Tackling mounting threats on Mount Kenya’s slopes
A peak that reaches up to almost 5,200 m, diverse and ever-changing habitats up its slopes, and a natural water source for people, it is no wonder that Africa’s second-highest mountain, Mount Kenya, was officially designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.
Once an active volcano formed 20 million years ago, the mountain has spent much of its history dormant and covered by a thick layer of ice. Today, Mount Kenya and its surrounding habitats are a haven for wildlife, with 81 endemic plant species, and some of Kenya’s largest elephant and lion populations. Unfortunately, black rhinos were, extirpated from the mountain many years ago, and today, the Critically Endangered Mountain bongo (a species with fewer than 100 individuals left) in the wild is also locally extinct on Mount Kenya. Yet, there is much suitable habitat here where the species could recover.
The Mount Kenya Trust (MKT), in collaboration with local people, government agencies and development partners, has been working in and around the Mount Kenya National Park and Reserve and Imenti Forest Reserve for more than 20 years. It was established due to the rising threats facing the area, including excessive wildlife poaching, illegal marijuana cultivation, overgrazing, and illegal timber extraction. To counteract these, the Trust’s programmes support forest protection and restoration; wildlife protection; wildlife corridors; human-elephant conflict mitigation; water management; and community development.
The Trust employs 27 Community Rangers, working in units of six or more and stationed at different bases close to or inside the Mount Kenya National Reserve and Imenti Forest Reserve. However, as beautiful as Mount Kenya is, its terrain and remoteness do not make it an idyllic location to spend days at a time or coordinate tactical operations. To work safely and effectively, MKT’s rangers were in need of improved equipment and training.
With surveys showing that developing a digital network on the mountain was impossible, ForRangers was able to support the purchase of a satellite phone, ensuring emergency communications are always available whilst rangers carry out special operations.
However, despite the importance of this communications activity, perhaps the greatest support for the rangers was the delivery of new training courses. ForRangers’ funds supported the teams to take part in two Ranger Life Saver (RLS) training sessions. Within the sessions, rangers developed knowledge of how to deal with dangerous injuries and scenarios in the field, including spinal injuries and chest traumas, as well as hypothermia prevention and evacuations. Due to the high altitude and frequent direct contact with fires, many of the trainees have already expressed their gratitude for the knowledge and confidence gained, with some already using these new skills to treat burns.
Daniel Gitonga, Horse Patrol team leader, commented on the effectiveness of the team’s instructors:
“The Horse Patrol team completed a four-day RLS training [course], which was conducted by Martin and Robert. [The] training was fantastic and educating. After Enock closed the training [course], the rest of [the] teams went back to their camps. Hongera (congratulations) to [the] instructors!”
With the support from donors like you, the rangers on Mount Kenya have been able to carry out mobile patrols where they have disassembled active snares and made arrests of several people that were targeting wildlife. The team has prevented several wildfires from spreading from the moorlands into some of the more ancient, precious indigenous forests found on the mountain, forests that are refuges for some of East Africa’s most iconic and endangered wildlife.
Thank you so much for your support for these incredible rangers.