Archive | April 2011

Tana River Crested Mangabey

Tana River Primate Reserve, which was gazetted in 1976 and established in 1978, has been identified as one of the endangered ecosystems in Kenya. The Reserve is located 350km east of Nairobi and 240km north of Mombasa in Tana River district of coast province. It is home to a large number of animal species such as Nile crocodile, Python, Monitor Lizard, butterflies, baboons, cheetah and lots of antelope species. More than 300 species of trees have been recorded in this reserve, a complex mix of pan-African rain forest species, East Coast forest species plus 10 rare woody plants of which 5 are endemic.

Deep in this reserve, we find the reason behind the reserve’s establishment, its the Tana River Crested Mangabey.

The Mangabey is a white monkey. Its body is between 17 and 25 inches long, and its tail is between 15 and 30 inches long. The technical/scientific term of the Mangabey is Cercocebus galeritus.

The Mangabey is a social monkey and spends very little time in the branches. These monkeys scour the forest floor of food that drops from of is sheltered by the trees. Their groups consist of numerous females, their offspring and up to approximately six adult males.

The Tana River Primate Reserve is the only habitat on earth where the Crested Mangabey lives.

Unfortunately, this animal species is one of the endangered species in Kenya mainly due to the degradation of this habitat as a result of human beings removing the timber, increased crop cultivation, forest fires and changes in the flow of the Tana River. In 1978, the Kenyan Government created the Tana River Primate Reserve to try to sustain the Mangabey. Experts estimate that approximately 1,200 Mangabey monkeys still live on earth.

Certainly this is one of  the best places to visit for game watching, bird watching, endangered primate watching, and this include the Tana River Red Colobus and also for nature walks for viewing plant biodiversity.

Importantly though is the need  to take action, be it by supporting organizations dedicated to conserving such species, by raising awareness or by planting a tree because as human beings, we have the duty of protecting other species.

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Mapping the Future

Environmental Conservation and Management has never been made easier than in the 21st century. The use of satellite imagery and information & communication technology has enabled many scientists, researchers, managers, planners, community leaders and communities to map out, plan and monitor the status of existing natural resources and other developmental activities, a move that has propelled the implementation of sustainable development strategies in many countries around the world.

Among ways in which the environment has utilized information technology is the use of tools such as Geographical Information Systems (GIS), Geographical Positioning System (GPS) and the use of web based tools such as Google Earth. These tools have gone a long way to enable spatial data to be collected, managed and analyzed with regard to resources, landscape features, and socio-economic characteristics of an area in both space and time.

For instance, in Laikipia District, conflict between smallholder farmers and raiding elephants from Kenya’s second largest elephant population is a substantial problem. Elephants threaten the livelihoods of poor farmers while human population growth, the expansion of cultivated areas and increased water scarcity exert pressure on elephant habitats. Elephants are shot bringing conservationists into the picture. The human elephant conflict is becoming an issue of political and economic significance and land rights debates are flaring up. It is this challenge that led to the development of the groundbreaking GPS (Global Positioning System)-GSM (Global System for mobile Communication) elephant collar technology by a Kenyan Organization called Save the Elephants. This is a technology that uses Safaricom Communication Network to track the movement of elephants and other animals. This technology has gone a long way to control and prevent crop-raiding elephants, alleviate poverty and promote environmental management and conservation.

The indigenous Ogiek community has also not been left behind. Since 1997 the Ogiek community has been involved in litigation against the Kenyan government several times concerning their eviction from the Eastern Mau Forest and the resettlement into this area of farmers from other parts of the country. So far, their claims have been dismissed. Lack of concrete information pertaining to their territorial claims has contributed to this unfavorable outcome. A project to map the ancestral territories of 23 Ogiek clans in the Eastern Mau forest with the help of aerial photographs and use of a participatory mapping approach was launched in 2005. The Ogiek representatives will use the resulting Ogiek People’s Ancestral Territories (OPAT) Atlas as an information and negotiation tool in the context of litigation bringing claims against the government.

The Mekong River Commission Secretariat also carried out a GIS –based topographic classification and analysis in order to back up land use and land cover recommendations for the entire lower Mekong Basin. These recommendations aim to protect water and soil resources in the upper reaches of tributaries and regularize surface runoff in the basin. At the same time the secretariat established a forest cover map on the basis of satellite images and aerial photographs. The overlay of both data layers allows identification of critical areas in terms of soil and water conservation, there by enhancing regional priority setting for natural resource management.

Other ways in which ICT can be used is in mapping out weed invasions in a given area, for exploration of oil, land use patterns, changes in forest cover and to map out biodiversity hot spots among others.

Currently, the newest tool in the market is what we call G-Plates, the software that enables both the visualisation and the manipulation of plate-tectonic reconstructions and associated data through geological time.

As you can therefore see, integration of information and technology in environmental matters, what I would love to call Environmental Information and Communication Technology (EI&CT) or in simple terms, Conservation Geography, has proven to be one of the most powerful and ideal technologies for analyzing the impact of development and consumption of natural resources. These tools will also aid in finding a common ground among all the competing interests around the globe.

Numbers!

TWO THIRDS –  

More than two-thirds of all the fresh water used by people around the world goes to agriculture , … and much of this agricultural land  is flat-out wasted.

Green Quotes

A living planet is a much more complex metaphor for deity than just a bigger father with a bigger fist.  If an omniscient, all-powerful Dad ignores your prayers, it’s taken personally.  Hear only silence long enough, and you start wondering about his power.  His fairness.  His very existence.  But if a world mother doesn’t reply, Her excuse is simple.  She never claimed conceited omnipotence.  She has countless others clinging to her apron strings, including myriad species unable to speak for themselves.  To Her elder offspring She says – go raid the fridge.  Go play outside.  Go get a job.  Or, better yet, lend me a hand.  I have no time for idle whining.  ~David Brin

Myths and legends – The Elephant Bride

Once elephants were humans, until one day a nervous young bride disobeyed her father… In Samburu legend, elephants were once humans. Once upon a time a young bride was newly wed. As she prepared to leave home her father gave her strict instructions that when she left the boma (thorn enclosure) she was not to look back. But she felt so sad as she followed her husband away that she couldn’t resist turning around and taking one last wistful glance at her childhood home. That night in her new hut strange things began to happen.

N’gai (God) was very angry that the girl had disobeyed her father and decided to punish her. The young bride began to swell and grow and burst out of the roof of the hut at last turning into a great, grey elephant under the bright night sky. All elephants descended from this first elephant girl, and as such the Samburu and elephants are related by blood. It is believed that when elephants find dead humans they too place grass upon the graves. Even after the Samburu have left an area for good they have seen elephants take branches or leaves and place them upon their graves. Accordingly, when the Samburu pass an elephant skull they pick some green grass, spit on it and place it inside holes in the skull. Green grass is a symbol of peace and spit a symbol of rain, and the two together are a blessing bestowed.

Though the Samburu still practice the ritual of placing grass upon a skull many have forgotten the legend from which it came. However the legend of the bride is still well known amongst the Maasai people, who also bless elephant skulls in this way. N.B. Old hunters have tales of having seen elephants bury dead or sleeping people under a pile of branches. On occasion, the hunters themselves were buried whilst taking a cat-nap. Elephants have a fascination with the bones of their own dead, smelling them, tasting them and sometimes scattering the bones over long distances. There is no explanation yet for this behaviour nor for the reported reaction to human dead.

Eco-Couture – The Recycled Tire Handbag

One of the most important things to note about fashion trends all over the world is that they change very fast.  Today is leather and tomorrow is fur. A situation which negatively impacted our environment and its natural resources, either during the acquisition of raw materials or disposal. Here in Kenya, there has been an increased demand and a rapid change of fashion in women’s hand bags. It is amazing how a lot of women now prefer bigger and bigger hand bags. Many of them also prefer to own more than one handbag, for the different occassions. One way of reducing the impact of fashion on our environment is by coming up with Fashionable and eco-friendly hand bags such as this beautifully made handbag from El Salvador which is made from recycled tire inner tubes. Other features of this hand bag include a double shoulder strap, a zipper closure, open internal cell phone pocket and zippered pocket. This hand bag still looks new, stylish and trendy and whats more….it is environmental friendly. Click here to Purchase this Hand bag and help save our environment.

Green Quotes!

A living planet is a much more complex metaphor for deity than just a bigger father with a bigger fist.  If an omniscient, all-powerful Dad ignores your prayers, it’s taken personally.  Hear only silence long enough, and you start wondering about his power.  His fairness.  His very existence.  But if a world mother doesn’t reply, Her excuse is simple.  She never claimed conceited omnipotence.  She has countless others clinging to her apron strings, including myriad species unable to speak for themselves.  To Her elder offspring She says – go raid the fridge.  Go play outside.  Go get a job.  Or, better yet, lend me a hand.  I have no time for idle whining.  ~David Brin