Welcome to the Marine Mammal and wildlife Research and Community Development Expedition blog where you can keep up to date with all the happenings and information from Kenya

Friday, May 1, 2009

Felicity Leads Us In To The Forest

Felicity, a vet by profession, has travelled from Australia to join our expedition for 10 weeks, and tells us about her week in Shimoni’s forest...

“Matt and Andy gave us a nice introduction to the forest, with a short walk to transect 1 for bird and primate surveys. Sammy and George, two of our Kenyan National Scholarship Programme participants, showed their prowess by being the first to spot colobus and the rest of watched in awe at the monkey’s antics and agility moving through the forest canopy.

The nest day Hannah was spotting species left and right as we hiked along the North-South spine to transect 6. Often the path was overgrown, requiring some climbing over and crawling under to navigate through. As the canopy closed overhead and the temperature cooled we kept a keen eye out for the flighty suni, a tiny antelope, which had left many calling cards around but remained unseen. We conducted a primate community survey along the tricky terrain of the positive sections of transect 6 and were disappointed to find a fire had been through a large area and some of the older trees had been felled for timber. On our return we heard chainsaws ahead; the culprits fled upon our approach, clearly aware that what they were doing was illegal. After nine hours in the forest, dinner that evening at Abdul’s restaurant in Shimoni was a wonderful treat.

Up and into the forest the next morning, and today it was my turn to lead. Ever ambitious, my plan was to complete all surveys on the negative sections of transect 6. The butterflies were out in their hundreds and we were off to a great start with AP and Ruth spotting Sykes and colobus monkeys, and even a troop of yellow baboons. It was when we were gathering information on the colobus group that Andy had an unfortunate accident, but it was a lesson to us all; be very careful when standing directly underneath to determine the sex of a colobus. As Andy found out, their aim is spot on.

By the end of the week I handed over the leadership reins to Ruth who has us out at 5:30am to get to transect 6 in time for bird surveys. We checked the small mammal trap on the way out and discovered we had caught a female giant pouched rat – Mrs Scarface returned! After some time Andy coaxed her into the cloth bag and together we measured her before being released. Ruth saw a hinged tortoise that six of us had walked straight past for the bird surveys hornbills proved to be the dominant species of the day whilst Hattie watched a Zanj elephant shrew hop right past her as she sat quietly below the canopy.

We continued on with canopy surveys to finish off the negative side of transect 6. Our readings were up around 80 – 90% canopy cover when we smelt the smoke of the fires burning ahead. We were confronted by the devastation of a huge area of forest that had been levelled and burned, and the realisation that the last 50m of the transect had been lost. People were still there burning the last of the timber as we photographed the area and contemplated the single giant baobab tree still standing”