Protecting the Boni-Dodori Forest
The Kenyan coastal forests are globally recognised for their wealth in biodiversity and endemism. At the northern end of this unique and fragile ecosystem are the Boni and Dodori National Reserves. Established in 1976, these cover over 2000km2 – much of Kenya’s last remaining coastal forests. The reserves harbour unique and rare species, such as African wild dogs, the Aders’ duiker, hirola and the endemic golden-rumped sengi (a species of elephant shrew).
Yet the area’s importance was only recognized recently due to its political insecurity and inaccessibility. It still remains primarily intact but is at great risk from forest degradation and threats of development. Urgent action is needed to preserve it, while allowing it to be used in a sustainable way by the indigenous communities.
Monitoring and conserving critically endangered antelopes
Aders’ duiker (Cephalophus adersi) is the rarest of Africa’s forest antelopes, endemic to the forests of East Africa. It is threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation, and hunting for bushmeat. Over the last 20 years the estimated number of Aders' duikers has fallen by around 80%, from 5000 individuals to around 1000.
Until recently, the Ader’s duiker was known only from several other coastal locations in Kenya, but was sighted for the first time in 2004 by a ZSL and Kenyan Wildlife Service team in Dodori forest. These partners, with Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust, carried out a rapid survey in 2008 to establish its distribution. The survey identified the Boni-Dodori forest as a potential stronghold for the Ader’s duiker, and so a globally important area for conservation.
With our partners, ZSL did further in-depth surveys of the forests, so that Boni-Dodori's biodiversity could be understood and better protected. In 2010, ZSL, Kenya Wildlife Service, WWF and Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust, set up camera traps around the Boni-Dodori region and in Arabuko-Sokoke Forest National Reserve. Just under 63,000 images were collected, revealing 40 mammal species, including a potentially new species of giant sengi (Macroscelidea).
Another Critically Endangered antelope also survives in the Boni-Dodori forests: the hirola (Beatragus hunteri). The hirola is unique - this is the sole representative of its group – but just 400-500 remain. It is at risk of becoming the first extinction of a mammalian genus on mainland Africa in more than 100 years.
Over eighteen months, field-workers identified seven herds of hirola, and successfully fitted adult hirola with GPS collars to record vital information on group movements and behaviours.
Our findings have has provided new impetus for local conservation organisations in Kenya to increase their efforts to protect and understand this important centre of African coastal equatorial endemism.