Kenya, a country of scenic beauty, lies on the eastern coastline of Africa covering an area of 600,000 square Kilometers. The Indian Ocean borders it on the east, providing a welcoming beach-front and whispering palm trees. Lake Victoria, the second largest lake in the world is found on the extreme west and is shared by Uganda and Tanzania.
Kenya is rich in biological diversity with around 25,000 species of animal and 7,000 plants recorded along with 2,000 fungi and bacteria (NBU 1992). These species inhibits a variety of habitats ranging from coral reefs to moorlands. However, Kenya’s biodiversity is undergoing serious threats of agricultural encroachment, timber extraction and charcoal production, although weak management capacity within government and communities is a serious issue leading to damaging of ecosystems and impairing them. The Eastern Arc Mountains and Coastal forest resources are also not spared.
Kenya has an extensive protected area with over 10% of the country’s land area gazette as National parks, National reserves or Forest reserves. Many of these protected areas and especially forest reserves face serious conservation problems despite their status (Bennun & Njoroge 1999).
In the fragmented forests of the Kenyan portion of the Eastern Arc Mountains (Taita Hills), some patches, including plantation, have been gazetted as forest reserve. Others are on trust land administered by the local county council, some of which have been recommended for gazettement as forest reserves (Bennun & Njoroge 1999). Unfortunately, protection of these forests is virtually non-existent, to the point where local administrators have sold forest plots for agricultural settlement (e.g., at Madunguni and Mangea Hill). A large proportion (nearly 40%) of the Kenyan coastal forests falls into this category or is totally unprotected (data from WWF-EARPO 2002).
The two largest coastal forests are both in Kenya (Arabuko-Sokoke, minimum area 370 km2; Shimba Hills, minimum area 63 km2) (WWF-EARPO 2002), both sites are important for conservation of birds and are listed as one of the twenty-five biodiversity hotspots in the world.
Arabuko-Sokoke Forest is the largest remaining tract of indigenous coastal forest in East Africa
Sokoke Scops-owl Otus ireneae - another threatened species endemic to the east African forests and best known from Arabuko-Sokoke. (T. Langton)