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Introducing Bernard Amakobe, Secretarybird EDGE Fellow

By on March 10, 2016 in EDGE Updates
EDGE Fellow Bernard Amakobe

What is your name?

My name is Bernard Amakobe

Where are you from?

I am from Kenya, a biodiversity hotbed in East Africa, rich in both avifaunal and mammalian species. We have over one thousand species of bird in Kenya, found in a range of ecosystems from tropical forests to coastal estuaries. We have 42 different tribes, with diverse dialects and traditions. We are proud of our fellow Kenyan, Barack Obama, becoming president of the United States of America.

What EDGE species are you working on and why is it important that it is conserved?

Secretarybird. Photo: Dries Nys

I am working on the Secretarybird, Sagittarius serpentarius, which is a raptor with a unique lifestyle. It feeds on the ground–stomping its prey to death with its powerful legs–but breeds and roosts in trees, forming life-long pair bonds. Although it can fly, the Secretarybird prefers to move around on foot and can cover a distance of up to 30 km in one day, earning it the title, ‘Africa’s Marching Eagle‘.

Only around 20,000 individuals are thought to be left in the wild, though this number is thought to be decreasing at an alarming rate. The IUCN Red List places the species in the category ‘Vulnerable’, but this status could change due to rapid and rampant habitat loss across its range. The Secretarybird is such a charismatic species that two countries, the Sudan and South Africa, have immortalised it as an emblem on their national flag.

What do you plan to achieve during your two-year Fellowship?

Bernard measuring a bird

My aim is to establish the conservation status of the Secretarybird in the Kagisau REDD+ project area, and determine how it can be improved. My project also aims to improve awareness of the species importance to communities living adjacent to the project area and explore the possibilities of using the Secretarybird as a flagship species for conservation efforts in the region.


Why did you apply for the EDGE Fellowship?

I applied to the EDGE Fellowship as it is the perfect opportunity for me to gain competence in the execution of my duties as a researcher. As a researcher, the Fellowship will greatly shape my skills in all aspects of research, monitoring and collation and presentation of data. This will enhance my career advancement and improve my boldness in my desire to advance science through publishing my work.

The Fellowship will also provide me with the skills I need to further my education through a Masters Degree. I hope to be a role model to younger, aspiring scientists by imparting the knowledge and skills gained from the Fellowship through education and field demonstrations, and training them in field skills.

What did you enjoy most about the EDGE Conservation Tools course?

The Tools course has provided me with new skills which I previously assumed I could not muster. I loved the work ethic and the well-organised schedules because I was made to be conscious of respecting time, whereas in Africa our norm is “there is no hurry!”. The presenters of the course were very sensitive to the needs of all participants and enabled us to make the Tools course a truly memorable learning experience.

Who is your conservation hero?

My conservation hero is the late Nobel Laureate, Professor Wangari Maathai

Secretarybird 1_LIP KEE
Secretarybird in flight. Photo: Lip Kee