SOME unique plants and bird species at the Taita Hills forests have become extinct, a conservationist has said. They attributed the extinction to serious environmental degradation at the forests.
“Illegal loggers are to blame for the destruction of the environment, a move that is threatening the survival of the unique plants and birds species at the forests,” said Taita Taveta Forum official Dawson Mwanyumba.
He expressed concern that a unique plant known as Cycotrica tree, which is said to have abundant medicinal value related to the treatment of cancer, has become extinct. “The tree species which some decades ago were found at the Taita Hills forests became extinct a decade ago, according to research findings,” said Mwanyumba. “Despite efforts by researchers to save the plant from extinction, the plant species was confirmed extinct a decade ago.”
Mwanyumba said plants such as Ngangao, Fururu and Vuria forests have become extinct at the forests. “Rearchers from Europe and the far East used to troop the Taita Hills forests to explore the unique plant. However, it very sad now that the plant is no more today,” he said. Mwanyumba also noted that two endemic bird species namely Taita Thrush and Taita Apalis might also become extinct soon if proper conservation measures are not put in place to protect them.
Another worm identified as cilian worm only found in Sagalla forest is also under the threat of extinction due to deliberate wild fires started by community members. Research findings have also revealed that only a very small area of less that 10 meters square which favours the survival of the worm has been left undisturbed at the forest since the worm survives in cool and moist hilltop areas of the indigenous forest. “Wanton destruction of forests and deliberate wildfires caused by people are the major threats causing the extinction of these endangered plant and animal species.Proper civic education on environment protection is needed,” he said.
The conservationist was concerned that the Taita hills forest has a high concentration of endemic species yet it is still under pressure of severe encroachment. Now, the Taita Taveta Wildlife forum in collaboration with other environmental partners have launched a massive campaign to restore the forest cover through planting trees. “We have launched several tree planting projects to restore the lost habitat,” Mwanyumba noted adding that the projects are aimed at connecting Ngangao, Fururu, Chawia and Mbololo forests so that endangered species can migrate freely within the forests,” he said.