Dressing to amaze

Choosing a soul mate is not an easy task. Many things are factored in, with the potential mate required to meet a set of minimums for consideration. Even if it means traversing rough terrains, climbing hills or descending steep valleys and slopes, the mission of pursuing a soul mate largely depends on a strategy invested in preparation.

Courtship behaviour in birds is one of the most fascinating. Both males and females may be choosy about their mates. Usually, it is the males who attempt to attract females by showcasing prowess in displays. They do so by wearing striking and attractive plumage and even singing out fine tunes to lure their potential mates.

If positive, females reciprocate by firmly standing ground and not moving away. If not interested, they fly off.

Females need to ensure they pair with quality and strong males. The females keenly look at several details before arriving at a decision. Males in good shape and have attained the right breeding plumage are often better placed to win over females. The intensity and frequency of displays give more attraction to the female. Males with previous mating success or experience often edge out new entrants.

The quality of the territory defended by males also determines the decision of the female. A neatly constructed nest in the best location wins the heart of many females to call it home.

Guardians of the Mount Kenya forest ecosystem

The Mount Kenya Biodiversity Conservation Group (Mt Kebio) is one of the Site Support Groups (SSGs) of Nature Kenya in the Central region. The SSG works with local communities alongside conservation authorities to conserve the critical Mount Kenya forest ecosystem.

Rampant cases of deforestation, the disappearance of rare species like the Kenyan Jewel damselfly, Abbot’s Starling and Mountain Bongos, coupled with increased cases of charcoal burning and solid waste pollution led to the formation the SSG by porters and tour guides in 1999.

Currently, the group operates from the Mount Kenya Eco-resource centre in Naro Moru town at the base of the mountain. The Eco-resource centre was constructed in 2002 by Nature Kenya through funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The centre serves to encourage the appreciation of the Mount Kenya forest ecosystem and its biodiversity by offering an integrated environmental education program. It hosts a conference hall alongside a library and an artefact shop where learners, researchers and tourists can access materials on conservation.

The SSG also uses the facility as a venue for public awareness creation. School children, college students and other groups visit the centre to learn more about the critical Mount Kenya forest ecosystem. Souvenirs made by SSG members are also sold at the centre.

Besides advocating for the conservation of the Mount Kenya forest ecosystem, the SSG has also integrated outreach programmes to schools.

“The aim is to let the learners know of the challenges stemming from destructive activities. We want children in schools around the Mt. Kenya area to learn and conserve this ecosystem. Children get to learn about the devastating effects of activities such as illegal logging and charcoal burning. Teaching children the values of conservation at a tender age is the best way to ensure the sustainability of this valuable ecosystem,” says Mr Alex Karuri, secretary of the SSG.

Alice King’ori, a senior teacher at Kiboya Primary School in Kieni East notes that the integrated educational programmes offered within the eco-resource centre are helping to boost learners’ understanding of conservation.

“This initiative is excellent because when learners visit the library, they get to access a lot of conservation-themed materials. They are also taken through lessons, and they get to learn of rare species found within these forests,” Ms King’ori says.

One can also spend a night camping around the eco-resource centre by hiring tents owned by the SSG and enjoy guided nature hikes offered by tour guides who double up as SSG members.

Nature Kenya has supported the training of SSG members on bird identification. The training has enhanced the guides’ bird identification skills enabling them to lead bird enthusiasts, researchers and visitors to bird-rich areas.

Planning to visit the Mount Kenya Eco-resource Centre? Kindly get in touch with Gerald on 0722172285 or Alex 0702104488.

Taking conservation action through resilience to Covid 19

The Covid 19 situation remains largely unchanged. We continue being vigilant – wearing masks, washing hands and working from home when we can.

Membership activities are taking place with caution:

  1. Wednesday Morning and Third Sunday bird walks continue this month. See back page for details.
  2. The October Big Day eBird birding challenge takes place on 9th October. Also see back page for details.
  3. A virtual talk: Spider: Friend or Enemy? by Grace Kioko will take place on 22nd October.
  4. The Nature Kenya office is closed. However, membership can be renewed online http://naturekenya.org/support/membership/ or via M-pesa. Books, honey, etc. may be purchased online or with M-Pesa and collected on Mondays or by arrangement. Ring the bell at the entrance of the office behind the galleries.
  5. Members will continue to receive an electronic version of the Nature Net.
  6. The EANHS/NMK Library is open to the public. Museum galleries and sites are open to the public under Ministry of Health guidelines.

Nature Kenya’s conservation work went on in September. Actions to save species, conserve habitats, encourage ecological sustainability and empower people were undertaken across various sites:

Species and Site Monitoring

Site Support Groups in Dakatcha Woodland, Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, Mt. Kenya Forest, Sabaki River estuary, Yala Swamp, Taita Hills, Tana River Delta, South Nandi forest and Mida Creek Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) conducted Common Bird Monitoring.

In Amboseli KBA, Nature Kenya trained 16 community volunteers on improved livestock herding practices. The training was aimed at reducing and mitigating human-wildlife conflicts.

In Arabuko-Sokoke, 21 newly-graduated community forest scouts were recruited to enhance forest surveillance in Jilore and Sokoke areas.

Habitat Restoration

The development of a geographic information system (GIS) to track habitat restoration progress in the Tana River Delta commenced. Once operational, community members will be trained on how to collect restoration GIS data and conduct mapping using smartphones. Data collected will be fed into a GIS-based geodatabase to generate real-time information for analysis.

Advocacy and Awareness Creation

In Kisumu, Friends of Dunga Swamp and the Ruma national park SSG submitted comments for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report for proposed sand harvesting at Sondu Miriu River Delta.

The Chebororwa Sekemiat Self-help Group and Cherangany Hills Community-based Organization submitted memoranda on Elgeyo Marakwet County Annual Development Plan 2022/2023 while Tana Delta Conservation Network submitted comments for the Tana River County Finance Bill 2021.

Livelihoods Improvement

Nature Kenya is piloting innovative approaches to build community resilience in drought-stricken areas around Key Biodiversity Areas. This includes promoting resilient community livelihoods like rearing of improved indigenous chicken and goat breeds, climate-smart agriculture and beekeeping, among others.

In Tana Delta, 285 chilli farmers have entered into contract farming with Equator Kenya Ltd. Two of them started harvesting the high-value crop, earning Ksh. 53,946 from 899 kilograms in September.

Despite the prevailing drought, farmers in the Delta have so far realized Ksh. 951,232 from the sale of maize, green grams and cowpeas under the same initiative.

With your support, we can empower more communities across Kenya to be resilient.

For clarifications or to report your observations on species and sites, kindly contact us through email: office@naturekenya.org  or telephone: 020 3537568, 0780 149200, 0751 624312, 0771 343138

Dr Paul Matiku,

Executive Director, Nature Kenya – the East Africa Natural History Society