A path-finding mission and preparation of the 2017-activity in the East African coastal forest (here the Arabuko Sokoke forest block) was performed from 1st-6th April 2016. The East African coastal forest is one of the 35 global biodiversity hotspots (sensu Conservation International), and is characterised by extraordinary high species richness (including many endemic plant and animal species), and a high degree of habitat destruction. The largest still remaining patch of primary coastal forest can be found along the coast of Kenya. The management of the forest differs strongly: The Arabuko Sokoke forest reserve (managed by Kenya Wildlife Service and Kenya Forest Service) is the largest intact forest patch of this forest type worldwide, located between Kilifi and Malindi, and is mainly designated as conservation area (however, logging and poaching inside of this area is still continuing); the Kaya Forests are spiritual places, and still consist of dense primary forest in different sizes, found between Mombasa and Kilifi – classified and conserved today as National Monuments due to its cultural (and natural) value; the Dakatcha woodland, north of Malindi, is partially covered by the same forest type, however, most of it is strongly degraded and major parts are designated as “Communal Land”, and thus for use of the local human population. Human demograpic pressure, low governance and a lack of management strategies (and interest) cause a severe and further reduction of these already small, unique forest patches, with negative consequences for many endangered species, like the endemic Arabuko Sokoke Scopes Owl (see picture below).
During a four-days brainstorning with various governmental and non-governmental organisations we developed potential reserach questions and teaching perspectives. We have selected areas and sites for the upcoming activity in spring 2017. We had very fuitful discussions with representatives of the following stakeholders: Kenya Forest Service (KFS), Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) (both officially having the mandate and responsibility to conserve the Arabuko Sokoke forest reserve), Nature Kenya (former East Africa Natural History Society), National Mseums of Kenya (responsible for the Kaya Forests National Monuments), Kenya Forest Research Institute (KEFRI), Coastal Forest Conservation Union (CFCU) – part of NMK, Kipepea project, A Rocha Kenya, and our colleagues from Pwani University, Kilifi. Three masterstudents from Germany (Ivon Constanza Cuadros Casanova, Camilo Zamora and Sina Hesse) are working in these three forest areas for the next months and will collect first data (on butterfly communities and the population structure of the Arabuko Sokoke Scopes Owl).