By Dr. Aida Cuní Sanchez – TBA alumna, Kirindy 2005
Northern Kenya conjures up images of deserts, nomadic camel pastoralists and, unfortunately, the devastating effects of recurrent droughts. However, there are a few forest islands located on top of high hills and mountains. These forests survive because of the mist they trap from the clouds, which is why they are called cloud forests.
Cloud forests are of particular interest, for their species richness and endemism. For example, three chameleons are endemic to three of these forests in northern Kenya: Trioceros marsabitensis, T. narraioca and Kinyongia asheorum, which inhabit Mt Marsabit, Mt Kulal and Mt Nyiro forests respectively. These cloud forests also provide a habitat for several endangered species of plants and animals, such as the tree Prunus africana, Grevy’s zebra and elephants.
Filming in the forest of Mt. Kulal
Most importantly, cloud forests are vital because of their high water yield. In the African drylands, this water yield is crucial to surrounding communities, particularly during droughts. In spite of their important role, little is known about how these forests function, and how sensitive they might be to overexploitation and climate change. So, for the past two years, I have made these fascinating ecosystems the focus of my research.
My journey as a conservationist started when I was accepted to take part in a TBA course in 2004. It was my first time to be away from my home country, Sudan, and I can still remember the feeling of excitement during the journey from Entebbe airport to Africa Hall in Kampala. My TBA course was an unforgettable event that made me the person I am today. It was not just an academic course that lasted for a month; it was an introductory experience to a new world of deep knowledge of how to appreciate the natural heritage and biodiversity, besides learning the basic skills of taking care of Mother Nature.
Two of the three bats of Madagascar are categorized as endangered according to the IUCN red list, but all of them are heavily threatened by habitat loss and severe hunting. In some areas of Madagascar, they are considered as a threat to fruits of economic importance such as the lychee (Litchi chinensis) and the Japanese persimmon (Diospyros kaki) and are therefore persecuted in the trees where they feed at night (Andrianaivoarivelo et al. 2007). For these reasons, I led a research project on the dietary behaviors of the fruit bats to investigate whether they prefer food from natural habitats over alien, economically Important fruit species or vice versa (Andrianaivoarivelo et al. 2012).
In October 2015, TBA organised a first of its kind training course which brought together conservation professionals from seven African countries. Commonly referred to as INTRINSIC (Integrating Rights and Social Issues in Conservation), the course provided crucial training on how to work with local communities for conservation and the feedback from participants was very positive. One such participant was Claudine Tuyishime who works with the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Rwanda Program to implement a project in Nyungwe forest. The project is supplementing law enforcement efforts to reduce threats to Nyungwe National Park. Through educational outreach and working with communities, the project aims to curb illegal activities and build a more sustainable appreciation for the region’s biodiversity. This, however, is not without its challenges as the region is inhabited by a large and diverse community with very little awareness of the importance of protecting their ecosystem, or lacking the proper training to do so.
By Kizito Masinde, Programmes Officer, International Water Association – TBA Alumnus
Many governments are faced with the challenge of providing safe and reliable drinking water to their citizens.This is especially caused by issues such as rapid urbanisation, increasing population andclimate change. Many cities around the world currently rely on water supplies sourced from many kilometres away as the basins in which they lie cannot be relied upon to provide them with sufficient raw water supplies. At the International Water Association (IWA), we have taken note of this fact and have embarked on a series of programmes that support the mitigation of these risks, and also inspire a change in water use and management by turning this water crisis into a fundamental opportunity for a transformation towards more sustainable societies.
Cynthia Mapendere, TBA alumna (Kirindy, 2014) shares on the value of participating in a TBA course.
2014 was a very special year for me as this was when I officially became part of the TBA family. I had just graduated from the National University of Science and Technology (Zimbabwe) the previous year with a degree in Forest Resources and Wildlife Management. Being accepted as a course participant was exciting news to me as it presented a good opportunity to build the right foundation for my career. I could not wait to be in a community where my enthusiasm was shared between experts who had the knowledge and experience to help me flourish in this field.
While the dodo is famous around the world as the symbol of extinction, the country it once used to inhabit may be less known. That country is my home island, Mauritius, that little speck in the South Western part of the Indian Ocean.
As my mentor has explained to me once, Mauritius despite its size is a very interesting case study for conservationists. It is one of the last country to be colonized and yet it has shown one of the fastest and greatest biodiversity loss. As an island, it also has high endemicity among its native species, meaning many species lost here are completely gone. 30 unique plant species, 2 unique bat species, 8 unique bird species, 5 unique reptile species and so many more invertebrate species, ALL robbed from us.
Paradoxically, Mauritius has also been an international model of conservation success in the past decades with its successful bird recovery programmes. With species like the Mauritian Kestrel being brought back from the brink of extinction, when there was only 4 individuals left in the 1970s.
But today, Mauritius is a model of another kind. It is showing the world how facts and scientific-based arguments can be completely ignored during decision making, despite these being communicated to policy makers. It is showing the world how international agreements like the Convention on Biological Diversity, of which Mauritius is a signatory, can be easily disregarded by decision-makers in favor of questionable decisions. Continue reading “Vacancy for a new dodo”
There is no doubt that contemporary conservation needs to be more than biology, and that it has shifted to include more of the human dimensions. The key role that other fields such as the social sciences and economics play in conservation is being recognized more and more. Despite some oppositions to the anthropocentric approach, we can all agree on one thing (or two): Human actions create the need for conservation and conservation is implemented by humans. Considering that human beings have such a big influence on conservation, understanding human decision-making and behavior can provide important insights for conservation. Which is where psychology can play a role.
The field of Conservation Psychology
Carol D. Saunders first proposed conservation psychology as a new field of study in 2003, defining it as “an applied field that uses psychological principles, theories, or methods to understand and solve issues related to human aspects of conservation”. When introduced it was expected to contribute to environmental sustainability by addressing two main research topics: (1) how humans behave towards nature? And (2) how humans value nature?
From inception, to organisation to implementation; Ghanaian Alumni, Dr John Abraham, reflects on the experience of organising the latest TAAG African Students’ Conference which took place in June. Read on…
I remember sitting at my desk in my apartment in Italy writing e-mails as far back as October, 2013 asking members of the Ghana TBA Alumni Group whether they felt we should bid to host the 2015 TAAG African Students’ Conference on Conservation Science. At that moment, my individual interest did not matter because we are a group. Thankfully, every member said YES! Let’s go for it. The hard work began from then.
A small team put the bid together and in January 2014, the good news arrived “…we are happy to inform you that your group, the Ghana TBA Alumni Group won the bid.” I jumped with excitement from my desk in jubilation. I made a few telephone calls to the people who helped with the bid before writing e-mails to inform all members of the Ghana TBA Alumni Group. We were very proud to have won this bid.