Monkey business: Building a global database of primate conservation studies (commentary)

first_imgWhile one primate — Homo sapiens — has flourished and spread across the planet, about 60 percent of non-human primate species are threatened with extinction. Conservation of these intelligent, complex creatures can be challenging on many levels.Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, together with researchers at the University of Cambridge (where I work), have just published the results of a three-year project gathering the data on how well primate conservation initiatives have worked to conserve species from lemurs to chimpanzees.The idea is simple: to present the current evidence for every intervention people might do to conserve primates, so that primate conservationists can learn from the best available data at the click of a mouse. This global database on primate conservation interventions is available to view for free.This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay. Primates are our family. From tiny, delicate golden lion tamarins to impressively muscular gorillas, we are part of the same evolutionary lineage; a tree of life stretching back about 65 million years. But while one primate — Homo sapiens — has flourished and spread across the planet, about 60 percent of non-human primate species are threatened with extinction.Conservation of these intelligent, complex creatures can be challenging on many levels. We must work wisely towards finding the best solutions to the multi-faceted problems threatening their survival.Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, together with researchers at the University of Cambridge (where I work), have just published the results of a three-year project gathering the data on how well primate conservation initiatives have worked to conserve species from lemurs to chimpanzees. The ‘Primate Synopsis’ collects scientific papers and, where possible, NGO reports, testing conservation ‘interventions’ — actions that conservationists might undertake in order to have a favorable impact on these species.A bonnet macaque chews electrical wires in Valparai, India. Photo by Claire Wordley.A panel of 23 primate experts from around the world identified 162 interventions that could be implemented for primates, and the research team at Max Planck searched nearly 170 conservation journals and newsletters for studies testing them. They summarized all the papers in plain English, so that even conservationists without access to scientific journals can read the findings.The idea is simple: to present the current evidence for every intervention people might do to conserve primates, so that primate conservationists can learn from the best available data at the click of a mouse. This global database on primate conservation interventions is available to view for free, and a PDF of all the studies can be downloaded for use in areas without reliable internet access.So what works to conserve primates?The answer is understandably complicated, given the diversity of the group and the nature of conservation work. Non-human primates and humans conflict in many places on multiple levels. Non-human primates raid crops, chew cables, scatter garbage, steal food, and can become aggressive when they get used to being fed by people. Humans destroy primate habitats, kill primates with motor vehicles, and hunt them for food and pets. Furthermore, non-human primates are socially and psychologically complex creatures, whose responses to conservation efforts can be difficult to predict.An adult lion-tailed macaque with infant in Valparai, India. Photo by Claire Wordley.However, some patterns can be observed. Infrastructure such as roads, for example, can have devastating effects on primates. Primates crossing roads may be killed by vehicles, and food waste thrown from cars can lure primates towards areas where they are at risk of collision. Large roads can represent impenetrable barriers, preventing gene flow between primates living on each side of the road.Fortunately, there are some tantalizing hints at solutions: black lion tamarins and capuchins in Brazil have been seen using custom-built pole bridges to cross roads, and six species of lemurs in Madagascar used canopy bridges to cross roads and mining areas rather than walk on the roads below. Even better, a thirteen-year study in Belize found that black howler monkey numbers increased after the construction of pole bridges over man-made gaps, as one part of a wider conservation plan.Involving local human communities was also very successful in some studies, but exactly how best to involve them – or under which circumstances involving communities works best – needs more research. Of three studies testing how well it worked to involve local communities in primate research and conservation management, two saw successes – with black howler monkeys in Belize, and gorillas in Cameroon – while another, on mountain gorillas in several central African countries, saw gorillas decline despite a local environmental education program.Sitting pretty: Common langurs gaze at the Amer Fort near Jaipur, India, illustrating how closely human and non-human primates live in some parts of the world. Photo by Claire Wordley.Figuring out what makes the difference between success and failure is criticalWere external factors such as conflict part of the reason that mountain gorillas continued to decline in the central African study? Or was the environmental education program inherently less likely to work than the ‘Gorilla Guardian’ program in Cameroon, where local communities selected representatives to collect data on the gorillas? The current data do not allow us to do more than speculate, but hopefully they will encourage more primate conservationists to evaluate their work in order to answer these questions.Despite the failure of the gorilla environmental education program, multimedia campaigns to change behavior and promote positive attitudes towards primates have worked well in many places. Three studies found increased knowledge about primates in areas where multimedia campaigns, among other interventions, had been carried out; two studies found improved attitudes towards primates; one found a reduction in poaching; and three studies found increased numbers of primates. Clearly multimedia campaigns can be powerful — the next stages are to look at the messages, and messengers, that maximize the chances of success.What does the future hold? Juvenile vervet monkey. Photo by Ricardo RochaOther interventions had more variable results. Despite being one of the most commonly tested interventions, reintroducing groups of primates had unpredictable success rates. Some projects saw primate numbers boom, with high survival rates among the released animals, and rapid breeding; others saw the majority of released animals die. The reasons are not always obvious, as many projects seemed to be undertaking similar interventions, such as veterinary screenings of animals before release, acclimatizing the animals to the new area before releasing them, and providing supplementary food after release. Some species may simply be more suited to translocation or release from captivity than others — but there is a clear need to carefully test variations on how best to release animals, to give each project the best chance of success.For example, most gorillas (up to 85 percent) seemed to survive even over several years post-release, and to reproduce successfully. However, for vervet monkeys, survival ranged from 60 percent for six months post-release in one study, to 17 percent over 10 months post-release in another study. Are gorillas inherently more likely to survive translocation than vervet monkeys? Are the differences in survival between studies for vervet monkeys due to the landscape that they were released into, the rehabilitation and release process itself, or where the monkeys were sourced from? How could you develop the optimal method for reintroducing vervet monkeys to the wild? These questions and more will only be answerable with further studies, but gaining an overview of all the existing work will help guide the direction of key research.Which interventions urgently need more studies?Common langur near Jaipur, India. Photo by Claire Wordley.For 59 percent of interventions, the authors of the Primate synopsis were unable to find any studies that examined how well they worked. These are the areas where good experiments would add the most to primate conservation, and the full list can be seen on the online database. The authors note that more studies testing interventions are urgently needed for small, nocturnal species, and for primates in South America and Asia, as these species were under-represented in the global database of studies.As mining activities are increasing globally in primate habitats, the authors stress the need for innovation in ways to mitigate the effect of mining and energy production on primates and their habitats. These might include minimizing ground vibrations caused by open cast mining activities, establishing no-mining zones in/near watersheds so as to preserve water equilibrium, and using ‘set-asides’ for wildlife (primate) protection within mining areas.Research into ways to optimally engage with local communities in areas of primate habitat would also hugely benefit primate conservation. More studies on the effects of interventions to promote education and awareness-raising, and interventions that provide monetary or non-monetary benefits to local communities for sustainably managing their wildlife, would help to gauge the relative merits of each approach. Given the high level of conservation spending on community engagement of various kinds, it seems worthwhile dedicating five or 10 percent of primate conservation budgets to testing their efficacy.Lemur catta. Photo by Ricardo Rocha.One of the main problems when trying to test the effectiveness of interventions is that, typically, many interventions are conducted at once, making it hard to tell which ones were beneficial and which were not. While this reflects the reality of trying to undertake complex and urgent conservation projects, there are ways of isolating and testing interventions within bigger projects, such as staggering the times at which interventions are rolled out. The ‘PRISM’ toolkit can help practitioners on the ground to test interventions and it is available for free online. Tests of interventions can be published without publication fees in the Conservation Evidence journal, among other places.Many fascinating pieces of research have gone into creating this global database on primate conservation; with the continued hard work of primate conservationists, the next update of the database in a few years time should be even better, helping to make primate conservation more effective.Callitrix monkey, Kotu River, Gambia. Photo courtesy of Claire Wordley.Common squirrel monkey (Simia sciureus). Photo by Ricardo Rocha.CITATIONEstrada, A., Garber, P. A., Rylands, A. B., Roos, C., Fernandez-Duque, E., Di Fiore, A., … & Rovero, F. (2017). Impending extinction crisis of the world’s primates: Why primates matter. Science advances, 3(1), e1600946. doi:10.1126/sciadv.1600946Dr. Claire Wordley is a researcher with the Conservation Evidence group at the University of Cambridge. Her background includes working on the responses of tropical bats to forest fragmentation and agricultural activity. This led to an interest in researching how to make conservation change happen, and she now works at Conservation Evidence working with NGOs and government agencies to see how they can best use and produce scientific evidence.FEEDBACK: Use this form to send a message to the author of this post. If you want to post a public comment, you can do that at the bottom of the page. Animals, Commentary, Conservation, Editorials, Environment, Lemurs, Mammals, Monkeys, Primates, Research, Researcher Perspective Series, Wildlife, Wildlife Conservation Article published by Mike Gaworeckicenter_img Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsoredlast_img read more

A forest of their own: The Yiaku as Kenya’s model forest stewards

first_imgThe Yiaku people have inhabited and watched over Mukogodo Forest for centuries, as hunter-gatherers who have lately embraced herding. But it is only in the past decade that the Kenyan government has officially given them rights to the forest, as well as full responsibility for managing it.The forest has thrived under the Yiaku’s care, according to officials, a stark contrast to other forests in the country, which are being lost to illegal logging and agricultural encroachment.The Kenyan government, which has a decidedly mixed record when it comes to protecting both forests and the rights of forest-dwelling indigenous groups, is hailing the Yiaku’s approach as a model for other communities around the country. However, the Yiaku face a suite of challenges, including intensifying drought, threats of encroachment by neighboring groups, and their own dwindling connection to their traditional culture.This is the first part of Mongabay’s three-part profile of the Yiaku’s management of their ancestral forest. Read the other stories in this three-part profile of the Yiaku’s management of Mukogodo forest:Kenya: Bees help indigenous Yiaku defend and monitor their ancestral forestFor Kenya’s Yiaku, medicinal herbs are their forest’s blessing and curse LAIKIPIA, Kenya — An elderly man clad in a long green-and-yellow plaid shawl knotted tightly above one shoulder sits on the dusty verandah of Mukogodo Primary School, oblivious to the scorching midday heat.“We have three footpaths that can take us to the forest from here, but we have to know what time it is in order to know which area the elephants and buffalos are headed to,” Moses Litiku tells Mongabay. He gazes at the sun. After a few minutes of consideration he settles on a route safely out of the animals’ way and then forges out, clenching his walking stick.Litiku, a 79-year-old herbalist, grew up in Mukogodo Forest and knows it intimately. His people, the Yiaku, have inhabited and watched over the forest for centuries, as hunter-gatherers who have lately embraced herding. But it was only in the past decade that the Kenyan government officially granted them rights to the forest, as well as full responsibility for managing it. Mukogodo is the only one of Kenya’s 372 gazetted forests under the sole custodianship of an indigenous community.The community’s approach to protecting the forest involves a strong governance system coupled with traditional religious beliefs that emphasize care for the ecosystem on which their livelihoods depend. The Yiaku have fended off illegal loggers and poachers, and forest cover has improved under their care, in stark contrast to other forests in the country, which are being lost to illegal logging and agricultural encroachment. The government, which has a decidedly mixed record when it comes to protecting both forests and the rights of forest-dwelling indigenous groups, is hailing the Yiaku’s approach as a model for other communities around the country. However, the Yiaku face a suite of challenges to their custodianship of the forest, including intensifying drought, threats of encroachment by neighboring groups, and their own dwindling connection to their traditional culture.Yiaku elder Moses Litiku walks into Mukogodo Forest, the Yiaku’s ancestral home. Image by Shadrack Kavilu for Mongabay.Defending the forestMukogodo Forest is a 302-square-kilometer (117-square-mile) tract of dry forest that sits in the foothills of Mount Kenya in the central part of the country, 210 kilometers (130 miles) northeast of Nairobi. Its rolling hills blanketed in native trees are home to 45 mammal species, including threatened elephants, buffaloes and leopards, as well as around 200 bird and 100 butterfly species.Deep inside the forest, Litiku comes to a dark spot where the canopy blots out the sky. He sees freshly broken branches on a tree, then bends down to examine what looks like animal droppings. He squeezes a piece of it between his fingers, testing the moisture, then drops it.“The elephants passed through here about three hours ago. They are now on the other side of the forest and will be returning later in the evening,” he says with a reassuring grin.Litiku goes on to explain the Yiaku’s relationship with the forest.“Our forefathers invoked a curse on the forest and we believe whoever cuts a tree, the curse would befall his family,” he says. “These taboos are very powerful and no one would contemplate breaking them, not even during the night.”Litiku says Yiaku children as young as 4 are taught about the importance of the trees and behavior patterns of birds. By the time they reach 12 they can interpret various bird calls and animal behaviors to tell the presence of a predator or poacher. “For example when birds like woodpeckers chirp continuously near a homestead we know it’s a signal that we have an enemy. Furthermore, our honey harvesters communicate with honeyguide birds through whistling to establish locations of wild beehives deep inside the forest,” Litiku says.The forest provides more than just food and the opportunity to generate income through activities like beekeeping and livestock grazing. “The forest provides us with medicinal plants; thus destroying any of these trees is putting our community in grave danger,” Litiku says, pointing at a tree he claims cures at least four ailments.Map shows Laikipia County in Kenya, where Mukogodo Forest is located. Image courtesy of Google Maps.Map of Isiolo, Meru, and Laikipia counties in central Kenya shows Mukogodo Forest (center). Click here to enlarge. Image by Yvonne A. de Jong and Thomas M. Butynski, wildsolutions.nl.The community’s strong attachment to the sacred forest is at the heart of the Yiaku’s traditional values and practices, which they have developed into a unique governance structure to manage and regulate forest resources. As a member of the Yiaku’s 15-person council of elders, Litiku helps decide how the community uses the forest sustainably, for instance by allocating the rotation of grazing areas, formulating laws, and helping resolve disputes. The council has been a feature of Yiaku life for generations, part of the group’s traditional forest management approach that has become increasingly formalized through partnership with the Kenyan government.Over the years, the country has enacted a raft of progressive laws aimed at bolstering existing forest conservation initiatives by bringing on board indigenous people and local communities. The Forest Act of 2005 granted these communities the rights to forest resources. A 2007 revision of the act gave communities a bigger role in forest conservation, either as co-managers or contract managers of forests. It also outlawed, on paper anyway, long-standing practices such as hunting and logging for charcoal, to maintain the forests and promote tourism.That year, the Yiaku abandoned hunting in favor of livestock herding and beekeeping, and ventured into ecotourism, leasing out a lodge they’d built a few years earlier to an investor who established a high-end six-room tourist lodge there. Proceeds from the lease help support Mukogodo Primary School and pay Yiaku children’s school fees, forest scouts’ salaries, medical costs and community projects.In 2008, the Yiaku formed a decision-making body known as a Community Forest Association (CFA) and entered into an official partnership with the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) to manage Mukogodo. While retaining ownership of the forest land through KFS, the government acknowledges that it is Yiaku ancestral land and guarantees the community the right to unfettered access to and use of the forest.Under the partnership, the Yiaku CFA began work to develop a strategic management plan for forest conservation, establish tree nurseries, and act as the environment’s watchdog. It set up a team of six Yiaku forest guards, trained by the KFS, to monitor forest health and patrol for illegal activity. It also set up a team of Yiaku youth scouts, trained by the KFS, to take part in patrols and other forest conservation activities. And it established a targeted reforestation program that all community members, including children, are required to help with. Over the years the community has received funding from several NGOs for various aspects of their work to protect their rights, culture and forest.A group of Yiaku youth scouts, who have been trained by the Kenya Forest Service to participate in forest patrols and other conservation activities. Here they are shown taking part in an initiation ceremony as they graduate from one age class to another. Image by Shadrack Kavilu for Mongabay.It’s not just living trees the Yiaku value; they also have a strong passion for dead ones.“Cutting dead tree logs that are still standing or fallen is also considered a taboo here,” James Sikong, a 27-year-old Yiaku forest guard and a member of the CFA, tells Mongabay. For one thing, the logs sometime act as beehives.“Even if they fail to attract bees, we would rather let them decompose and add nutrients to the ground,” he says, pointing to a log that fell 20 years ago. “I remember the event very well because I was in nursery school when the tree fell on my path to school. Since then, the tree is still here,” Sikong says, adding that no Yiaku dare cut any of the many fallen logs in the forest, not even for firewood.Sikong and the five other forest guards work closely with the youth scouts, patrolling the forest by foot on a daily basis. The guards are armed with mobile phones and heavy weaponry issued by the KFS, and the scouts carry traditional swords and batons. The latter are also engaged in herding and beekeeping, which ensures they are always in the forest.There’s little help, other than the training, from the KFS; the primary duty of the only KFS officer assigned to Mukogodo is to coordinate logistics in case of natural disasters like wildfires. They are constantly in tune with everything happening in the forest, Lazarus Lentula, a 27-year-old forest guard leader, tells Mongabay.“Since we are all members of this community we are in a better position to detect any encroachment or destruction of the forest,” Lentula says. When the guards or scouts spot a threat from illegal loggers or a sick wild animal, they inform the CFA immediately, as well as the relevant authorities, such as the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) or the KFS, he says. Depending on the nature of the threat, the guards and scouts can also remove offenders from the forest or arrest them and take them to the council of elders for punishment.A view of Mukogodo Forest, a 302-square-kilometer (117-square-mile) tract of largely intact dry forest that is home to 45 mammal species, including threatened elephants, buffaloes and leopards, as well as around 200 bird and 100 butterfly species. Image by Shadrack Kavilu for Mongabay.The Yiaku’s approach has paid off. In the decade since they took on full management responsibility for Mukogodo, the forest’s tree cover has increased from 52 percent to 70 percenst, according to Stephen Mwaura, a KFS ecosystem conservator for Laikipia county. “The achievement of the Yiaku in recovering forest canopy is very impressive compared to other forests in the country, which have witnessed a high rate of deforestation between 2010 [and] 2018,” Mwaura tells Mongabay.Although there have been no studies to confirm it, locals say wildlife has rebounded too. “Since we took over the control of the forest, the population of animals, like gazelles and antelopes, that we used to hunt for food has increased; they now roam freely to our homesteads,” Litiku says.The community has scaled up its beekeeping in the years since it gained control of the forest, which has led to higher incomes. Access to education and medical care has also improved significantly, thanks to funding from the tourist lodge. The Yiaku are now looking to expand their honey production capacity and build another lodge.Yiaku children outside their houses. Image by Shadrack Kavilu for Mongabay.Rights to the forest are keyJennifer Koinante has been at the forefront of the community’s fight for recognition of its land rights as executive director of the Yiaku Laikipiak Trust, a local advocacy group. Besides keeping the forest intact, the Yiaku’s management approach has also earned them autonomy and security from the government, Koinante says, easing a threat of eviction from the forest that had loomed in 2011 following heightened political tensions in the area. The corollary is that the government’s recognition of the Yiaku’s land and forest rights renewed the community’s zeal to conserve Mukogodo. “A sense of belonging and identity … came along with recognition of our land rights and acknowledgment that the forest is our ancestral land,” Koinante says.That sense of identity has been critical for the tiny Yiaku community of fewer than 4,000 people. “Our struggle has been long and winding, dovetailing our identity as a people and our economic rights,” she says.Koinante’s view that recognizing indigenous peoples’ rights is the only way the government can effectively combat deforestation and poaching in the forests these people inhabit is shared by a growing body of conservationists and human rights experts. A report released in June by the U.S.-based NGO Rights and Resources Initiative and the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, found that indigenous and local communities are far more effective conservationists than governments are through protected areas; and yet those very communities are often displaced or marginalized to achieve conservation goals. “They are achieving at least equal conservation results with a fraction of the budget of protected areas, making investments in indigenous people the most efficient means of protecting forests,” the report states.A Yiaku woman outside her house, a traditional structure called a manyatta the Yiaku have adopted from the neighboring Maasai along with many other aspects of Maasai culture. Image by Shadrack Kavilu for Mongabay.A model for other forestsIn fact, the Yiaku’s guardianship of Mukogodo Forest has been hailed as the first success story in the decade since indigenous and local communities began collaborating with the Kenyan government on forest conservation. In 2015, conservationists marked World Forest Day with a celebration in Mukogodo. The model, conservationists and at least some Kenyan authorities believe, has the potential to improve Kenya’s forest cover and the livelihoods of thousands of indigenous people living in the country’s forests.“This community model of using ancient conservation techniques has proved forest co-management with indigenous communities could be the panacea in reducing deforestation and land conflicts,” says the KFS’s Mwaura.He says that following the Yiaku’s success, the government plans to replicate the co-management model in more than 100 other gazetted forests. The agency has already signed forest co-management agreements with 87 communities, although the Yiaku remain the only one to have full custodianship of their forest, and is in negotiations with another 68.But the process won’t be easy, he says. Progress has been slow, considering the government began enacting laws promoting community forest management more than a decade ago: at the current rate, it would take 35 years to finalize co-management agreements for the country’s remaining 285 gazetted forests.“Not all forest communities are well organized,” Mwaura says. “Some are known to abet logging, making it difficult to bring them on board.”A three-dimensional map of Mukogodo Forest the Yiaku used to plan reforestation and enforcement efforts. The map was destroyed by herders who invaded the forest in search of pasture last year. Image courtesy of the Yiaku Laikipiak Trust.Moreover, increasingly frequent droughts, rapid population growth, high competition for food and pasture, and increasing demand for energy are driving communities into Kenya’s forests, escalating deforestation. “Population pressure and [a] scramble for grazing pasture from outsiders is proving a challenge towards introducing this model to other gazetted forests in the country,” Mwaura says.Kenya’s deforestation problem is serious. Forests account for about 7.4 percent of Kenya’s total land area, down from 12 percent 50 years ago. In 2016 the government announced a goal to increase the country’s forest cover to 10 percent by 2022.Jackson Bambo is the national coordinator for the Kenya Forests Working Group, a Nairobi-based coalition of governmental, nongovernmental and community groups that promotes sustainable forest management. Like Mwaura, he attributes the slow progress in bringing indigenous and local communities into forest management partly to communities taking a long time to form the required CFAs. But he lays much of the blame on the government, for failing to make clear how the communities would be compensated for their efforts, and also for dragging its heels.“The process has been slow because the Forest Act 2005 did not have timelines and so KFS took long to set up and also to develop the necessary guidelines, forest management plans and forest management agreements,” Bambo says.He says the Forest Conservation and Management Act, from 2016, addresses the issue of incentives, as well as gender representation, and ensures communities will have access to finances through a designated trust fund. He says he’s hopeful this will move the process forward. “The new law ensures communities’ interests are taken into account. We expect to see more communities willing to collaborate with authorities in the war against deforestation,” Bambo says.For many indigenous communities, the Kenyan government has a long way to go. Even as it has recognized the Yiaku’s land and forest rights and encouraged them to take control of their ancestral forest, it has been evicting other indigenous forest dwellers, often violently.For instance, the Sengwer and the Ogiek, both hunter-gatherer groups in the west of the country, have for years fought for their land rights and demanded to be involved in the management of their ancestral forests. Yet they remain in conflict with the authorities, who blame them for forest destruction. Earlier this year the European Union suspended a $35 million conservation project after the Kenyan government violently evicted Sengwer communities from a forest they claim.Moreover, Kenya’s forest authorities have a severe credibility problem. Amid a public outcry this year over rapid deforestation, the government imposed a nationwide ban on logging that has been extended until next November, and fired the head of the KFS. In April, a government task force appointed to study the issue released a scathing report that held the KFS itself largely responsible for the loss of forest cover, saying officers turning a blind eye or in some cases even participated in illegal logging. “The Kenya forest service has institutionalized corruption and the system is replete with deep-rooted corruptive practices, lack of accountability and unethical behavior,” the report states.A Yiaku man points to solar panels atop a school where children are taught the Yiaku language and culture. The Yiaku are working to preserve their traditional knowledge, including longstanding approaches to conserving Mukogodo Forest. to Image by Shadrack Kavilu for Mongabay.New threats, new approachesAgainst the backdrop of this turbulent national scene, the Yiaku face challenges of their own.One is mounting pressure on Mukogodo Forest from neighboring communities, intensified by climate change. The region has been gripped by a series of droughts in recent years that are lasting longer and becoming more intense. A racially charged conflict flared up last year between pastoralist communities and private ranchers near Mukogodo over dwindling pasture and water points. The drought forced Samburu herders to move into Mukogodo from the north in search of pasture, leaving a trail of destruction in the forest.Over the years, the Yiaku have had a management plan that allocated these pastoralists some grazing land in designated parts of the forest during the dry seasons. The arrangement has helped mitigate conflict for ages, ensuring the pastoralists’ herds don’t destroy the forest, according to Koinante. But Yiaku leaders fear the herders’ recent defiance of the agreement could fuel conflict and open the way for illegal loggers, jeopardizing the forest’s health and the community’s hard-earned rights to the forest.“We want the government to intervene during such incidences so that they can help us safeguard the forest resources,” Koinante says.One tool the Yiaku have come up with in response to these emerging challenges is a three-dimensional map of the forest. The Yiaku have used it to identify which areas to reforest and what tree species to plant. They’ve also used it to highlight the porous stretches of the forest’s boundaries, so they can determine where to mount beehives to keep intruders away. “You can’t cut trees where there are bees, for fear of being attacked,” Koinante says.Another imminent challenge is the Yiaku’s precarious position as a people. While conservationists tout the community’s traditional forest conservation practices as a solution to Kenya’s deforestation problem, fears are emerging that those very traditions could be fast dying.The small community has been assimilating to the culture of its pastoral Maasai neighbors, to the extent that they are often referred to as Mukogodo Maasai. Only two Yiaku people now speak their language, Yakunte, fluently, and UNESCO has classified it as extinct.To ensure the Yiaku culture and ecological knowledge don’t die with the elders, the community has initiated several projects.“We are identifying, collecting and documenting this knowledge to safeguard it for future generations,” Koinante says. “Already we have started Yiaku classes where the young are taught traditions and culture by the elders.”The community also recently built a museum to document and preserve their traditional knowledge for future generations. But it was destroyed together with the 3D map last year by the invading Samburu herders. According to Koinante, the herders used the museum as an encampment and everything in it as fuel for cooking and warmth. The Yiaku are now in the process of recreating the map and looking for a safer location near settlements to rebuild the museum, she says.A Yiaku man inspects the damage to a recently built museum of Yiaku culture. Herders who invaded Mukogodo Forest in search of pasture last year used the museum as an encampment. Image courtesy of the Yiaku Laikipiak Trust.For now, the Yiaku’s model appears to be working. Whether it can survive in the long run depends on how well the community navigates the conflicts induced by climate change and how fast it can come up with a way to keep its culture vital.Shadrack Kavilu is a freelance environmental journalist based in Nairobi. He has published in local and international media outlets, including the Mail and Guardian and Thomson Reuters Foundation News.FEEDBACK: Use this form to send a message to the editor of this post. If you want to post a public comment, you can do that at the bottom of the page. Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change And Conservation, Community Forestry, Community Forests, Community-based Conservation, Conservation, Development, Environment, Featured, Forests, Global Warming, Governance, Happy-upbeat Environmental, Human Rights, Indigenous Communities, Indigenous Groups, Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous Rights, Land Grabbing, Land Rights, Law Enforcement, Protected Areas, Sustainable Forest Management, Tropical Forests Article published by Rebecca Kessler Popular in the CommunitySponsoredSponsoredOrangutan found tortured and decapitated prompts Indonesia probeEMGIES17 Jan, 2018We will never know the full extent of what this poor Orangutan went through before he died, the same must be done to this evil perpetrator(s) they don’t deserve the air that they breathe this has truly upset me and I wonder for the future for these wonderful creatures. So called ‘Mankind’ has a lot to answer for we are the only ones ruining this world I prefer animals to humans any day of the week.What makes community ecotourism succeed? In Madagascar, location, location, locationScissors1dOther countries should also learn and try to incorporateWhy you should care about the current wave of mass extinctions (commentary)Processor1 DecAfter all, there is no infinite anything in the whole galaxy!Infinite stupidity, right here on earth.The wildlife trade threatens people and animals alike (commentary)Anchor3dUnfortunately I feel The Chinese have no compassion for any living animal. They are a cruel country that as we knowneatbeverything that moves and do not humanily kill these poor animals and insects. They have no health and safety on their markets and they then contract these diseases. Maybe its karma maybe they should look at the way they live and stop using animals for all there so called remedies. DisgustingConservationists welcome China’s wildlife trade banThobolo27 JanChina has consistently been the worlds worst, “ Face of Evil “ in regards our planets flora and fauna survival. In some ways, this is nature trying to fight back. This ban is great, but the rest of the world just cannot allow it to be temporary, because history has demonstrated that once this coronavirus passes, they will in all likelihood, simply revert to been the planets worst Ecco Terrorists. Let’s simply not allow this to happen! How and why they have been able to degrade this planets iconic species, rape the planets rivers, oceans and forests, with apparent impunity, is just mind boggling! Please no more.Probing rural poachers in Africa: Why do they poach?Carrot3dOne day I feel like animals will be more scarce, and I agree with one of my friends, they said that poaching will take over the world, but I also hope notUpset about Amazon fires last year? Focus on deforestation this year (commentary)Bullhorn4dLies and more leisSponsoredSponsoredCoke is again the biggest culprit behind plastic waste in the PhilippinesGrapes7 NovOnce again the article blames companies for the actions of individuals. It is individuals that buy these products, it is individuals that dispose of them improperly. If we want to change it, we have to change, not just create bad guys to blame.Brazilian response to Bolsonaro policies and Amazon fires growsCar4 SepThank you for this excellent report. I feel overwhelmed by the ecocidal intent of the Bolsonaro government in the name of ‘developing’ their ‘God-given’ resources.U.S. allocates first of $30M in grants for forest conservation in SumatraPlanet4dcarrot hella thick ;)Melting Arctic sea ice may be altering winds, weather at equator: studyleftylarry30 JanThe Arctic sea ice seems to be recovering this winter as per the last 10-12 years, good news.Malaysia has the world’s highest deforestation rate, reveals Google forest mapBone27 Sep, 2018Who you’re trying to fool with selective data revelation?You can’t hide the truth if you show historical deforestation for all countries, especially in Europe from 1800s to this day. WorldBank has a good wholesome data on this.Mass tree planting along India’s Cauvery River has scientists worriedSurendra Nekkanti23 JanHi Mongabay. Good effort trying to be objective in this article. I would like to give a constructive feedback which could help in clearing things up.1. It is mentioned that planting trees in village common lands will have negative affects socially and ecologically. There is no need to even have to agree or disagree with it, because, you also mentioned the fact that Cauvery Calling aims to plant trees only in the private lands of the farmers. So, plantation in the common lands doesn’t come into the picture.2.I don’t see that the ecologists are totally against this project, but just they they have some concerns, mainly in terms of what species of trees will be planted. And because there was no direct communication between the ecologists and Isha Foundation, it was not possible for them to address the concerns. As you seem to have spoken with an Isha spokesperson, if you could connect the concerned parties, it would be great, because I see that the ecologists are genuinely interested in making sure things are done the right way.May we all come together and make things happen.Rare Amazon bush dogs caught on camera in BoliviaCarrot1 Feba very good iniciative to be fallowed by the ranchers all overSponsoredlast_img read more