Dakatcha Woodland

An extensive mosaic of forest, woodland and seasonal wetlands on the Kenya coast that is globally important for the conservation of at least 13 Red Listed species

Subject: Forest conservation
Location: Kenya coast

Size of the forest: 1,800 km2

Conservation status: designated an Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) by BirdLife International and forms part of the East African Coastal Forests Hotspot defined by Conservation International.

Habitat: Dakatcha Woodland is located about 150 km north of Mombasa and 25-50 km inland from the coast. It covers an area of 465 070 acres, of which 32% is forest, 17% is woodland, and 50% has been converted to farming or open grazing land. Dakatcha lies within the Northern Zanzibar-Inhambane Coastal Forest Mosaic ecoregion and East African Coastal Forest Hotspot, characterised by a complex mix of moist and drier forest with coastal thicket, savanna woodlands and swamps. The Woodland itself is a diverse mosaic of different forest types, savannah and seasonal wetlands.

Notable wildlife: 13 Red Listed species, including four that IUCN classify as Endangered: the Sokoke Scops Owl Otus ireneae, Clarke’s Weaver Ploceus golandi, the Sokoke Pipit Anthus sokokensis and the Golden-rumped Sengi Rhynchocyon chrysopygus.

Dakatcha Woodland is an important water catchment in a water-scarce landscape. It protects the fragile soil from erosion and moderates the local climate.

Threats to the forest

The fragmented Coastal Forests of Eastern Africa are among the ten most threatened forest hotspots in the world*, and the Dakatcha IBA is listed as an IBA in Danger, with a very high threat score and a low action score**. At a regional level, the pressure on land is intensifying as population increases, small holders and industrial agricultural expand, and coastal urban developments multiply.
The growing local population depends on the forest resources for their energy (wood), construction needs (wood), food (mammals) and livelihoods (sale of charcoal, timber, meat). As a result, deforestation and poaching of wildlife, including the Golden-rumped Sengi, are rife. Brachylaena huillensis trees have almost disappeared due to selective harvesting for the wood carving industry, and the timber from large hardwood trees (e.g. Newtonia hildebrandtii) has been sold in coastal towns.
Agriculture is the main economic activity for local communities, making land their most valuable asset. Pineapples have become an important source of income for local farmers because they grow particularly well on the red soils. Local regulations give little consideration to the immense pressure placed on the forest, and poor farming methods (slash and burn) leave the soil exposed for erosion.
The pressure on the land was compounded by the prospective arrival to Dakatcha of a large pineapple processing company in 2010, leading affluent buyers to buy land to carry out large-scale farming. The company has postponed its investment but their intention remains intact.
At site level, agricultural expansion, unregulated logging, rampant charcoal burning and the expansion of commercial pineapple plantations are rapidly destroying and degrading what is left of the unique forest habitat.

*African Conservation (2011) Conservation International Highlights Forest Ecosystems on the Edge of Collapse Retrieved from https://africanconservation.org/conservation-international-highlights-forest-ecosystems-on-the-edge-of-collapse-5/ on 26/04/2020

**BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Dakatcha Woodland

Forest clearance for charcoal in Dakatcha

How is A Rocha helping?

ARK has been working in the Dakatcha Woodlands since 2000. Our scientific monitoring has confirmed the importance of this woodland for endangered and endemic species such as Sokoke Scops Owl (Otus ireneae), Clarke’s Weaver (Ploceus golandi) and Golden-rumped Sengi (Rhynchocyon chrysopygus). We started land acquisition in 2014 in response to the rapid habitat loss observed, and have already acquired 1 517 acres of woodland of a planned 10 500 acres reserve, the A Rocha Dakatcha Nature Reserve. We are working with local churches, farmers and schools in this area around the reserve to engage them in habitat protection and restoration, and provide sustainable income-generating activities.

 

In light of the ever present threats to Dakatcha, A Rocha initially purchased 200 acres of forest in 2014, now known as the Kirosa Scott Reserve. The protected area has expanded from this initial plot, providing further protection for the Sokoke Scops Owl and the other precious inhabitants of the Dakatcha Woodland.

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