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, August 20, 2010

Building new butterfly traps

One rainy day last week when we were forced to return from the forest mid-morning soaked to the skin, we took the opportunity to test our DIY skills; by constructing new butterfly traps.

The forest programme has been using three butterfly traps, placed in set locations to research species diversity and abundance and to measure levels of disturbance by species presence/absence in comparison with previous data. Butterflies are specifically useful to study because not only are they relatively easy to catch and record, but also they are a good indicator of habitat type, plant presence and are highly sensitive to disturbance. Each day the traps are set with a bait of fermented banana and checked the next morning, with each individual being identified and photographed, then released unscathed.

-- The team works to build the new traps --

New traps would mean new locations and sub-habitats could be surveyed, giving us a better overall picture of the forest and a way to track changes over time. So, with this in mind we worked as a team, to forage through heaps of old mosquito nets, scrap metal, disused tents and broken ply wood to find the necessary materials.

-- Zeno, the forest officer, sewing --

With arms full of goodies, we returned to the garden and set upon cutting, chopping, sewing, moulding and twisting to find the best new trap design. There was a lot of problem solving and debate! But, by mid-afternoon we had four complete and functional butterfly traps. As a test run, we set them up in the garden with bait and fortunately they all worked perfectly!

-- The four completed traps in our garden --

On Tuesday this week, we went to Transect 4 to set up the new traps and on Wednesday we checked to see how successful they had been. We caught 12 individuals and a variety of species of butterfly; we are now also experimenting with different types of bait, including rotten tomatoes, rotten passion fruits and compost. Even the rainy days in Shimoni are productive, fun and contributing towards the forest research!