Category Archives: Friends of Shimoni Forest Scholarship Fund

African Rock Python around Shimoni?

Last week in Shimoni West forest we came across the shed skin of a four meter African rock python, one of the largest snakes in the world.  Individuals have been known to reach five and a half metres in length with a girth of almost a meter.  They don’t have the ability to inject venom but can deliver vicious bites and are powerful constrictors. Close to where we found it there was a huge hole in the ground, likely to be it’s home.  Everyone would love to see one and we’re making sure to organize a stakeout up there shortly.

Shed skin of Southern African Rock Python

Shed skin of Southern African Rock Python

Their current status in Africa is not threatened however like most snakes they are intolerable of human development therefore as development increases the snake population will inevitably decline. Due to their size these snakes are often hunted and killed for their skins and meat.

Angolan Black and White Colobus Jump Distance Survey

This week we managed to finalise the plan and method before creating an appropriate spreadsheet on excel that was printed out to be used as a data sheet in the field. However a combination of extensive power cuts and illness here in Shimoni combined with few Colobus sightings ultimately resulted in just two sets of data being collected. Although in terms of data collection, it has not been as successful as we hoped, carrying out the method in a real life situation has allowed us to improve the original method as well as test the ease and accuracy of the survey. The variables we planned to measure and make note of were originally; weather, time, group size and focal individual. Quickly realising that a key variable was missing that could have a big impact on the distance an individual jumps. This variable is the time of the jump after first sighting. This became apparent after the Colobus we spotted failed to move after 10 minutes, and that given this the Colobus obviously did not recognise our presence as a threat and therefore if it did eventually jump it would not be likely to take a big risk by jumping a great distance. Although we have not collected as much data as we would have hoped, there is now a workable method in place in order to carry out the survey in case another volunteer felt inclined to carry on the work or indeed have the time and opportunity to do so later on. We’ll keep you informed if there are any developments.

Friends Of Shimoni Forest Scholarship Fund Part II

So yesterday you were all introduced to Fakii, our first recipient of the Friends of Shimoni Forest Scholarship Fund (FSF-SF).  Today you have the pleasure of reading a bit from our second recipient – Mwanasha.  She started at Shimoni Secondary School at the same time as Fakii.  I have typed it exactly as she wrote it (with a couple of spelling corrections…)

“My name is Mwanasha Hussein, I live in Changai village, outside Shimoni.  I study at Shimoni Secondary School.  The school is very good and I like it very much.  The pupils at my school are very clever and they are hardworking towards their studies.

Mwanasha Hussein

Mwanasha Hussein

At my school I enjoy the lessons very much and I concentrate very well so that I can understand what the teacher s are talking about.  My teachers like me very much because of my respect and my good behaviour towards them and my fellow students.  I am continuing to perform well and I hope that when we continue with our exams I will perform very nice and you will like my performance.  You will also have an open heart because the money you are paying will not be lost.

In all the subjects we learn at school, my favorite subject is biology, because biology is a career subject.  My biology teacher is very good teaching his subject, everybody pays attention so they can understand very well.  There are at my school many friends who I chat with during the resting times.  Some of my friends are very funny.  They like telling us some funny stories.  I like my school very much, the way the pupils dress very well and they look smart.  You as my sponsor will be very happy when you receive my results when we will finish our exams.”

Mwanasha with her little brother and some friends

Mwanasha with her little brother and some friends

As you can see from Fakki and Mwanasha, they are so incredibly grateful for the opportunity that FSF have given them.  The opportunity to go to secondary school is not one that is taken for granted here in the small fishing village of Shimoni.  So once again, to those of you that have donated to FSF, the words ‘thank you’ don’t really cut it.  I get the pleasure of seeing the kids faces when they find out they’ve been chosen, and trust me on this….it’s worth it.



If you would like to help Friends of Shimoni Forest continue their conservation and community work, please visit

Friends Of Shimoni Forest Scholarship Fund Bares Fruit

As most of you will be aware, we work very closely with the community based organization Friends of Shimoni Forest, who are active in local conservation and community initiatives.  One of the most successful projects they have pushed forward recently is the Friends of Shimoni Forest Scholarship Fund (FSF-SF).  We have been helping them raise money using the website JustGiving, and they have used the money to sponsor two children from Shimoni to go to secondary school – an opportunity only a small proportion of children get.  They have carefully selected the children based on their interests in conservation, and in return for the sponsorship the children and their families have to dedicate at least one day per term to helping FSF.  This could include anything from helping with the tourist trail, planting trees, collecting material for alternative charcoal and so on.

Below is an introduction written by one of the children (I typed his account up exactly as written, with only a few spelling corrections!): 

“My name is Fakii Omar Juma, I am seventeen years old and I was born in Shimoni village.  I went to Shimoni Primary School for eight good years.  I worked hard and managed to pass my national exams, and got a score of 282 although my target was to aim for 300 and above.  Thereafter I joined Shimoni Secondary School with help from the Friends of Shimoni Forest Scholarship Fund.  I am happy for that sponsorship as my parents will not have to pay anything.

Fakii Omar Juma - a FSF-SF recipient

Fakii Omar Juma - a FSF-SF recipient

At the beginning I was afraid to even touch my books because I thought everything was going to be hard for me, but the days went by and I saw that everything was easy like throwing a stone into the sea.  At school we have a debate every Wednesday so that our English speaking becomes more interesting.  Actually I became the speaker and the chairman of the debates. 

I am so glad to be in form one because I have met many people from different places and different languages, and there are people who I have never met before who are so funny.  We play volleyball so that we can enjoy ourselves and make our bodies strong and flexible.

Fakii helping FSF plant indigenous trees

Fakii helping FSF plant indigenous trees

When the exams were nearly here I left everything behind so that I could concentrate on my work.  I actually read so much my head hurt.  When the exams came, I saw everything was easy and I could recall all that I had read before.  I thanked God because when the results came I was so surprised to see that I have got an ‘A’ grade in almost all subjects.  My parents and my sponsors were so happy to see that.”

Fakii proudly wearing his new school t-shirt

Fakii proudly wearing his new school t-shirt

All of us here are very proud of Fakii, as he is not wasting this opportunity.  So for all of you who have kindly donated to FSF – from all of us at GVI, FSF and the kids who are now at school – THANK YOU!

Tomorrow I’ll post a similar introduction from the other sponsee!  Until then…


If you would like to help Friends of Shimoni Forest continue their conservation and community work, please visit

Fundraising Target Reached!

Well well, I don’t really know where to start today.  A couple of days ago I told you all about Kevin Malone, who kindly donated a wopping £350 to Friends of Shimoni Forest.  That brought our total up significantly.  Today however, I have checked again and I am gobsmacked, proud and excited to tell you we have reached our target of £1000!

The money from this fundraising is going to some amazing causes.  Shimoni’s forests are suffering terrible degradation everyday, putting the survival of some extremely vulnerable species in serious jeopardy.  Not only this, but thousands of people in the area rely on the forest for natural resources such as fuel, medicine, fishing tools and cultural practises.

With this money raised, FSF are planning on pushing forward with the Friends of Shimoni Forest Scholarship Fund and sending local children to secondary school on the condition they give something back to local conservation.  Other destinations for the money include paying the wages of forest patrols, finalising the tourist trail and setting up alternative livelihoods.

Every penny counts towards this cause, there are no admin costs or middle men, so this money can take FSF a long way!  I can’t even put into words how over the moon I am to see this, and how much it will mean to the people here, so I will say it simply;

Dear John “the Jam” Gerber, Timothy McCollough, Kevin Malone, Shirley Corti, Jennifer LeClair, Becky Law, Rick Hill, Katherine Blackwood and two anonymous benefactors,

From Friends of Shimoni Forest, the people of Shimoni, the colobus monkeys and other inhabitants of the forest, and everyone else working hard for the cause,

Thank you.
Really, seriously, thank you.


Massive Donation Made To Friends Of Shimoni Forest

Hello again everyone,

Today’s blog has but one purpose.  That purpose is to extend the warmest thanks we here in Shimoni can muster, to someone who we all know quite well, and who has made the most extraordinary donation to Friends of Shimoni Forest.  That man is Kevin Malone.


 Kevin on Kisite Island

Kevin is from the United States and was a volunteer with GVI in Kenya for 5 weeks in March / April 2009.  During his time here he joined both the marine and terrestrial research teams, as well as spending time in the classroom in Mkwiro Primary School and out with the community development team in Tsavo West.  Kevin’s hardworking attitude and immediate dedication to the programmes shone from the start, and his sense of humour was infamous within days of arriving.  We were sad to say goodbye to Kevin after so short a time, but unfortunately that is the nature of what we do out here.
I received an e-mail from Corti (who set up the justgiving donations page for Friends of Shimoni Forest) this afternoon, informing me of an ENORMOUS donation made towards Friends of Shimon Forest (FSF).  The money raised on this website goes towards the Friends of Shimoni Forest Scholarship Fund, which pays for local children to go to secondary school, on the condition that either they themselves, or their family, assist FSF in conservation work.  The money will also go towards funding initiatives such as forest patrols, alternative charcoal and reforestation of indigenous saplings.   
From what I hear, Kevin donated £350!!  That has brought the total up to £690!  I cannot even explain how much this means to all of us, as Kevin’s money alone will pay for a child to go to secondary school for the best part of two years.  This money could also pay the wages of someone patrolling the forest for 210 days.  This money could also buy 2100 indigenous saplings to be replanted in the highly degraded areas of the forest.
It’s amazing how far money can go out here, especially when donated in British pounds or US dollars.  A relatively small amount can go such a long way, and really help change things.  And with people like Kevin, who are willing to make such generous donations, we are making incredible headway.


 Kevin preparing to go into the forest
So finally – thank you again Kevin.  You.  Are.  A.  legend.

Best wishes to all

*if you would like more information about Friends of Shimoni Forest, the work they are doing, or if you would like to make a donation, please visit   

Karibu Tena (Welcome Again!)


I’d like to start by saying I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas and a merry new year!  I know we did; many of the GVI team were in Kenya over the holiday period, enjoying the festivities under the warm African sun, whilst others jetted off back home to see family and friends to slightly cooler parts of the world such as Englnd, Scotland and Portugal. 

We are all back together again however, and raring to get back out on the boat, into the forest and continue our work with the communities.  January marks the start of our first 3 month research period for 2010, and we have a rather large, brand new team of dedicated volunteers from all over the world to help us achieve the aims and objectives for this year.

2009 was an excellent year for us here on the south coast of Kenya.  Firstly, it’s always a good feeling to get another full years worth of marine and terrestrial research added to the databases.  We now have a solid 3 years of data establishing and monitoring the bottlenose and humpback dolphin populations in and around the Kisitie-Mpunguti Marine Protected Area, as well as 3 years establishing and monitoring the population of the rare subspecies of the Angolan black and white colobus monkey that is found in Shimoni’s coastal forests. 


 GVI staff, volunteers, and members of the Funzi Turtle Club 

In addition to that, we’ve got some great data recording some amazing sightings, including humpback whales with their calves (15 sightings!), rays, nesting turtles, elephant shrews and endangered birds such as the southern banded snake eagle.  And that is naming a mere handful!  If you want to have a look back at some of the blogs we’ve written about these amazing experiences, feel free to search for them in the categories section.


 Green turtle spotted in the Marine Park

2009 also saw some amazing achievements for us and the people we work with.  Just a couple of examples would include the Permanent Secretary to the Minister for Forests and Wildlife coming down to speak to the secretary of Friends of Shimoni Forest about the destruction in the forest.  Or the amazing donations made by you all on which has allowed the launch of the Friends of Shimoni Forest Scholarship Fund which will pay for local children to go to secondary school, and get them and their families involved in local conservation. 


 East African subspecies of the Angolan black and white colobus

On the marine side of things some highlights would include providing environmental education courses, one to the Funzi Turtle Conservation Group and one to the Nyuli Committee, training local guides and rangers on sea turtle biology and conservation, with over 30 people taking exams and gaining certificates.  GVI had its first ever sighting of the Pantropical spotted dolphins, and also became a member of East African Whale Watching which tracks whales travelling up and down the east African coast.  


One of the pantropical spotted dolphins

Despite all of the great things that happened last year, there is still plenty of work to do.  This stunning area and its amazing people still face many problems, some of which we aim to try and help with over the coming year.  For many of us here the start of 2010 saw the one and a half year mark since we first arrived in Shimoni and Mkwiro, and I think I can speak for everyone when I say it has been our home since we arrived, one which has won a special place in our hearts.  Personally I feel extremely lucky and privileged to step into a new decade here, and I am so excited at the thought of what can be achieved this year.

I look forward to keeping you updated on progress as things move forward, and please feel free to contact us and leave comments and messages.  We love hearing your thoughts and ideas!

Happy 2010

Best wishes

GVI Team, Kenya

Friends of Shimoni Forest Scholarship Fund Becomes A Reality

As most of you may know, we have been working with the community-based organization Friends of Shimoni Forest (FSF) for the best part of three years now, pushing towards community conservation and protection of the stunning and vitally important coastal forest we have here on the south coast. 
One of the main aims of FSF at present is the setting up of a tourist trail or “Shimoni Safari” which will take tourists on a guided walk through the forest to see the ‘Kaya’ shrines, and to see the amazing flora and fauna that this forest has to offer.  The areas that FSF want to direct the money that is earned from this (and other) endeavors include conservation initiatives such as planting of indigenous and endemic trees in areas of clearance, purchasing of land to be conserved, the production of alternative charcoal, and then a slightly more far sighted conservation and community development initiative – sponsoring local children through secondary school.


 One of the charasmatic Angolan black and white colobus monkeys

Primary school is free here in Kenya, but if a child wants to further their education, they have to pay yearly fees.  Unfortunately in places like Shimoni, there are so many families unable to afford to send their children to secondary school.  The way FSF see it, if a child goes to secondary school they gain a superior education and gain a far better understanding of the wider world; conservation being a part of that.  They will also be far more likely to be able to earn a living without having to resort to desperate, illegal and destructive methods of making money such as logging and charcoal burning. 

FSF are making steady progress with the construction of the tourist trail (with the help of some eager GVI folk with pangas…or machetes!), but is not yet up and running.  So to kick things off, a donations page on the justgiving website was set up.  So far we have had some amazing donations from people, and I would like to take a second to thank them:

• Katherine Blackwood donated £10
• Rick Hill donated £10
• Becky Law donated £15
• Jennifer LeClair donated £15
• And two anonymous donations totaling £115

These donations have allowed the birth of the Friends of Shimoni Forest Scholarship Fund!  What I think is particularly inspired about the FSF-SF is the way they are planning on operating it.  There are already a couple of organizations in and around Shimoni that sponsor the highest achievers from the local schools, so FSF wanted to do something slightly different, something that supported their mission.


 One of the massive trees in Shimoni forest, with the distinctive horizontal root system due to the ‘coral rag’ substrate that doesn’t allow deep roots.  For trees to get this large, it takes hundreds of years and a battle against the elements.  However, it can be felled in mere mintes with a power saw.

There are going to be an equal number of boys and girls sponsored, and for a child to be selected they must a high achiever, gaining above a certain grade.  They must then demonstrate an active interest in conservation or wildlife, perhaps based on past merits or on a written statement or interview.  Furthermore, for as long as they are being sponsored, either the child, or the parents, will be required to assist FSF in some way, on a regular basis e.g. during school holidays. 

I think this is a brilliant idea, as it will instill a sense of responsibility in the child and the family, and will also introduce them to conservation, the work of FSF and the importance of the forest.  With this sponsorship scheme, FSF hope to nurture the areas next generation of conservationists, who will already have a vested interest in Shimoni forest, and will be acutely aware of the threats facing it.

If you would like more information about Friends of Shimoni Forest, the work they do or the scholarship fund, or if you would like to join the fight to save this beautiful and internationally important coastal forest, please visit

As you can see from the donations listed above, it doesn’t take much to send two kids to school, and change their world.