Category Archives: Christians in conservation

Muvera wa ASSETS-True Environmental Ambassadors!

Coordinating a project as great as ASSETS can get a little scary sometime going by the amount of hope laid on us by the thirsty young minds yearning for school apart from nature itself that we view to conserve in the long run!
I must however thank the different stakeholders involved since things would be impossible were it not for them. Muvera wa ASSETS categorically, has been pivotal in effecting fruitful conservation initiatives at the local level.

Recently I visited the association members from Malanga and the site of their beautiful casuarinas seedlings; healthily dancing to the rhythm of the wind truly moved me.
In this part of the world, this is certainly the driest period of the year and it must have taken them immense efforts to accomplish this. It got me thinking how transformed their attitude towards the environment should be; truly encouraging…! In less time than it takes to tell undoubtedly, we will have a completely ‘green community’ bordering the ‘greenest’ forest in the whole of Eastern Africa.

I leave Malanga headed towards the southern end of the Arabuko sokoke forest, a village called Nyari.A peculiar site welcomes me though; a very clear path into the forest despite the electric fence! Maybe or maybe not, someone uses this opening to smuggle timber out of the forest.
Normally, I would be extremely disturbed by such a site, having had to get hold of the Kenya Forest Service guards and report this , but then on second thought…! I stop my relatively old but responsive Yamaha DT motorcycle to call the chairman Muvera wa ASSETS Nyari branch, I explain what I had seen and speed off to my office in Gede to attend to other office matters; am all glad though because undoubtedly my laments are in the right hands.

Hawkfish and Sandperch!!

Many of us may have had or still do have aquariums in our houses or in our work places. Hawkfish are one of the groups which are collected for such tanks despite their slightly aggressive, territorial behaviour. Other than the details of keeping the species in an aquarium, not much is known about them. Hawkfish and Sandperch families are currently being assessed for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. The IUCN Red List categorises each species depending on their threats, habitat and ecology and geographical range. Each species is then placed on a scale ranging from Least Concern to Extinct.
The A Rocha Kenya marine team are conducting field work to determine each species abundance and distribution across the Watamu Marine National Park which will contribute to this assessment. Additional research into habitat association of hawkfish will be conducted by one of the current marine volunteers, Hannah, as part of her Batchelor thesis.
Hawkfish and Sandperch

WHY WILDLIFE CONSERVATION IS KEY TO THE SURVIVAL OF THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY IN EAST AFRICA

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Increasingly in East Africa, media reports on poaching and trafficking of game ornaments has become so common that rarely a week passes without mainstream press covering such events. Sadly, these stories are no longer ‘breaking news’ stories. On average, there will be a haul of illegal game trophies found either on key gate-ways to the international market, mostly at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, or with poachers caught and arrested, or killed summarily in the act.

There is that African saying: “since man has learnt to shoot without missing, most birds have learnt to fly without perching”. But in the poaching world, while it is true that man-the poachers- today lethally shoot without missing, unfortunately, the big endangered animals, more so elephants and rhinos, have not mastered the cunning knowledge of the birds in the air.

What is reported is what we know, however, wildlife conservationists and environmentalists claim there are more animals being killed out there whose fates go unreported and whose stories are never told.

Reading through any website of hotels and holiday homes, from the coast inwards to Maasai Mara, there is always a promise that visitors will be able to see this animal or that; from rare birds, monkeys, and the famed big five. Wildlife therefore, is part and parcel of the visitor experience in most of East Africa’s high-end tourist resorts and holiday homes.

Yet in some East African countries, wildlife conservationists flaunt statistics and figures of killed animals which boggles the mind. Often, the war on poaching is given a positive spin; like when wildlife agency officials appear to be winning. Each dead animal triggers a change in the laws, hot debates in legislative houses and dismay in national conversations. Sometimes, Kenya’s high and mighty, and even the world’s known celebrities, descend on animal sanctuaries to adopt, or feed orphaned animals. Such swaps end in newsrooms.

Has there been a deliberate and determined effort to conserve wildlife as key to ensuring the growth and development of other sister industries? For example the hotels and related service industries? Keeping safe East Africa’s game needs a renaissance on the role of the wild in completing the economic and social life cycle of the domesticated, including man.

Unlike most of the developed world; East Africa is still in technological neanderthals, so the world do not visit us to get awed by new inventions in machines or breakthroughs in architecture and the build sciences. The wild is East Africa’s wonder, and economic hope. The East African wild offers the chilling contrasts with the developed world, because, after seeing two elephants caged in a zoo in some world capital, thousands of East Africa’s elephants, roaming freely in troops with clear figureheads and ‘leaders’, become the most scintillating experience of the touring visitor.

Conservation of these animals, therefore, is not only an exercise to continue God’s work here on earth, but also to grow and empower this region still constructing its own science and technological devices; be they huge superhighways or meandering subways or imposing buildings that pierce the heavens. Because we still at least half a century to be glorious, and I am being very optimistic, our animals continue to fill this gap.

Tourism in East Africa powers many sectors of each of the region’s economies. Wildlife is the very foundation of tourism, together with the warm tropical beaches along the Indian Ocean coastline. An example is the perilous wildebeest migrations. More tourists check in at the Maasai Mara and the Serengeti across the border in Tanzania to watch this unique animal migratory experience. Hence, to endanger the wildebeest is to render many accommodation and service establishments here a worthless, and wasteful endeavour.

Whether it is the donkeys at Lamu or the Gorillas in the pristine mountains of Rwanda, caring for East Africa’s game is the next frontier for wooing visitors to this part of the globe. Animal poaching is a luxury that the hospitality industry in East African countries cannot afford.

Should the Church be involved in conservation & climate change issues?

I’ve been away for a couple of weeks in Nairobi for a Micah Network conference discussing the church’s response to Climate Change. It was an awesome week involving people from c.46 nations and making a strong statement that the church has no option but to be fully involved in making a difference to reduce carbon emissions and the impact of climate change on particularly the poor and disadvantaged.

When I talk of A Rocha Kenya as a Christian conservation organisation I get a lot of people being quite surprised to hear that we are a specifically Christian organisation that is doing on-the-ground conservation work – doing biological research and monitoring surveys, working with communities and also environmental education in schools etc. It seems that amazingly few people (Christians and non-Christians alike) have really made the link between the environment and Christian living / biblical teaching. In fact a famous essay in 1967 by Lynn White Jr put the blame of the ecological crisis fair and square on the church’s shoulders – something which in many ways, Christians cannot deny as many have, sadly, misinterpreted the bible to say that we have the right to use the environment around us just as we want to – rather than to be the good stewards that in fact God would have us be. To use the world, yes – but to use it wisely and respectfully and not to harm it nor degrade it.

It was therefore awesome to be in a conference with such a diverse group of people who unanimously agreed that the church should be in fact leading the way in fighting against the environmental degradation we see in the world today and particularly to be lobbying governments to implement legislation to reduce carbon emissions as well as teaching their congregations to change their lifestyles to something more sustainable. A statement was written with input from everyone there that is aimed at the global church together with another one for the politicians of the world – to be tabled at the summit in Copenhagen later this year. This statement can be found on the Micah Network website so do check it out.

I of course managed to get some birding in and actually found a tiny patch of highland forest that is still clinging on amongst the tea fields of Limuru where we had great views of some forest birds – White-browed Crombec, White-starred Robin, Abyssinian Hill Babbler, Brown Woodland Warbler, Grey Apalis (and three other species of apalis – Chestnut-throated, Yellow-breasted and Black-collared) and Cabanis’ Greenbul. At the conference centre – Brackenhurst – they’ve cut down some eucalypt plantations and planted indigenous forest trees which are now 5-10m tall and the bird life has really increased. Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, Yellow-bellied Waxbill, 9 species of sunbird and Giant Kingfishers in the small dam at the bottom of the hill.

Giant Kingfisher

This was followed by a Sunday morning at Lake Nakuru National Park joining the team from the National Museums of Kenya Ornithology Section doing the July waterfowl counts – which was awesome… we counted over 15,000 Great White Pelicans in one flock in front of us and about 45,000 lesser flamingo… stunning, stunning views (whilst dodging grumpy buffalo at the same time). A very good couple of weeks away!