Camp Kenya along with Colobus trust completed a preliminary study of Kaya Muhaka (KM) from July 14-16. The following is a brief summary of what was found and recommendation for further research. The three days used with Camp Kenya volunteers and Colobus Trust staff were used as a preliminary study to decide whether or not further research would be necessary and which methods would best suit research in KM.
Two methods were tried during the three days, transects and casual watch. Transect method involves picking a starting point on one end of the forest and walking along a baring, in this case 90 degrees or East. Transects are then repeated every 100m. In the end you have a parallel transects running along the entire length of the forest. In the future distance sampling will be used with the data collected to give an estimated population size of a particular species, in this case the Angolan black and white colobus. Casual watch is done by gridding the entire forest and remaining stationary for an extended period of time. Groups set out into the forest to predetermined position. The groups then separate within the limits of the section, generally 50m sq. and sit quietly recording all observations.
During the three days of field work we completed six transects. Because there was no existing map we arbitrarily picked a point in the forest near the tree nursery. Without a GPS it was difficult to determine the exact distance walked but with pacing we estimate the length of transects to be around 1.8k. During these transects we spotted twelve individual Colobus in three troops. The majority of sightings were located on the East side of the forest where the percentage of canopy cover and height is much greater. Other species noted: One bell hinged tortoise, one squirrel species, one viper species and one troop of yellow baboons.
Two periods of casual watch were completed with two groups resulting in 4 hours and 30 minutes of total survey time. During this period nine individuals of Colobus in two troops had been spotted. A number of unidentified bird species had been observed as well as two bush pigs. Droppings from what was believed to be a suni antelope were also found.
On the final day two teams set out in different directions to gain an estimated size of the entire forest. Walking in two directions and counting paces we gauge the perimeter to be about 6-7k around and likely 2k at its widest depth from East to West. It appears to be slightly rectangle in shape but without a GPS or more time it was not possible to be certain. On this walk three more individuals Colobus had been spotted alone from a distance. It was not possible to confirm whether they were lone males or if their troops were nearby. In total 24 individuals and 5 troops had been spotted in 3 days.
Kaya Muhaka is a protected forest reserve located near Camp Kenya’s base in Muhaka, Kenya. Camp Kenya is in the process of planting a buffer zone around the Kaya in order to reduce the reliance on the natural resources from the forest and to increase protection. In order to help gain support in conservation efforts it is necessary to know the importance if this forest to the wildlife and surrounding communities. KM is a very unique forest in that the forest bed is almost entirely sand measuring 0.5m or more in many places. This creates a number of interesting micro-habitats which could be of conservation value.
It is the Colobus Trusts opinion that more research is needed to fully understand the importance of this forest. From the impressive number of sighting we obtained in the three survey days we can assume that a large population of Colobus still lives in KM and that this is still an important habitat for this species. A full census should be completed to compare against the previous one done in 2005. It would also be useful to have a look at bird species. The spotted ground thrush is listed as critically endangered by the IUCN. If it was found to nest or migrate through KM, as it does in other forest nearby, this would add significant value to KM. The Zanji elephant shrew is not listed due to deficient data. It is unclear if KM is an appropriate habitat for this animal because of its sandy floor. Knowing this would add helpful information to understanding the habitats of this little understood species.
In order to complete a full survey of this forest we recommend using the transect method. It is much less time consuming and generally more accurate. Full maps will first need to be built to have a clear view of the area to be covered and to decide number of transects needed. While on transects all species sightings should be recorded. Time should also be allocated for bird surveys.
These are basic recommendations for the next steps in KM. Further research will be of both conservation and socio-economical value. It is up to Camp Kenya to decide where they would like to go from here. Colobus Trust was hired as research consultants and would be happy to continue this relationship. For any further quires please contact the Colobus Trust.