Fatuma Mansur is a forest ranger in Kilifi County, Eastern Kenya. The area is home to the largest remaining fragment of intact coastal forest in East Africa. Called Arabuko Sokoke, it was declared a world biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 2019. It contains three types of forest and is home to savannah elephants, baboons, and a number of charismatic endemic animals, including the endearingly-odd golden-rumped elephant shrew [Rhynchocyon chrysopygus]. It’s also a significant carbon sink for the region, which matters all the more since Kenya has committed to reducing its anthropogenic carbon emissions by 32 percent on business-as-usual by 2030 as part of its Nationally-Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement on climate change.
But making sure that forests like Arabuko Sukoke aren’t being exploited through practices like illegal timber harvesting and poaching has always been a challenge. They cover huge areas – this one around 41,600 hectares – and until recently, monitoring technology and capacity has not been up to the task. These days, countries need to keep a particularly keen eye on what’s happening in their forests, in order to fulfil monitoring requirements for restoration and climate mitigation targets such as the Africa-wide restoration initiative AFR100 and the global Paris Agreement.