Improving ranger welfare and vehicles on Mount Kenya
Mount Kenya, the second-highest mountain in Africa, is an incredibly diverse
UNESCO World Heritage Site. It acts as a vital habitat range for elephants, with one of
the most dense elephant populations on the continent, and also hosts a vast array of different ecosystem types, resulting in outstandingly high biodiversity levels and water catchment, in turn providing ecosystem services that serve not only the region, but the entire nation. In the Afromontaine forest belt these notable species include leopard, giant forest hog, suni and 6 of the 8 bird species that endemic to the Kenyan Rift Valley mountains. There are as many as 81 endemic plant species, including giant lobelila and senecios.
A view of the slopes of Mount Kenya. Photo credit: Jimmy Rutherford
Mount Kenya faces many threats from illegal logging, poaching, overgrazing and
forest fires. To ensure the protection of the area, ranger teams from government and other organisations patrol the landscape. One of these teams, the Joint Wildlife Protection Team (JWPT), is operated by Mount Kenya Trust (MKT), which ForRangers was recently able to support. A recent grant has enabled the JWPT to be sufficiently remunerated for its work, providing meal rations for daily operations and maintenance for the patrol vehicle. This allows for regular and mobile patrols and swift response times in emergencies.
The grant has provided funding support for fuel, vehicle maintenance, repairs and
inspections. It has enhanced the operational capabilities of the MKT rangers and the
Kenya Wildlife Service teams they work with by ensuring uninterrupted patrols,
swifter responses to emergencies and enabling them to reach more remote areas. In a landscape with challenging terrain and a vast geographical area to cover, great vehicle maintenance makes an enormous difference. The team are able to continue to cover more ground on the mountain and respond to the needs of the communities they work with, without literally driving their specially modified land cruiser into a state of long-term disrepair.
During the first six months of 2023, rangers have responded to incidents more
rapidly, successfully carrying out 345 patrols and covering a total of 6,550 km. A total
of 1,130 hours were spent in the field, where they destroyed 176 snares and traps
and confiscated more than 500 wood products from illegal loggers. The team also
evicted 1,201 domestic animals to prevent illegal grazing and recovered almost 20 kg
of bushmeat and illegal items, making a total of seven arrests.
The Team identifies evidence of illegal logging of camphor in the forest and two
elephant tusks, which were handed to the Government authorities. Photo credit: Mount
The provision of regular and adequate salaries has had a significant positive impact on
the morale and motivation of these rangers. This, in turn, has resulted in increased
dedication and productivity in their conservation efforts. The continuity has enabled
MKT to build stronger relationships with neighbouring communities, foster trust and more effectively combat poaching, illegal logging, and other threats to wildlife and ecosystems.
Enock Ochieng, Field Team Programmes Officer of Mount Kenya Trust, shared:
“This funding helped our JWPT [to] extend [its] area of coverage, especially
during camping patrols in which [the T eam] went up to [the] Mwea Conservation Area
for [a] camping patrol. They also had [an] extended stay during [the] camping patrol
from two weeks camping [planned] previously to [a] one-month stay. More KWS
officers were also included during these camping patrols, hence having more armed
men during these operations [had] an impact as well as the [boost in] confidence for
our unarmed team. Longer stays [were] exhibited due to [the] availability of food
rations for the team.”
Overall, this grant will have a lasting positive impact on the Team and the biodiverse
landscape it protects. With the rangers more comfortable and vehicles better
maintained, the JWPT can now look to enhance conservation efforts across Mount
Kenya. Thank you!