Taita Apalis: This is Kenya’s most threatened bird. Until a century ago this tiny songbird was found in the magical mist forests of the Taita Hills. Today, fewer than 200 remain with populations decreasing for a number of reasons.
Today, it is clinging on to just four square kilometres of space but Nature Kenya — the East Africa Natural History Society — and research scientists affiliated with the National Museums of Kenya are working to secure patches of farms in order to increase the natural forest.
Second is the Kilifi Weaver also known as Clarke’s Weaver, found only in the coastal forests of the Dakatcha woodlands and Arabuko-Sokoke. Nature Kenya has bought some land in Dakatcha to protect the natural space of the bird.
Third is the Grey Crowned Crane, the world’s fastest disappearing crane. Found only in sub-Saharan Africa, it was once common in the wetlands of DR Congo through to Eastern Africa and stretching down to South Africa.
Today, Kenya is its stronghold, but even here, populations have halved to fewer than 10,000 Grey Crowned Cranes in Kenya, home to 45 percent of a species.
Crane Conservation Volunteers work with the community around Lake Ol’ Bolossat in central Kenya and successfully converted them into protectors.
Savannah’s cleaning crew
Then there are the vultures. Bedevilled by bad press until recently, Kenya’s different species of vultures have declined by up to 90 percent in the last two decades. Once thought of as lowly scavengers, their role in cleaning up the savannah by feeding on carcasses cannot be ignored. If it wasn’t for the vultures, the savannah would be full of rotting carcasses and prone to disease outbreaks of anthrax, to say nothing of the stench.
But the Peregrine Fund East Africa is working with conservancy rangers, partnering with wildlife, humanitarian, and advocacy NGOs, and first-responders.
Fifth are raptors. Eagles like the Martial and the African Crowned once ruled the African skies. Today, the tropical forest belt is the most threatened ecosystem. Deforestation and the increasing bushmeat trade in forests are turning them into virtual deserts for eagles.
Kenya Bird of Prey Trust is committed to rescuing, caring, conserving, researching and educating on raptors.
Next is the Papyrus Gonolek, a bright bird in the papyrus swamps around Lake Victoria. It is threatened due to the papyrus being overharvested and cleared for farms. Nature Kenya is working with the local communities to protect Yala Swamp andmonitor the birds.
Abbott’s Starling is a pretty little starling found in the forests of Mt Kenya, Kilimanjaro and the Aberdare Range. It is threatened by habitat loss. It feeds on insects and fruit. As the forests are decimated, it is moving to higher altitudes but may not survive the cold for long.
The Mount Kenya Biodiversity Conservation Group is monitoring the forest including reforesting degraded areas to increase the bird’s habitat.
Eighth is the African Grey Parrot, only found in the equatorial rainforest belts across Africa’s waist. In Kenya, it only found in Kakamega Rainforest. The online trade for exotic pets threatens this bird.
The Great Blue Turaco is another beauty from the Kakamega Forest. Turacos are actively hunted for meat and feathers. The Kakamega Forest local conservation group works with forest edge communities to lessen their dependence on the forest.
Finally, Sharpe’s Longclaw, a dainty little bird, is Kenyan endemic and listed as ‘endangered’.
Its population is about 10,000, a 99 per cent drop from the population a century ago.