Holy Moley I am responsible for a huge great demolition job on one of Kenya’s major roads! Pictures of the excavation of the elephant underpass are attached! Virgin Atlantic sent the press to a small ceremony to record this auspicious occasion.
As suspected by many, our population is expected to reach way above published statistics. Family planning is another hush hush subject which lies at the very heart of where we are at, and what is become if drastic change is not made. Yesterday. And a public holiday is declared to carry out the census which presumably could be carried out on on of our many other holidays? Surely stopping those Kenyans who remain productive at this time is counterproductive in the long run? Let’s hope at least that it is carried out accurately so that more people will see the gravity of the situation and that this is filtered through at policy level.
This week we hand over the site for building the elephant corridor to the contractor who won the tender. This has been long awaited and we are grateful for the assistance of Virgin Atlantic who have made this possible. We still have 8km of fences to raise funds for but we have completed nearly 20km of fencing thanks to the Dutch Government. A ground breaking ceremony take place on the 3rd of September and the underpass should be complete within 16 weeks. While this is all good news the current state of wildlife decline and lack of control of illegal activity and water extraction are a stark reminder that Kenya has always survived on private enterprise, the work of NGO’s and the average Kenyan man and woman making their way with little help or guidance. Such enterprise, some of the more successful projects and such incredible sprits are let down time and again by the short- sightedness and mismanagement of the few who hold the possibility of hope and a bright future in their hands. The Mau Forest is finally receiving some support from the Government, again pushed by private enterprise and caring individuals who have pushed them into doing it years and years after the warning bells were ringing. Once upon a time this was the largest forest in Kenya. So fragmented is the Mau complex now that it will take many years and enoromous funding to put it right. I congratulate those who I know are the real heros behind the efforts, and wish them every success. Mount Kenya’s forest is now the largest remaining continuous canopy of forest in the country and we must ensure that it is never allowed to be carved up in such a brutal way. Rhino Ark which has fenced the Aberdares, the new team working to reverse the effects of destruction in the Mau and the Mount Kenya Trust (all in conjunction with KWS) and education in the communities really are the single best hopes for the country’s future. We have had many many droughts like this one, usually 2 low years of rainfall in cycles of 10 to 15 years, but never have the rivers and water table been so low and never have so many previously unseasonal rivers actually stopped. The Trust has also managed to successfully deploy the Joint Wildlife Protection Team, the first of it’s kind in Kenya. I am sure of its success in helping to reduce poaching and I hope we can save Mount Kenya’s few remaining Mountain Bongo. I know that in future we can duplicate this effort elsewhere, it should be a winning effort of teamwork. In the meantime let us hope that there will be something left to protect 10 years from now. I leave you with pictures of communities hungry for knowledge and assistance. Women’s groups who work with the Mount Kenya Trust passing on their knowledge in the 1st picture and children being shown films about wildlife and the environment.
The current global economic climate, combined with a Government that won’t take action for its people or resources and a servere drought in Northern Kenya are putting our unique habitats and wildlife in severe danger of being wiped out for good. Far from over-dramatising the situation I am stating the truth which nobody seems to be prepared to to talk about publicly. While people die from starvation after failed rains and the situation becomes more desperate for everybody, MPs are still preoccupied with their personal gains. KWS is somehow expected to protect wildlife in Reserves where revenue is taken by the County Councils though all control has been lost to banditry. Warring tribes are being allowed to kill one another with illegal automatic weapons and blatant poaching of wildlife is going unchecked. Much of the poaching is ‘inexplicably’ linked with the rising number of Chinese people in Kenya who seem to be protected by the powers that be. Yesterday – the day that the PM answered questions about our water crisis I cycled past a prominent ex MP’s house not far from the PM’s residence. Water was being pumped straight from the river through huge hose to clean his driveway in volumes used, or so I thought, only by firemen. This while the country starves. Once part of the ruling elite, always above the law. Whilst us conservationists try to make a difference and conserve and educate about the environment hypocrites talk the talk but still allow, and indeed abet blatant and wanton destruction of the county’s future. Who would have thought that the Moi era would feel like a vaugely responsible one in comparison?
A Sunday Telegraph journalist arrived in Kenya on Sunday to do a story on poaching and bush meat in Kenya. Having linked up with a locally based photographer they started his trip by joining me and some of the guys who make up the Joint Wildlife Protection team on Mount Kenya to pick up part of the story. In our search for snares and snared animals in the forest we got lost in the forest on Monday evening after hearing a heard of elephants and changing direction. The change disorientated the team, most of whom are new to the area we were exploring. We were supposed to be taking a walk for just under two hours but we emereged from the forest five hours later at 9:30pm at night having walked through some of the most dense forest in the country in the dark. Between about 8 of us there were 3 torches and it was difficult to keep moving and stay on our feet, stumbling as we did over roots and creepers and branches. We we scratched to bits by thorns, stung all over our bodies by nettles and beaten in the face by branches. Luckily everyone remained calm and when finally we emerged from the forest onto a track we were very relieved after the unexpected adventrue. The team walked in the forest again for the next couple of days and were fine.The experience has made me think of Gill Tree the lady who now helps the Trust from the UK who, on a Mount Kenya climb some years ago, was separated from her companions and lost for 4 days on her own. The experience changed her life and she is now trying to give back to Mount Kenya. A few hours with a large team is nothing compared to 4 days on your own. The night temperatures alone could kill you not to mention the dangers posed by wildlife and ravines and rocks and streams in the dark. The strength it would take to make it out of a situation like that is incredible. It is also a reminder of the uniqueness of what we are protecting and how hard the guys in the team will have to work to comb the forests for illegal activities. For those of you in the UK the article being researched by David Harrison should appear the Sunday Telegraph magazine in a few weeks time.Back in Nairobi I am still itching from all the nettle stings but more than anything I am itching to be up by and in the forests more than ever, to spend more time with the communities and the environment I am working to protect with the Trust.
You are cordially invited to “Impressions of Kenya”
a collection of paintings by Amy Sandys-Lumsdaine.
The Private Viewing is Friday 15th at 6pm.
The show is then open to the Public until Sunday 24th May 2009
Opening times 11-2pm and 5-7.30pm everyday.
Impressions of Kenya is being held in association with Tusk Trust and The Bill Woodley Mount Kenya Trust. The Mount Kenya Trust is preserving and protecting forest habitats and wildlife on Mount Kenya. Mt Kenya is a vitally important catchment area with unique habitats which are host to numerous wildlife species. These include critically endangered mammals such as leopard and the mountain bongo. Projects include reafforestation, anti-poaching, elephant fencing, education and an elephant corridor. To find out more visit www.mountkenyatrust.org
10% of show proceeds will go to Mount Kenya Trust via Tusk Trust (UK Charity No.803118)
I’ve been bitten by a spider on my leg and now its gone gooey. Ohh the pain! I’m hobbling around feeling very silly indeed. Still there are less interesting injuries to sustain. Don’t worry I’m not about to post pics, too gruesome. I’m just back in Nairobi from another Mountain trip. We still need rain in many parts of the country. I’m happy despite the gammy leg because things are coming together for my plans to spend less time in Nairoibi and more on and around Mount Kenya! Woo Hoo! All the driving on my own is pretty exhasting but though I’ll still have to do it fairly regularly I’m hoping not quite as often. Thought I’d post a couple of pics from recent trips and adventures! The first is lake Rutundu high up on the Northern Side of the Mountain and absolutely stunning. Our Marania wildlife guards patrol this area and the area below down into the forest line. There are beautiful fishing cabins up there which was where I was staying when I took the picture. It has to be one of the most peaceful places on earth. .
I took this from a small aircraft recently, I think it might be hard for people to picture the peaks and the forests of Mount Kenya but this gives an idea of the change in habitats as you go up the mountain. Ironic that I was in a plane because we have had some support from a local airline to offset their carbon emissions. Helping us to plant trees is an excellent way to reduce your carbon footprint! Tropical forests absorb more CO2 than those in temperate climates and we are really expanding our indigenous tree planting projects right now. Our integrated approach to managing our projects means that this will help communities to have alternative incomes. I’m very excited about how many different projects we have running concurrently now. It means my travel to and from Mount Kenya has increased substantially. I’ll be basing myself in the north by the end of the year hopefully so that I can minimize my travel time and the time spent in Nairobi.
The current economic and political climate means there is more pressure on Mount Kenya than usual. We are facing escalating levels of logging and poaching and we are now fighting a rising tide of problems which have been further exacerbated by the drought. Although the rains have finally arrived, fires have been raging on Mount Kenya and failing crops in surrounding shambas mean that people are turning to the forests for survival. Reports of more snared young elephants, buffalo, eland and other species keep coming in and phone calls about fires and tree felling are coming in on a daily basis. More than ever the Trust needs the means to help the communities and keep the forests and wildlife safe. We help the communities by putting up fencing to prevent elephants trampling their crops and we give them advice on alternative sources of income and fuel. We are working with women’s groups and community based organisations to help them grow and sell trees. We need to keep up the pace of our work despite the setbacks and the global economic situation, it is vital we fight harder until times are better. The good news is that we finally have enough pledges to deploy the Joint Wildlife Protection Team. This has taken a long time to materialize but it is better late than never. We are grateful to the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife for making this possible at a time when donor support is difficult to source. With more help we can secure the lives and welfare of more people and animals in the future.