The first of the 2016 aerial surveillance flights over South West Mau Forest by ISLA took place in February.
The quarterly flights are part of ISLA Kenya’s approach to monitor and identify drivers for deforestation and take follow-up actions.
The South-West forest block is too large to easily monitor from the ground. The flights – observations by KFS and KWS teams as well as ISLA board members – give direct leads of hotspots in the forest. These observations are then directly translated to actions by KFS and KWS teams on the ground, allowing for more effective measures of the mandated organizations.
Previous studies identified the main threats to be livestock grazing, charcoal production and logging and to a lesser extent human settlements and cattle biomass encroaching into the forest. The surveillance flights monitor the changing state of the situation from above, study further on the ground if needed and determine what should be done to ensure protection of the forest and livelihoods. For example, observations from the previous flight resulted in a successful joint security operation by Kenya Forest Services (KFS) and Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) as well as the organization of several community sensitization meetings. Such actions usually take place in the weeks after each flight.
The flight services are provided by James Finlays Kenya – part of the ISLA Kenya coalition.