader quips at the start of our journey.

We headed to the forest in groups of about five people, all armed with fresh knowledge on setting camera traps excited at the prospect of exploring the forest.

We trek and crawl all day, thirsty and hungry in the forest. It’s especially hard going in areas dominated by the short tree known as Cynometra webberi, with its thick undergrowth making movement difficult.   We managed to lay just two sets of cameras in the first day, four more sets to go.  The two bottles of water I carried got finished after doing just one set!

Camera traps can capture some amazing images, such as this leopard. Photo: ZSL / KWSCamera traps can capture some amazing images, such as this leopard. Photo: ZSL / KWS

All this hard work is worth doing. It’s vital that we improve our understanding of the wildlife and ecosystems here in the forests of Boni Dodori.

Our aim is to support Government agencies and the local forest communities in managing the forests in a way that helps people and nature.

When we carried out our first camera trap exercise almost two years ago, we got some terrific images of rare species such as the Aders’ duiker antelope and a potentially new species of sengei (elephant shrew).

So I’m looking forward to seeing what happens this time. We survived the three-days, and it was a very inspiring experience. We are now set to deploy more cameras in Boni-Dodori-Lungi coastal forests areas.  Watch this space, as I’ll be sharing more experiences from the camera trap survey in my next blog!

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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