News and highlights from the Mount Kenya Trust
January - March 2016
We hit the ground running in January assisting the Mount Kenya Elephant Survey which has been funded by Disney and was organised by Hilde VanLeeuwe from the World Conservation Society. Eight teams of four men consisting of KWS rangers, Mount Kenya Trust's Joint Wildlife Protection Team and Rhino Ark's Bongo Surveillance Team were deployed to take transects across Mount Kenya.
In February, Borana Conservancy hosted our signature fundraising event - the 10to4 - raising a record-breaking 6.6KSh million! We have had a number of donor and film crews visit us over the last 3 months keeping us on our toes. We are feeling really positive about our progress so far this year, particularly when it comes to the 10to4, our 3 Peaks Climb fundraiser for our Horse Patrol Team and the growth of our Community Health project.
We are bowled over by the support in the form of a new vehicle for our community projects. Thanks to Tusk Trust and Chase Africa we now have a Toyota Hilux for use on our community outreaches. Funding pledged over the next two years means we will be able to pay for it in full by 2018. We can't thank Tusk and CHASE enough for this much-needed support to our capacity in line with the growth of these projects.
Read on to find out more about the many projects and activities we've been participating in since the year began. We thank you all for your support.
MKT is now a member of the UN Mountain Partnership. Find out more here.
The 3Peak Fundraising Climb is still open for any last minute donations! More info here.
The 13th annual 10to4 race was the biggest yet! Results and photos online here.
The Mount Kenya Trust organised the most successful 10to4 to date! Our Title sponsors Fly540 pulled out all of the stops to ensure that our main costs were covered whilst supporting the Fly540 team consisting of the unbeatable Safari Simbaz. With five main events over two days and the Braeburn Bundu Bash held on the Sunday for children, there were huge challenges, hills, adventures and fun for all levels of mountain biking experience and age groups.
Overall champs for the most challenging 2-day event, the Extreme were David Kinjah and Annemarie Griffioen who also won the Hardcore and King and Queen of the Mountain challenge.
We are are immensely grateful to all our sponsors and participants, you all helped us raise an incredible 6.6 million shillings for our conservation projects and core costs. The fact is without this event the Trust cannot continue its present project portfolio. We also want to thank all of our partners in the event volunteers without which the event could not take place.
A special mention to Hitesh Shah and his AMAZING team Sukuma Twende who won the trophy for the highest sponsorship raised. We were totally speechless. They raised over 600,000KSh for the Trust.
Massive thank you to Adele Wilson, the 10to4 Committee and our fabulous partners for organising and hosting such a top event.
February saw the first complete data collection via SMART (Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool) with the MWG and HPT. An example of the maps is shown below. MWG patrolled over 250km in 25 patrol days with HPT covering 229km in 24 days. Both teams were on duty for the 10to4 event. SMART data provides new information for the team managers to assess the teams performance and area covered.
In January Edwin and his team were extremely busy with the elephant survey. Training to use a new system monitoring system using Trimble GPS units was also being pioneered with JWPT and one other team on the mountain including KWS and Rhino Ark input out alongside our own 'inhouse' use of SMART tracking. Every other day patrols have carried on as usual in the Ruthumbi area and the team continues to impress us all with their successes in uncovering illegal activity and making arrests. Here are just a few examples in January alone:
Bhang fields were uprooted in upper Ruthumbi.
The team followed footprints near Kithira that led to a house with 109 red cedar posts logged from the forest. The suspect found there was booked at Kianguya Police post.
On a patrol from Kithirune to Marima the team immobilized a snare for bush buck. The same day the team arrested a man carrying 15 red cedar posts. He was booked at Githongo Police Station.
Three men wee arrested in Themwe having been caught chopping down read cedar for posts with a chainsaw. The men had a skinned suni, 3 snares, 3 pangas, an axe and 3 hunting dogs. They were booked at Githongo Police station.
Corridor Fence Team Major repairs to the elephant corridor were needed after a lorry lost control on the A2 road and tipped a load of sand on top of the fenceline. Illegal grass harvesting was again recorded along with several lone elephants breaking in and out of the corridor. Many leopard footprints were seen. General maintenance continued such as spraying and clearing to keep the fence line ticking. Work on a new fence at the top end of the Corridor opening into the forest will begin in April due to the initiation of PELIS activities earlier this year.
Mount Kenya Elephant Survey
Aerial counts of elephants in forest environments are ineffective due to the obstruction of tree canopies. An ambitious elephant dung survey was carried out on foot along line transects.This is the most commonly used method to estimate the density of elephants in forest environments.
The survey was led by Hilde Vanleeuwe of the World Conservation Society with financial support from Disney with full support from Kenya Wildlife Service and involving Rhino Ark, the Bongo Surveillance Project and Mount Kenya Trust.
A two-day training session prior to the start of the survey at the KWS Naro Moru Park Headquarters. Trainees were all scouts and rangers with basic knowledge on geographical navigation using maps and GPS.Thirty-two rangers and scouts, divided into eight teams of four, participated in the training. Those who performed best during the practical training were allocated as team leaders, in charge of data collection and daily communication with senior KWS researcher James Mathenge.
The project ran in three separate blocks of ten days; these consisted of a field missions lasting a maximum of seven days and at least three rest days between field missions. During this survey eight teams of four rangers and Mount Kenya Trust scouts were able to monitor 397 transects of 200m, yielding 79,400m of survey effort (see the image below). This is no mean feat. Men and women needed to keep their transect lines as straight as possible in difficult terrain and through thick bamboo and steep valleys, across rivers and gorges for days on end.Other vital information on illegal activity on Mount Kenya was also collected.
Results suggested a density of 1.28 elephants/km2 which is statistically non-significant reduction of the previous survey conducted in 2001 and suggesting a density of 1.45 elephants/km2. The survey estimates that there are 2,579 (+/-453) elephants on Mount Kenya today.
In conclusion, the population has remained relatively stable since the last published results by H. Vanleeuwe in 2001 when the estimated number was 2,911 (+/-640). The slight reduction is speculative depending on some poaching and/or migration since the opening of the Northern Elephant Corridor. However this is a positive result in an era where elephant numbers are dwindling so rapidly.
They made it!
THREE PEAK CHALLENGE
In early March, a group took off to Solo / Crater Camp with four horses to accompany the climbers for the first night. The fundraising climb has been organised by Gwili Gibbon our Programme Officer with the aim to raise funds to build satellite camps so that the HPT can move further afield away from their main base at Kisima Farm.
Kinyanjui Edwin, TimmyFlowers and Henry Van Der Does summited all three peaks and Gwili Gibbon, Jamie Manuel, Lorian Campbell Clause, Lorien Chen and George made it up Lenana and Nelion! Well done all!
A HUGE thank you to all our supporters, donors and our fantastic guides from African Ascents - Julian Wright, Tom Gregory, Michael Spencer and Schaniela Wright.
Over 1million KSh has been raised for the Horse Patrol Team so far! Many thanks to those who have made a contribution we are so very appreciative!
In the spotlight:
David Njenga Nginyo
KFS Ontulili Forest Station Manager
Ontulili is the biggest forest station in the Mount Kenya Reserve covering over 33,200ha. Around 25,000ha are indigenous forest and 3000ha bamboo and grasslands.
In 2014, around 2250ha was plantation area (to be increased by 1000ha next year). Three per cent of this area is exotic plantations. Plantation areas are not allowed over 10 per cent of the total area.
Njenga has been the Forest Station Manager since 2015. He works closely with MKT on indigenous tree planting, rehabilitation of degraded sites and fire fighting.
How do you manage forest protection and communities?
One of the main purposes of plantations is to be a buffer zone between the community and natural forest. It is assumed that people will default into the exotic forest to collect their materials instead of moving into the indigenous. There are three ways to manage the forest: Protect, Conserve and Manage
â€˜Illegal activities are difficult to control as one person. The best way is to get the communities on board and to work closely with them. By involving the community, I can get information about illegal activities going on in the area,' says Njenga.
This also involves the courts. 'When I arrived, individuals that had been arrested were given a â€˜community service order (CSO).â€™ This meant community service for 6 hours a day over one to two month period. However, the individuals would then come back to the forest during the time they are under CSO and also afterwards and would continue with their illegal activities. After talking to the judiciary, I went over the Forestry Act and highlighted the least sentence they should be given (50,000KSh fine or 6 months in prison). Since January 2015, there has been no more CSOâ€™s. This has helped to deter individuals even more.'
Protecting the already natural recovering (regenerating) areas against grazing and human interference as well as planting for rehabilitation and enrichment planting is critical to the region. This includes the MKT 150ha area at Karuri and other scattered plots around the station such as around the old staff quarters. A new site will be opened up in October at Kangiata.
'We have six tree nurseries with over 100 community members working in each one. PELIS works under the condition that an individual needs to first commit to raising enough seedlings for 1 acre of land and prove they have enough seedlings to qualify for this piece. I need to be particularly careful at monitoring the sites around harvesting time as often the farmers will employ casuals to do the potato harvesting. As the soil is moved, this may uproot the trees as they go,' explains Njenga.
What are your main challenges?
Rangers being attacked, false information fed to me by dishonest informants and a lack of vehicle capacity.
What have been your best achievements so far?
Bringing down illegal activities to an acceptable level and the successful establishment of an indigenous forest at Karuri with birds and wildlife returning.
Gearing up for another planting season!
The Karuri section, a main area where tree planting has been focussed of the Ontulili Forest, is already fully planted!
Another area has been opened up for PELIS but with a KFS plan to plant exotic plantation species which are harvested once they mature. However, the steeper areas will be planted with the indigenous species for the purpose of creating a permanent cover to enhance water retention and stop soil erosion.
New areas suggested are slopes along the river valleys and the area around the old inhabited KFS staff houses. There are 10,000+ tree seedlings with the groups that MKT support ready for planting this April 2016 season.
Table Banking Success!
A GREAT STORY of how a cohesive group can improve their livelihoods by growing trees
The Kianjogu Mwanzo Mwema Women Tree Nursery Group have set up a table banking programme from the sale of their tree seedlings. The group has accumulated over KSh 300,000 which they are now loaning to their group members for interest.
James opened a shop in the village, Mercy bought a chaff cutter and Kinya bought a grade cow - photos below!
COMMUNITY HEALTH PROJECT
â€˜CHSP is the youngest project in the Trust portfolio having been set up just over a year ago. It has given us a unique experience dealing directly with the community on healthcare matters. During the clinic outreaches which are held monthly in at least three counties we take the opportunity to address the community about conservation.
We often use a Swahili term â€˜â€™Tunzamsituikutunzeâ€ meaning take care of the forest resources and it will take care of you.
The majority of the community members who live close to the reserve have a negative approach when it comes to conservation. They view the government institute given the mandate to protect the reserve as unfriendly hence rebel against any effort put across to protect the reserve.
We aim to let them feel they own the reserve and they should feel entitled to protect and preserve the Mount Kenya Reserve. The project is a direct touch to the community and we hope we can reach many more people.We receive lots of suggestions and invitations to visit new areas in the region.â€™
Delphin Mukira - CHSP Project Manager
THE MOUNT KENYA ELEPHANT CORRIDOR
A gridded surveillance of the corridor has been set up using 25 camera traps - in addition to the traps places at the entrance, exit and underpass. MA student Sian Green from the Univesity of Southampton has been getting to grips with analysing over 30,000 pictures a week!
Her research focuses on how well the corridor is functioning and in what ways it is being used by the wildlife. In particular, she is looking at distribution, movement patterns and resource use within the corridor to find out how the space is being used by wildlife and the effectiveness in joining landscapes.
'I am starting to work on my own elephant identification database for the corridor and along with trips to the field to service and maintain the camera traps I am sure I will be kept very busy and I am excited to see what patterns start to develop as I collect more data.' Sian Green
As of 27th February 2016, a total of 46.7km of the 60km second phase has been completed. In addition to the 52km in the first phase, this totals almost 100km!
Several problems arising in phase two include:
the Nthunguru section is yet to be fenced as KFS has leased off an area to private farmers to establish tea plantations. Aligning the fence in the area will leave a belt of 10m width of tea to be cleared and KFS was charged with the responsibility of working with the licensees to have achieve this
Forest beacons - the concrete pegs marking the boundary - are missing in some locations. Coordinates are available that will be used in agreement with KFS.
Community sensitization meetings were conducted on the sections between Kithira and Marimba, just under the Ruthumbi forest station. The communities were shown bio-enterprise projects that can be initiated to address livelihood status amongst the group members.
Imenti Human-Wildlife conflict
A committee formed from the three local constituencies appeared before the Mount Kenya Fence Technical Committee and presented their request to have another construction team start the fence work in the Imenti forest ahead of time to address the escalated conflict.
The FTC approved the request on condition that the community involved show commitment in terms of helping to maintain the fence once it is built- as it was noted with concern that the existing nonfunctional fence failed due to lack of routine maintenance.
Teamwork - over the Easter weekend fires which started in the Ontulili area were fought by the Kenya Forest Service, Kenya Wildlife Service, our own Marania Wildlife Gaurds and the members of the Community Forest Association. Support with vehicles, rations and volunteers were provided by Mount Kenya Trust, Greystones Development Company and Rhino Ark. The fires were out after 3 days and thankfully the rains began a week later.
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.
Thanks again to Morten Jensen for his voluntary time working on the Trust's financial reporting for the Finance Committee.
A big thank you again to Jorien Schuurmans for all your work with the Community Health Project so far.