:MOUNTAIN DISPATCHES News and highlights from the Mount Kenya Trust
April - June 2016
For the past few months we have focussed on our strategy and are committed to even bigger engagement with communities, working with partners on water management and increasing our monitoring and evaluation capabilities. These are challenges that will improve our ability to focus on our vision, being the integrity of the Mount Kenya ecosystem for the welfare of all who depend on it.
We wish to recognise Timaflor for acknowledging the impact of our work and its importance to agribusiness by making a new generous monthly commitment to the Trust. We are very grateful to organisations and individuals who understand that without support for the core costs such as management salaries and operations, our conservation projects simply couldn't be achieved. Relying on donations for all that we do means that funding for projects and field teams alone isn't enough. In order to keep succeeding and being able to employ a good team at the helm, help with our core operations is vital. Our recent growth in the past four years can be put down to support like this from the Woodcock Family Trust and the continued help in kind from our committed local partners.
A big shout out to Brittany Retherford and the Lala Salaama Project and those that have supported Mount Kenya whose mission is to improve the livelihoods of rangers on the mountain. And to our amazing hosts in Colorado this year - thank you, we are truly grateful to you for accommodating, looking out for us and helping us to make new connections. Read more about the World Ranger Congress below.We hope you'll agree that April to June has been a hugely productive quarter.
Susie Weeks Executive Officer
Read more about the 2016 World Ranger Congress held this year in Colorado attended by MKT!
The Tusk Trust Safaricom marathon held in June helps to pay MKT ranger salaries.
Read more about Kenya's water resource strategyhere on the Water 2030 Resource Group
Ranger Teams Update
Thanks to the presence of the vehicle donated by the Sheldrick Trust in the Northern Sector our teams, particularly the Marania Wildlife Guards, have been patrolling a much wider area and are able to respond better to reports of illegal activity and support KWS teams more regularly. The teams have recently patrolled in areas such as the Imenti forest where illegal activity is rife.
The team found over 65 snares with 2 cable snares designed to trap elephants along with 2 pitfall traps. There were 200 logging incidents with 3 ambushes laid and 2 arrests made. One incident involved bamboo harvesting which was being used for basket making. JWPT took on a joint operation in the SE of the mountain around the Ragati, Chehe, Kihari, Kabaru and Thego areas motivated by reports of recent elephant poaching.
One zebra foal was rescued by the team and taken back to base where it received medical treatment for several weeks. The team was visited by several media groups including a French film crew Peignoir Prod from Paris. Many injured animals were found along with wire snares, fence damages and ambushes carried out by the team.
High levels of poaching around the Marania base in April were confronted with de-snaring operations. A tip-off from the community enabled the teams to find an elephant carcass that had already had the tusks removed. Many animals were also found in snares including zebras and bushbuck. Large clearing of indigenous forest was also found with over 100 trees felled.
Elephant Corridor Fencers
The fencing teams have been working hard to contain rogue fence breaking elephants. They responded rapidly to multiple fence breakages into Kisima and Ntirimiti/Subweiga communities by a lone bull identified as 'Melo'. Six breakages were recorded in one night! Illegal logging within the lower area included the felling of eucalyptus and red cedar trees along with unpermitted grazing within the Corridor.
Tree Nursery News
The nursery expansion is complete - with a capacity now for over 20,000 seedlings. Gearing up for next rainy season and new beds have been made for over 10,000 Croton seedlings that will be sent to the Eco-Fuels Kenya for October 2016 planting. Other species being raised include Warbugiaugandensis, Junipera procera, Acacia xanthopholea and Ficus.
Indigenous tree seedlings from the nursery were planted next to MKT office. Once the trees attain a good height, the exotic species in the compound will be removed to leave an indigenous canopy cover. Some of the trees are already one metre high!
A new site along the Ontilili riverbank was opened up for indigenous tree planting on the north-western side of the mountain. The area is in critical need of rehabilitation due to old plantations and abused small-scale (shama) systems that cleared the site many years ago. It is alarming to see bare river banks in such a key water catchment area.
Along with Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and community members, we have planted over 8,000 indigenous tree seedlings (Waterberry, Podo, African Olive and Cedar) along the degraded river bank. The seedlings were sourced from five different women groups around the mountain including the Embu side.
Mid June saw the area receive some rains, a welcome blessing for the seedlings planted towards end of April. The rains also reduced the heat build up that could have resulted in forest fires.
One Tree Per Child Update
Three schools have set aside half acre land so far to grow Casuarina woodlots. Casuarina was chosen due ability to withstand harsh conditions and grow in poor and degraded soils. The woodlots aim to decrease future dependency on fuel wood from the neighboring forest ecosystem. Fencing materials have been procured and fencing work will begin next month.
Bunson Tree Nurseries
Ngusishi Secondary School is now installing a Bunson Travel Tree Nursery. The tank and fencing materials have been bought and delivered. The next step is for the school administration to make the base of the tank. Seedlings grown in the tree nursery will be planted around the school compound and the rest will be taken by the pupils to plant in their homes.
To keep the young generation in constant touch with what is happening to the ecological environment, MKT continued its outreach program to schools.
Nkiria Primary School along with Ngusishi and Ntirimiti Secondary schools have all received environmental education sessions from our Field Coordinator. The pupils were very enthusiastic as they watched the film Mizoga - which has package information on bush meat trade - a problem that has escalated in the area since the Sirimon community was resettled there. The pupils were enlightened on the dangers of consuming game meat from illegally hunted wild animals in the adjoining forest reserve.
Students also planted trees in their school compound to reduce direct wind that blows straight into the classroom.
Football for Conservation
A football ambassador from the Vijana Amani Pamoja visited the initial six schools to refresh the teams on the skills learned in sessions previously this year. The coach also talked about youth challenges such as drugs abuse and early pregnancies. It was encouraging to see school managers joining their teams showing clearly how people are embracing conservation efforts.
Nkiria Primary School also had a chance to visit Ol Pejeta conservancy on an educational tour, sponsored by the Laikipian after achieving second place in the U12 Laikipia football tournament held in April.
Health and Environment The CHASE Africa Community Health Project
Numbers are increasing month on month with large turnouts from the communities in both Embu and Meru counties. A visit from Dandelion Africa, a Nakuru based NGO that improves the health and economy of Kenyan youth and women, had this to say:
Timau is a very fertile area with a robust economic status among the population as compared to the geographical area we work on. The farms were fertile and most people preferred to come to the clinics after work because they were busy looking after their land.
MKT and Dandelion Africa have similarities in how both organizations run their outreach programs. The setup and process during the outreach... starting with registration to finalising with the designated pharmacy.
The outreach was mainly dominated by women with fewer men and MKT uses a referral system where mobilisers refer patients to the different MoH facilities. We learnt how to better utilise the services of mobilisers in the community.
The Olympics for Rangers - World Ranger Congress in Colorado
Susie Weeks (MKT Executive Officer), Edwin Kinyanjui (JWPT Leader) and Simon Gitau (KWS Senior Warden) were all sponsored to attend and present at the International Ranger Federation World Ranger Congress (WRC) in Colorado, USA. This non for profit organisation supports park rangers and their conservation work attended by over 300 rangers from nearly 70 countries! Prior this Edwin and Simon were able to take part in a 9 day mobile course in Colorado and Utah deepening their knowledge base and experience.
At the Congress the team were able to network with other men and women rangers and resource managers and present as a panel to the participants about the important partnerships that are helping to conserve Mount Kenya.
'We all felt inspired to work harder to ensure the work of our rangers is placed in proper context - they are our planet's guardians yet they are under-equipped, and in most cases underpaid and poorly protected because greed and politics get in the way of what is right' Susie.
Rangers put their lives on the line every day, away from their families and without the most basic equipment. The WRC and its organisers the IRF give us an opportunity to share experience, knowledge and the daily fight against poaching and habitat destruction has generated a support network and a sense of community around the world. As the President of the International Ranger Foundation, Sean Willmore said at the event, the WRC is 'the Olympics for rangers'.
Our trip was funded by the Lala Salama Project, USAID, Friends of Africa International and the Congress Organisers and their partners to whom we are deeply thankful. Simon, Susie and Edwin also gave two further talks organised by the Lala Salama Team, and as a result of these equipment and further funds for equipment were donated by new friends from the Lala Salama network created in Colorado. Huge thanks to Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder for the donations of jackets and boots for the Mountain Rescue and Joint Wildlife Protection Teams worth over $4,000!
Rhino Ark & partners Mount Kenya Fence Project progress
The third phase of the Mount Kenya electric fence started in the Imenti Forest with approx. 14km now complete. There have been many issues in this highly conflicted area:
Illegal activities are rampant with regular joint by the KWS, KFS and MKT organised.
The community requested activities such as grazing, firewood and stone collection permits to be banned for a period of five years. However permitting issues are to be discussed at a higher KFS level.
Beehives to be removed that are close to the fence.
Once this seasons crops have been harvested shambas next to the fence should not be dug again.
Gates are to be manned by community members.
Safaricom / Tusk Marathon Water Stop
Once again the Trust was manning Waterstop 8 at the Tusk Trust Safaricom Marathon with this year Susie Weeks, Executive Officer, even running the half marathon! It was fantastic to see so many local and international runners on the course.
Some funds raised by the event are donated to MKT for the Joint Wildlife Protection Team salaries. This essential and highly effective mobile team are key to tackling illegal activities on the mountain, with daily reports involving logging and poaching along with many other illegal activities.
Lenana Level Donors
Safaricom Marathon via Tusk Trust
Coryndon Level Donors
Eden Wildlife Trust, The Woodcock Family, Tusk Trust, Zurich Zoo Fly 540 10to4 Sponsors: BATUK, Tropic Air
Point Piggot Level Donors& Event sponsors
The International Elephant Foundation, Seneca Park Zoo, Jim Butterfield, Bunson Travel
Point Dutton Level Donors & Event Sponsors
Safarilink, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Kisima Farm, Marania Farm, Ol Donyo Farm, Steve Strong Fly540 10to4Sponsors: Highlands Water, Braeburn Schools, Remote Medical, The Born Free Foundation (Kenya), Flamingo, Timaflor, Commercial Bank of Africa, Mascor, Xado EA, Browns Cheese, Dormans, CMS, Express Automation, Gras Savoye, Kenya Treks, Kongoni Camp, Rift Valley Adventures, Trout Tree, Mt Kenya Bicycles, Bikes & Outdoor Adventures, Tropical Heat, Kitengela, Matbronze, Shimano, Equinox Flowers, Huduma Services Limited, Laikipia Wildlife Forum, Laikipia Wilderness, Ligent, One Stop, Saab, African Ascents, Azimuth, Gundua, Kisima Flowers, Kisima Flour, Marania Farm, Ol Donyo Farm, Mawingu Networks, Raka Cheese, Savage Wilderness, Sirai House, Tambuzi, Uhuru Flowers.
Thanks to our regular contributors for their assistance so far this year: The Mountain Club of Kenya.
Our partners: We wouldn't be able to keep up the good work without our most important supporting & operational partners. These include The Kenya Wildlife Service, The Kenya Forest Service, Rhino Ark, Kisima Farm, Marania Farm, Tropic Air, Borana Conservancy, African Ascents and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and One Stop.
To all our friends and supporters who took part and / or contributed to the 3 peaks climb for the horse patrol team, many many thanks.
Thank you to Nancy Balfour and Morten Jensen for your time and assistance