An African leopard in northern Kenya seems to be amazed by a camera trap in a recent picture. The big cat is one of several species spotted during a survey of the coastal Boni–Dodori forest, which lies between the Tana River and the Somali border.
Recent security improvements allowed conservationists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS), Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust (WWCT), and National Museums of Kenya to set up the camera trap survey in the largely inaccessible region.
The traps captured plentiful images of a rare antelope—the Aders' duiker—as well as shots of African wild dogs, elephants, and aardvarks, to name a few. The Boni-Dodori forest had previously yielded other surprises, including a potentially new species of elephant shrew announced in 2010.
However, the wildlife-rich forest may quickly be lost as development and agriculture sprout along the Kenyan coast, according to ZSL.
Photograph courtesy ZSL
Until the recent camera trap surveys, the Aders' duiker (pictured) was thought to live only in two shrinking forests—one in Zanzibar and another elsewhere in Kenya. The antelope, classified as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, has declined from 5,000 to about 1,000 animals in the past two decades.
The camera traps, which snapped roughly 3,300 pictures during the recent survey, revealed the new Boni-Dodori duiker population to be the largest known. Details of the discovery were published July 28 in the journal Oryx.
"This population is a lifeline for the critically endangered antelope," ZSL senior conservation biologist Rajan Amin said in a statement.
"Given time and conservation action, we could unearth even more new species in this isolated forest, but we are running out of time to stop the forest and its hidden secrets from being destroyed by rapid coastal development."
The crested porcupine (pictured) was one of the more common species caught on camera in the Boni-Dodori forest.
The region is also home to the indigenous Boni people, hunter-gatherers who rely on the forest for survival. However, these peoples' numbers are falling, going from a population of 20,000 in the 1950s to just 4,000 today, according to ZSL.
In addition to the Aders' duiker, the recent survey uncovered populations of three other forest antelopes—Harvey's duiker, suni, and blue duiker—which previously were not known to occur in this part of Kenya.
An African elephant strides through the forest in a recent camera-trap picture. In general, the large mammal's range is getting smaller as people clear land for agriculture and fell trees for charcoal, according to ZSL.
There are also plans to build a railway, a new deepwater port, and an airport on the nearby island of Lamu, all of which may further put stress on Boni-Dodori's forest resources.
African lions (seen in a recent camera trap picture) are listed as vulnerable by IUCN.
Though the big cats still roam about 1.7 million square miles (4.5 million square kilometers) of Africa, they're declining in number due to indiscriminate killing in defense of life and livestock, coupled with loss of prey.