Good morning (in Kenya anyway!),
I have some good news for those who have been following our progress in Shimoni west forest….we have completed cutting transect 1!
For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, I will briefly explain. GVI have been conducting research in Shimoni east forest for four years now, with the surveys being conducted along our 6 transects. Shimoni west forest is across the road on the other side of Shimoni village. It is a bigger forest (about twice the size of east), and it is suspected that it has a larger population of black and white colobus. Unfortunately it also has more human disturbance, with power saws and charcoal burning an all too common occurrence.
There have been two colobus census conducted in the west forest, one in 2001 and one in 2007. We have been wanting to start long term monitoring of the west forest for some time now, and in October last year we began the long (and sweaty) process of setting up permanent transects in the forest. Because we are still continuing with our surveys in Shimoni east, we have only been able to dedicate one or two days of transect cutting per week in the west forest. Although slow, our progress has been steady, and at the end of last expedition (December 2009) we had cut 1.5km of our north/south spine and had begun cutting transect 1.
We are planning a systematic grid of transects, that will be placed randomly (with regards to colobus distribution) within Shimoni west. This is the method originally used to set up the transects in Shimoni east. Our transects are divided up into sections, with one section being 50m long. This allows us to record where on the transects sightings occur, and also to make survey effort (essentially how many metres of transect have been surveyed) easily established. Our longest transects in Shimoni east have 32 positive sections (a positive section being any section east of the north/south spine. The transect we have just completed in west, has 34 positive sections (1700m)! We are yet to start cutting the negative sections (west of the north/south spine), but we are still proud of our achievement.
It is incredibly hard work cutting transects, as all we have are pangas (machetes) and the strength in our arms! Sometimes one can get several hundred metres in a day, other times it can take several hours to get ten metres! It all depends on the vegetation you are trying to get through. The final few sections of the our new transect 1 were brutal – endless thorn bushes! We all came out with our arms in tatters, but with an enormous sense of achievement.
Once we have our transects set up in Shimoni west, we can start doing long term monitoring on the colobus populations and behavior, biodiversity and anthropogenic disturbance. Collecting such data is the critical first step in raising awareness and establishing the conservation status of Shimoni west. We can then look into expanding the community conservation initiatives and work of Friends of Shimoni Forest across both east and west forests.
We will keep you updated on the progress!