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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

 

Decimation Of The Bongo Population,
Over Past 40 Years Is Devastating

Coastweek-- Despite the international ban on ivory trade it is estimated that 20,000 elephants are killed every year.

At this rate it will take only a few decades to decimate the elephant population in some parts of Africa.

In the US a near total ban is already in place. Hong Kong and China have declared they will not allow any trade in their domestic markets.

The demand for ivory, especially in Asia fuels the poaching and unless there is a complete international ban on trade in ivory and ivory products elephant numbers will continue to decline.

The UK has now joined the league of countries working towards a total ban.

In the past few months, the government debated and proposed tighter regulations.

Presently, in the UK some trade in ivory is legal.

Conservation groups argue that UK’s legal market is exploited to guise the illegal trade and are calling for strengthening of the current regulations with a total ban excepting musical instruments and items of historic value.

Nonetheless, the ban on trade alone will not stop the lucrative business that poaching has become.

The challenge is international.

All the governments worldwide need to be united and committed to tackle corruption, improve surveillance and strengthen law enforcement.

Handsome and reclusive, the Eastern Mountain Bongo, the largest African forest antelope is found only in one remote region of central Kenya.

It has been classified as ‘critically endangered’ by the IUCN Antelope Specialist Group.

Sadly the bongo does not receive the same attention as the ‘big five’.

The decimation of the bongo population, over the past 40 years from hunting, loss of habitat due to timber logging and uncontrolled agriculture is so devastating that there are now more bongos in conservatories than in the wild.

The current estimated population of bongos in the wild is 100 scattered in small groups in Mount Kenya, Eburru and Mau Forests; all areas under threat from deforestation.

To mitigate complete extinction of the species the Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy in collaboration with the Kenya Wildlife Service and Kenya Forestry Service runs a bongo rehabilitation programme with the aim of breeding and releasing them in the wild.

There are some 72 bongo at the conservatory that provides a captive breeding environment; they have achieved a measure of success.

Four calves were born this year.

Donald Bunge, the conservancy manager says “The births have renewed hope for the survival of the bongo, whose population in the wild is below the threshold of 250 mature individuals required to make a genetically stable population”.

The challenge is to meet this threshold.

Unless conservation efforts are intensified, the antelope could soon be extinct.

This is a combined November – December newsletter as we will not have any activities in December.

To all our members we wish ‘Happy Holidays’ and we hope for a peaceful year ahead. To our Christian members best wishes for very Happy and Blessed Christmas.  (Taibali Hamzali, Chairman)

PAST PROGRAMMES

Saturday, 7th October - Heritage Visit for Schools

We had a very pleasant day with secondary school students from Baricho and Galana areas, WCK officials, Tsofa, Mtengo, Silas and a number of FFJ members.

FFJ have been conducting these visits since 2009, two every year.

They are an excellent and fun way of creating heritage awareness. Judging by the essays we receive after the visit the students go back having learnt a lot.

After a wonderful breakfast organised by our ever reliable member Issa we proceeded for a walk of the Old Town (dodging the noisy and irksome tuk-tuks) followed by a visit to the Butterfly House and back to the Fort for a well-earned and delicious lunch prepared by our usual caterers Queens Cafeteria.

Unfortunately Hassan was not available that day to conduct the Fort tour but students who are on attachment at the Fort willingly agreed to step in.

 

Students at Butterfly House | Coastweek

 
 

Coastweek-- At the Butterfly House.  PHOTO: DORIS SCHAULE

Our thanks to Victor Kyalo for taking the group around the Fort, Doris Schaule our photographer and all council members who helped in making the day so successful and members for their donations in cash and kind.

Friday 13th to Sunday 15th October - Trip to Lake Jipe and Lake Challa

A long journey followed our early start from Mombasa but after passing a cavalcade of lorries and a network of roadworks en route to Voi we all noticed the lack of private cars.

We assumed everyone must be using the new SGR nowadays.

Finally we reached our destination of Taveta and Lake Challa. Challa is an adaptation of “chara”, a Taveta word meaning courageous.

Lake Challa is a water led volcanic crater fed by Mount Kilimanjaro via underground streams, and straddles the border of Kenya and Tanzania.

As there are no visible water inlets or outlets the lake is hidden from view. The only access is by walking up to the crater rim following dry thorn bush lined tracks.

The rim gives a tantalizing glimpse of the clear blue water below where a few of us ventured the erratic 20 minute decent, which was very steep in places and with loose gravel, to the lakeside where kids were playing and swimming with gay abandonment of the rumored crocodiles that supposedly inhabit the water but we weren’t brave enough to dip our toes !

 

Lake Challa | Coastweek

 
  Coastweek-- The author in repose on the shore of Lake Challa.  PHOTO: TAIBALI HAMZALI

The lakeside, with the natural evolution of flora and fauna was gorgeous.

Our next destination was Grogan’s Castle, a former home of Col. Ewart Grogan, a British adventurer and businessman who walked over 7000km from Cape of Good Hope to Cairo.

He was an enterprising man with many business interests one of them being a vast sisal estate in Taveta plains.

Here atop a hill he built Grogans Castle that afforded a 360 degree vista of his estate.

Its design is described as part Monastery, part Moorish fort and part hacienda.

You can still see the quaint reminders of times gone by with some the original features and furniture still in use today.

The garden courtyard in the center with its water fountain and pink frangipani tree is a peaceful retreat as since 2008 it has become a hotel, although it’s not obviously so.

Finally we reached Lake Jipe Safari Camp at sunset.

 

At Grogans Castle | Coastweek

 
 

Coastweek-- At Grogans Castle. PHOTO: TAIBALI HAMZALI

The sky was a scarlet red onto the waters of Lake Jipe, and the mountains took the stance of grey cardboard cut-outs. Elephants were silhouetted in the foreground.

A wonderful welcome!  Dinner was awaiting, prior to a well-earned early night !

A new day dawned with a wonderful cacophony of birdsong and a plethora of birds to which we named only a few.

It was delightful to climb the makuti look-out tower and take in the perfectly clear view of Kilimanjaro with it’s (minimally) snow-capped peak.

There was not a cloud in sight to obliterate it and the lake sparkled in the crisp morning sun. Utterly picturesque; a photographers joy !

A boat trip on Lake Jipe summoned so off we went via a small clutch of mud houses on the lakeside where we saw elephants feeding on the lake reeds alongside men working to construct a fish farm, fishermen cleaning their catch and women doing their laundry.

Lake Jipe with Parre Mountains | Coastweek

Coastweek-- Lake Jipe with Parre Mountains and Mount Kilimanjaro in the background. PHOTO: DORIS SCHAUL

A real vision of man and beast in harmony.

On the calm lake we saw birds skimming and diving into the waters for sh, numerous elephants sited in the water eating merrily on the reeds again.

We watched them, fascinated, for a long while. In the nooks and crannies of the reeds we saw many water birds.

We slowly traversed the lake with the captain and his helper, pointing out certain points and answering a mass of questions. At times no one spoke and all was so very tranquil.

Solitude and tranquility was bliss.

A late afternoon game drive followed with the usual animals seen except a rare sight of a herd of wild donkeys.

There was possibly an albino hyena, one without spots!  Relaxed conversation followed back at the camp’s look-out tower over a sundowner.

A beautiful end to a lovely weekend.  (Debbie Wanje)

Saturday, 21st October - Bird Walk at Jumba Ruins, Mtwapa

As we entered the driveway to the NMK office we could already hear the calls of Tropical Boubou and while still at the parking we recorded a pair of Collared Sunbirds dipping their long, curved beaks into the flowers of a bougainvillea shrub.

By the time we got to the beach it was still roughly 2 hours to high tide, usually an ideal time to see shorebirds foraging on the edge but there was too much disturbance.

Just a few Reed Cormorants perching on some poles off the beach and 2 Sooty Gulls from the Palearctic regions flying past. 

Before we decided to explore the area up to the Jumba quarry, Clive spotted a Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird in a distant tree.

Along the edge of the re-forested shale quarry we watched Black-headed Heron, Cattle Egret, White-browed Coucal and the ever present House Crows.

The last species that made it on our list of 15 were the lovely Lesser Striped Swallows, which we spotted on a power line almost out of reach for our binoculars !

Though we had to make an effort to find at least a few species in this populated area this FFJ Bird walk was a pleasant opportunity to check on our avifauna !

Thank you to Bijal, Clive and Madhvi for participating!! (Doris Schaule)

Tuesday, 24th October - Annual General Meeting

Its election season! Ours were pleasant and very brisk. Thanks to the 18 members who braved the all-day downpour and attended the meeting.

The new committee remains the same as all the members opted to continue.

The chairman summarised the activities of the past year and thanked all for their support to the society, especially the hard working council members.

The motion to increase subscriptions from 800 to 1,000 was unanimously accepted. The new rates come in to effect next year.

This years subs remain at 800.

After a short refreshment break we saw the documentary film ‘Heritages’.

This is a very well-produced film that highlights the plight of four important heritage areas under threat from ‘development’.

FFJ’s efforts and views on conservation are well articulated through interviews with the chairman. Thanks to Issa and Rehana for the catering.

FUTURE PROGRAMMES

Saturday, 18thNovember - Bird Walk at Nguuni Nature Sanctuary

This month’s bird walk is at Nguuni Nature Sanctuary.

Meet at the ticket office at 3.00pm. Please note there is an entrance charge of 350/=. This is the last bird walk for the year and we hope to see many birders.

For more information see our facebook page or contact Doris Schaule Tel: 0722 277752.

Email: dorischaule@gmail.com

Tuesday, 21st November, at the Fort at 7.15pm - Book Launch: ‘The First Road to Nairobi’ by M. S. Cockar About the book by Parvez Cockar

This true life adventure of the 1926 Public Works Department (PWD) survey of the original road from Mombasa to Nairobi tells what it was like to pick and choose the path the road would follow, while trying to avoid bad ground, baobab trees, and keeping it as straight as possible, as well as trying to stay alive in the dense jungle.

At that time the only means to access the interior of British East Africa, as Kenya was known at the time, was by means of the railway which had just been completed.

The Colonial Government had just started the survey of the first ever road from Mombasa to Nairobi and the team had reached Tsavo Station by 1926 when the author, Mohamed Sadiq Cockar joined the Public Works Department (PWD) as an Assistant Surveyor at their field office in Tsavo at the tender age of 15 years.

It was only after his retirement in 1967 that he started to write his memoirs and to illustrate his story; he began to draw sketches of his experiences during the road survey, thus reviving memories of more than 40 years past.

The sketches enhance his story and portray life at the PWD camps at that time and what he experienced.

Differences in topography, birdlife, and wildlife along with the dangers that the team faced at the time are also illustrated in these sketches.

He nevertheless did such a good job of surveying and setting out the road alignment (which has remained intact for more than 90 years) that his legacy lives on today as the main highway between Mombasa and Nairobi.

All this accomplished by a mere lad of 15 who faced the hazards of the jungle while surveying the main artery from Mombasa to Nairobi more than 90 years ago.

This book has been published posthumously by Parvez, the authors son and Old Africa.

There will be a few short presentations by Parvez and Shel Arenson followed by book sales/signing and refreshments kind courtesy of the publishers and the Cockar Family.

Saturday, 25thNovember - Visit to Coastal Bottlers and Jumba Ruins

Coastal Bottlers Limited started operation in 1962 as a small company in Mombasa Old town.

They are now one of Coca-Cola’s leading local independent franchise bottling partners.

They also manufacture drinking cans at their new state of the art eco-friendly facility in Mtwapa.

We will have a tour of the facility with emphasis on the environmentally responsible measures in place.

After the tour we will go to Jumba Ruins for a guided tour of the ruins and a picnic lunch.

We will meet outside the gate to Coastal Bottlers at 10am.

To get there take the Mombasa-Malindi highway. The turn off to the factory is few kms from Mtwapa town, towards Malindi.

There is a sign board with directions to the factory. We need to know the numbers attending so if you are interested in joining please confirm with Kalim Hassanali, Email: kalimhassanali@gmail.com or by SMS 0735 209 814, by 23rd November.

Wednesday, 25thNovember, at 4.30pm at the Fort - Opening of Art exhibition by Swahili Pot artists

We have sponsored a temporary exhibition at the veranda of the museum building for artists from the dynamic youngsters of Swahili Pot.

This will be mixed media exhibition with paintings and photographs.

There will be a few short speeches preceding the official opening and viewing followed by refreshments.

All members are invited to attend the launch.

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