Forest Use and Conservation of Biodiversity in Witu Forest, Kenya

This project was conducted by the Danish Zoological Society (DZS). DZS was formed in December 2004 by a group of biologists from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark working on a voluntary basis. The mission of DZS is to support and conduct projects and research that contributes to conserving wild animals and their habitats and increases the knowledge of threatened species ecology, distribution and status. DZS has a strong focus on the Eastern Arc Mountains and costal forests of Tanzania and Kenya.

The project was planned in cooperation with Farouk Sherman, protector and initiator of the Kipini Wildlife and Botanical Conservancy (KWBC). The KWBC is centered on the Kipini ranch which boarders the Witu forest and part of the forest extends into the ranch. The Witu forest proper is considered within the wider zone of the conservancy’s interest by the KWBC trust.

Partnership was also established with Nature Kenya and an affiliation was established with Kenya Wildlife Service.

The project was aiming to deal with these issues:

  • Conduct a survey of mammals in Witu forest which included birds. Reptiles, amphibians and insects.
  • Evaluating the intensity of natural resource extraction (originally focusing on bushmeat hunting and non-timber forest products). During the project it was adjusted to include timber as the intensity of extraction the two original forest products appears to be minimal whereas illegal logging in Witu forest was extensive.
  • Training local people as nature guides which included training local people as nature guides for ecotourism and providing them with animal field guides and binoculars. Due to difficulties in identifying local people possessing both the necessary language skills and knowledge about the forest simultaneously it was decided to focus on educating young people on the global importance of conserving biodiversity Seminars was therefore conducted at two primary schools in communities directly bordering the forest. Animal field guides and binoculars were handed over to the schools.

A seminar were similarly conducted with three local interest groups and a lecture was held by a member of a PFM association from the Arabuko-Sokoke forest. Equipment in terms of a tent, mattresses, mosquito nets, binoculars, GPS etc. were handed over to one conservation oriented NGO upon project completion.

Kipini Conservancy Logo

What were the successes?

Three transects of a total length of 5 km were established within the Witu forest proper. Eight camera traps were placed in the forest at animal holes and on animal trails crossing the transects.

A total of 1224 hours of camera trapping were conducted. Transect surveys were conducted and observations of animals were recorded. Bird censuses were conducted on each transect by identifying species from calls and visual observations and by mist netting. Reptiles, amphibians and insects were recorded through random observations and through bucket pitfall trapping. Ten buckets were used for a total of 445 trap hours.  Threatened species and potential indicator species of disturbance and forest quality are identified.

During  surveys all signs of logging, use of fire, bushmeat hunting and harvesting of other non-timber forest products were recorded along the transects. Based on this an index of human disturbance were established. The effect of the disturbance is evaluated.

The species lists, relative mammal densities and index of human disturbance make baseline for monitoring and evaluating trends in the status of the forest and the impact of conservation initiatives and Kenya’s new forest act.

Results are presented in the report “Conservation and Use of Witu Forest, Kenya”.

Seminars were conducted in two primary schools for respectively 3 and 2 classes with approximately 25-30 students each. The importance of ecosystem services derived from the forest were illustrated and discussed. Animal field guides and binoculars were handed over to the schools for use in lectures and projects.

Equipment in terms of a tent, mattresses, mosquito nets, binoculars and a GPS were provided to the NGO Witu Conservation Group. This contributes to build their capacity to conduct patrolling in Witu forest and monitor the status of natural resources in agreement with their mandate.

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