Scottish conservation project in Kenya gets Hollywood star’s backing

Mangroves in Watamu
Mangroves growing in Watamu. Photo: Andrew Watt

Titanic star Leonardo DiCaprio has backed an ambitious new mangrove forest conservation project in Kenya that has been launched by Scottish scientists.

The Vanga Blue Forest Project, which is being run by Edinburgh Napier University in Kwale County, is working to protect a mangrove forest of 460 hectares and three villages which are home to 8,700 people.

Mangrove forests support biodiversity, act as a natural sea wall and provide shelter and food to fish and shellfish species. They also store huge amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, helping to fight climate change and among the funders is the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation which works with environmental experts, organisations and philanthropists to protect threatened ecosystems.

New mangrove trees will be planted alongside work to protect the existing forest. This will increase the amount of carbon dioxide that the forest can absorb from the atmosphere which can then be sold as carbon offsets to people and organisations wanting to lower their carbon footprint.

The project is modelled on the university’s pioneering work on the Mikoko Pamoja initiative (‘Mangroves Together’ in Swahili) which saw staff and students working with local villagers and researchers in nearby Gazi Bay to protect threatened mangrove forests and fund community development.

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