A Rocha, Kenya
A Rocha Mwamba Field Study Centre in Watamu, Kenya. Watamu, is a village in the Kenyan coastal county of Kilifi near Malindi. A Rocha, which is Portuguese for Rock, is a Christian conservation organization that believes that as Christians it is it is their duty to protect God’s planet and His people. They do this by engaging in scientific research, environmental education and community based conservation projects. They are based in 19 countries around the world. I was asked to come to their Kenya branch, which is their second oldest after Portugal, to help them tell their story of their newest venture – marine research.
Bird ringing is “ornithologist speak” for putting a small band on a bird’s leg with a number and a short message. The message reads something to this effect, “Please inform the Kenyan National Museum – K29“. In short the ring is so they can track the birds migration and growth. So if a bird is found anywhere in the world people can send the band or just the number to the museum and they will have an idea of where the bird has been. When a bird is recaptured they can track the bird’s band and record it’s growth and health. To collect the birds a team sets up large nets throughout the A Rocha property and on national parks in the area. On my visit they set up nets one morning on their property at Muwamba and then later in the week at Mida Creek, a mangrove forest reserve on Kenya’s coast near Watamu.
The whole process is done with the utmost care for the birds and meticulous notes are taken on each captured and ringed bird. The nets are 50 or 60 feet in length and around 8 to 10 feet high. They are set up in areas of high bird population and birds fly into them and get caught. Volunteers and staff researchers visit and collect the birds every hour. The birds are carefully brought back to a location where each bird is weighed and measured. It is here where either a ring is added to its leg or if it is already ringed the number is read and data added.
The ASSETS program is described as a “targeted sustainable development program”. When I asked what they were targeting, I was told the communities around the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and Mida Creek. Both of these locations have unique, and in fact endangered wildlife. Deforestation and poaching is a major threat to the species inhabiting these two locations. But how do you stop people with very little income from cutting trees to sell to provide for their families? You can’t just tell them to stop and you can’t make them understand how they are killing off pretty little birds and rare little rodents. What A Rocha Kenya is finding out is you actually can do these things plus you provide a scholarship to help ease the daily cost of living. For more information on A Rocha and it’s ASSETS program the post “Kenya’s Hope is in Her ASSETS”