A conservation success story for Arabuko-Sokoke Forest

Plans to conduct exploratory gas and oil surveys within Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, Kenya, have been suspended following fierce opposition from conservationists, local communities and local nature authorities.

Arabuko- Sokoke Forest is the largest remnant of coastal forest in East Africa and is home to many endangered species, including four mammals and six birds. The golden-rumped sengi (EDGE mammal number 46) is particularly vulnerable, as the forest represents its last remaining stronghold. Other species share this endemism to the region, which is also classed as an Important Bird Area (IBA) and global biodiversity hotspot. It is in fact considered to be the second most important area for the conservation of birds in the whole of Africa, second only to the Congo rainforest in Central Africa. In total, there are 270 species of bird, 261 butterflies, 79 reptiles and amphibians, 52 mammals and 600 plants species in this region. The forest is also associated with the Kipepeo butterfly project, an initiative which supports the conservation of forest diversity and the livelihoods of local communities.

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The company CAMAC Energy Kenya had been contracted by the Kenyan government to oversee oil and gas surveys, which would have involved underground drilling and explosive (seismic) activity. CAMAC recruited the Chinese company BGP to carry out this work. Kenyan conservation organisations were concerned about the impact of these surveys on local wildlife, and the further threat to biodiversity if oil was found. Dr Paul Matiku of Nature Kenya stated in an interview with East African News that the explosive activity will “affect everything from the bees to the elephants,” and expressed concern that opening up the forest for the surveys would increase accessibility for loggers and poachers, as has been observed in other African regions. Nature Kenya led a campaign opposing the surveys, which involved the delivery of a petition to the Kenyan government demanding prevention of the work. This was signed by many environmental groups including the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Adjacent Dwellers Association and Local Ocean Trust.

Despite initial resistance to the campaign on the grounds that a legitimate environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) had been carried out, CAMAC Energy have now halted their plans to complete the work. In a statement to Kenyan newspaper ‘The Star,’ managing director of CAMAC Energy, Augustin Nkuba, said “We have made this decision in spite of the fact that we have complied with all recommendations and government requirements and also believe that the acquisition would not have had an adverse effect on the ecosystem in the forest. However, with the concerns raised we will not acquire the two seismic lines within the forest as previously planned. ” (http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/us-firm-cancels-plans-oil-exploration-arabuko-forest )

© galen rathbun calacademy

EDGE mammal 46; Golden rumped sengi
http://www.edgeofexistence.org/mammals/species_info.php?id=46
(© galen rathbun calacademy)

This decision is great news for species such as the golden-rumped sengi, an elephant-shrew, so named because of its resemblance to a large shrew with a long flexible snout. This species is distinguished from other elephant-shrews by the golden patch of fur on its rump.  Unusually for such a small mammals, the golden-rumped sengi is monogamous, whereby animals form life-long pair bonds.  It is currently classified as Endangered by the IUCN Red List, and threatened by the loss of its forest habitat.

 

 

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