Published on the 11th of May, 2016
Project Amu is one of the DSWT’s most ambitious Saving Habitats Projectsthat is geared towardsassisting the indigenous communities in Lamu conserve and protect their natural and cultural heritage.
Through Project Amu, over 60,000 acres of beautiful yet fragile lowland forests and savannah woodlandshave been leased and is being conserved in Amu Ranch by the Lamu Conservation Trust (LCT), a community conservation initiative supported by the DSWT. Amu Ranch sits within the magnificently diverse inland coastal belt of Lamu on Kenya’s north coast. Amu ranch claims some of the oldest coastal forests in Africa that fall within the Coastal Forests of East Africa Bio-diversity Hotspot recognized as an area of high biodiversity and endemism. Despite losing thousands of its elephant population as well as a host of other species including the rhino over past decades, Amu Ranch and neighbouring areas are still home to an abundance of rare, endangered and spectacular wildlife including uniquely large herds of reticulated giraffe, coastal topi and buffalo, with an amazingly healthy population of lion, cheetah and hippo, which all reveal how perfect the habitat is for supporting wildlife and all its diversity. IUCN-listed forest-dependent species within the area also include the conservation-depended Harveys Duiker and Suni, the near threatened Lesser Elephant Shrew, the Somali Galago, the critically endangered Hirola (Hunter’s Hartebeest) and the Ader’s Duiker. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust has vowed to protect such habitats, saving large expanses of land, whilst working with local communities who have so fortunately taken the decision to safeguard their heritage and their future.
Project Amu is providing on-going daily anti-poaching operations in unison with aerial surveillance to curb any existing illegal activities taking place within the greater ecosystem whilst promoting sustainable livestock management and natural resource utilization. With the success of the project's indigenous tree nursery, thousands of tree saplings are also being grown to regenerate the deforested areas to further encourage the diversity of the land. In January of last year the indigenous tree nursery was revamped at Farouk Camp and a dedicated member of staff was employed to steward its success. There are over 10,000 indigenous tree seedlings now currently being nurtured in the nurserythat are to be planted in degraded areas that had been previously extensively and illegally logged. To date nearly 3,000 seedlings have been planted across the Ranch; a further 800 have been planted at schools within the greater Lamu eco-region to encourage school children and the community to protect the trees and forested areas.
During the last month of excellent rains across the whole of Kenya, Amu Ranch has also benefitted, restoring the fresh water sources and natural wetland ecosystems that are the lifeline for wildlife in the area. Our staff in conjunction with the communitytook advantage of these ideal growing conditions to plant over 300 indigenous Mbambakofi (Afzeliaquanzensis) trees yesterday (10th May) that had been nurtured in our tree nursery at Amu Ranch, and are further targeting to plant another 2000 throughout the rest of the rainy season (over the next 2 months or so).
The Mbambakofi tree (Afzeliaquanzensis) is mainly found in the coastal region of Kenya. The common name is pod mahogany or lucky bean and it is extremely resistant to drought. The beautiful flowers attract many insects who are thought to be the main pollinating agent, but hornbills, monkeys and squirrels contribute to the seed dispersal of the species. Afzeliaquanzensis has become rare along the coast due to the timber being prized for carving and construction material, historically being used for making traditional Zanzibar-style doors. Its wood is hard and easy to work with, unfortunately meaning it is one of the first trees to be cut down by locals and many of the largest trees in the past were felled to be used for railway sleepers.
The coastal forests such as those found in Amu are being lost at an alarming rate due to deforestation, particularly for agricultural land. However these forests are also regarded a biodiversity hotspots of global importance, containing some of the highest densities of endemic animals and plants anywhere in the world. Reforestation and education are the key factors to conserving these stunning habitats, and this is what The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is endeavoring to achieve in Amu.