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 www.justgiving.co.uk/shimoni 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!
GVI Team, Kenya