A while ago, A Rocha Kenya team of Katana, Andrew, Stanley, Ayoti and Silas, Nick (a volunteer from England) and two guests at Mwamba went to Arabuko-Sokoke Forest with the hope of catching a glimpse of the very elusive,endemic and endangered Sokoke Scops Owl. This was under the brilliant guidance of Mzee David Ngala.

David Ngala, also often referred to as ”professor” Ngala due to his uncanny knowledge of and passion for the forest met the team at the entrance to the forest before hoping onto Kiboko (A Rocha Kenya’s pickup truck). He kept the team entertained on the way by telling hilarious tales of the origin of his native tribe and his encounters in the forest.

After the drive that took about forty minutes under the “turn right” turn left” keep going straight” instructions by David Ngala,the driver, Andrew, was finally asked to stop.The team got off the truck and the cool air around them was palpable with excitement as the anticipation to catch a glimpse of the owl mounted.

Then the search for the owl began! Of course David Ngala already knew of its whereabouts and their hope therefore was that it would still be where it had been spotted. Using their hands as shields against the low hanging branches; on and on they went, deeper into the forest.

After about twenty minutes of bowing, hoping and walking, Ngala suddenly signaled everyone to stop and be as quiet and still as possible. He shone his flashlight in the branches high above them and VOILA!! there it was-the Sokoke Scops Owl!!!. What an incredible sight!it was the cutest animal to behold and gave one a sudden urge to cuddle it. Its big yellow eyes stared back unblinkingly at the camera and its talons could be seen clinging onto a branch. The sight was priceless! especially for Stanley who despite the fact that he had grown up around the forest,it was his first time to see a Sokoke Scops Owl. It was high up among tree branches so getting a perfect shot was a challenge.

Sokoke Scops Owl on the night – by Nick Gardner

The walk back to the main track started a while later. This time it was in search of  of the Golden-rumped Elephant-shrew. Unfortunately, after a long while none was spotted and everyone had to admit defeat. Ngala couldn’t hide his disappointment though.

He said that none could be spotted because their population had rapidly depleted over the past few years as a result of poaching. Otherwise, given the period within which they had been searching, they would have seen at least four!!!!

Later, the team was ready to head back to Mwamba. Little did they know that the forest had a second treat in store for them that was as elusive as the Sokoke Scops Owls – elephants. Though the forest has elephants, they are very difficult to find and one has  to rise up very early with the hopes of catching a glimpse of them as they go to drink water in swamps. Which unfortunately hardly ever happens. So for the team to spot not one but two of them was just priceless.

It was indeed a double treat….Arabuko-Sokoke Forest style!!!





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