Edwin is reporting more snared elephants being sighted coming out of the forest nearly every day from where he is based at Mountain Lodge. KWS vets are not available for now and even if we can get someone soon there is no guarantee that they will be helped because of the forest cover. As the days go by while we look for funding for the Joint Wildlife Protection team more and more little elephants and other species will suffer. I am currently on the other (Northern) side of Mount Kenya preparing for the 10 to 4 Mountain Bike Challenge which is only a three weeks away now. I’m setting up meetings for the 10 to 4 and other projects and having a look at the route and campsites for the event. I am enjoying being back on Kisima Farm where I’m staying for the rest of the week thanks to the Dyers. I will go and see the progress of the elephant corridor fence tomorrow. Thankfully now that some of the Virgin money has arrived with us we have signed off on the contract for the underpasses. The underpasses will go below two roads (one of which is a fairly major highway) so that the elephants can use the corridor safely! I hope to post some pics of the fence over the next couple of days.
The great happiness I felt this morning at the news of the coalition signing in Zimbabwe and emotion that rushed through me on hearing the heartfelt words of the new Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai were shattered by Mugabe’s speech which followed. Still banging on about interference, colonial rule and his Government’s ‘achievements’ like the evil madman he has been for so many years. The PM was talking about getting the country on its feet again, feeding the starving and turning the crippled Nation around. He was not dwelling on the pain and betrayal of the past but the hope for the future. Then Mugabe starts up with the same old same old drivel. I struggle to understand how his man is still alive. There is nothing more ugly than his regime, his divorce from reality his total lack of regard for his own people. I know it could have been so much worse but I hate that we still have to hear this man speak!!! It is a great day for Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe’s people let us hope Mugabe’s influence is going to be stemmed enough to help real change blossom.
Don’t get me wrong, I have trekked around Mount Kenya’s forests and camped at altitude for my work hundreds of times but until now I have never actually climbed the mountain! My usual argument/excuse being that I can be of much more use on the ground without the altitude sickness and where there are actually trees and animals to save. How can you hug trees where it is too extreme for them to grow I ask??Having grown up on the Kenya coast my ‘fear’ of cold inability to handle it well has not really disappeared over the years. However I realise that since the idea of camping above 10,000 ft is mindblowingly scary (extreme cold) and walking uphill for days is equally unappealing, it is probably an even better way to raise funds! I hope I can raise more money simply because this probably one of the toughest things I could possibly put myself through, especially as an asthmatic. This is very much under control these days and I am currently very fit and healthy so I’ll have to keep that way and up the endurance training. So right here right now I am making the commitment to climb to Point Lenana. I am to be joined by four others. Please support the Trust by sponsoring me to do this climb! No pledge is too small – every little counts.
Recently we were pleased to receive pictures of the few bongo that remain on Mount Kenya. Only last year did we receive confirmation from the Bongo Surveillance that there were any left on Mount Kenya at all. We have been giving some support for their work on Mount Kenya though much of what they have achieved has been on the Abadare Range. Night cameras set up earlier this year deep in the forest on the Southern side of Mount Kenya have backed up the evidence collected by trackers and DNA tests abroad.In the photo below some of the Bongo Surveillance Team check a hidden camera. . The one remaining Mount Kenya herd of bongo are in an area that is prone to poaching activity and it is therefore even more crucial that we can get the Joint Wildlife Protection Team up and running. The team and vehicle and all the equipment is idle, waiting for me to come up with the funding necessary. There are many more bongo on the Aberdares’ but not in numbers sufficient to guarantee their survival for more than the next 40 years and the Aberdares’ have a more serious poaching problem than Mount Kenya. We can support the Bongo Surveillance Team so much more easily once the Joint Wildlife Protection Team is up and running. A bongo is captured by a hidden camera in July.
I’ve just been away in the UK having our first UK committee meeting. So lovely to have some new input to help move things forward. I was also trying to chase funds from Virgin Atlantic for the Elephant Corridor underpasses. Finally some of the funds have come through. The delay has caused untold problems for the Trust and put us very behind schedule. Lots to catch up on now that I am back in Kenya especially with the 10 to 4 Mountain Bike challenge looming! I really hope it will be well attended! There’s no news of the little elephant that was abandoned. It is not likely she is still alive after all this time. Unfortunately even the Sheldricks couldn’t help as she would have the same problems being released with other elephants in Tsavo. I find it utterly shocking that we cannot get help to euthenase in cases like this if there are no KWS Vets available. I cannot bear that protocol is held above reason. It makes the need for the Joint Wildlife Protection Team’s presence on Mount Kenya all the more pressing.
I thought I would try to explain the need for the fencing projects around Mount Kenya and therefore the resulting corridor. Unfortunately for most of our protected areas, and Mount Kenya in particular, there is huge pressure on land. Right up to the boundary of Mount Kenya’s forests there is dense population and hundreds of thousands of smallholdings which the majority of the local population are entirely dependent upon for their livelihoods. Coupled with a history of corrupt and badly managed land policy and tenure for many years the pressure on forests are huge. Apart from some of the Eastern side of the mountain where there is the ‘Nyayo Tea Zone’ there are no buffers between people, indigenous forests and wildlife. Human wildlife conflict is therefore common as is blatant encroachment and illegal settlement in the National Reserve. Communities on Mount Kenya approach the Trust and the Kenya Wildlife Service for assistance to build fences along their boundaries with the National Reserve. Elephants are the main problem for these communities. At night they come out of the forests and trample and eat crops. Sometimes they injure people and occasionally even kill them. We have been erecting small, practical two-strand fences to help the communities. They do not keep people out of the forests, they just keep elephants in. Eventually however, once the whole of the Mount Kenya forest boundary is fenced in the elephants will be trapped on what will essentially become an island. This will create a number of problems in the future, and mainly for the habitat itself. Elephants need fairly large ranges and migrate both daily and seasonally in search of their needs. Though vegetation is plentiful on Mount Kenya the habitat does not support all of the elephants needs in terms of minerals which are limited in the forest environment. That is why we have embarked on the ambitious elephant corridor project which will serve as a valve to allow the elephants a migration route to other safe habitats. The picture above is a good example of how close the ‘shambas’ or small farms are to the boundaries of Mount Kenya’s forests. Encroachment and the pressure for land for both humans and animals alike mean there are constant human / wildlife issues. Fencing is one solution but it comes with the need to mitigate the problem of isolating elephants or other wildlife in one area. By their nature elephants are destructive. Trapped in a forest habitat with an increasing population and decreasing range areas the elephants could destroy the habitat for other wildlife. Our corridor and fencing projects are therefore vital for the long term survival of the forests, the well being of the elephants and the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people who live near the forests of Mount Kenya.
The little elephant in the middle of the picture below is a female who was loosing condition very rapidly a couple of months ago. Sadly she has just now been abandoned by her family. Elephants don’t do this unless there is absolutely no hope left. She has a deformed foot because last year she was snared. Though a KWS Vet was able to remove the snare the damage done by the wire has left her a cripple. We hoped she would survive but though she has put up an incredible fight she has now been left. I cannot begin to tell you how much pain and suffering this sensless and barbaric activity brings to our wildlife in this part of the world. The saddest thing of all is I cannot get someone to euthanase her right away. There are too few vets and red tape does not allow me to bring in a private vet to help. This fact gnaws at me every single day. I feel impossibly helpless.
Please please assist us to get the Joint Wildlife Protection team up and running. The cost of having the team on the ground per annum is high but it is nothing compared to the cost to wildlife not to get this vital operation under way. If we can stop the snaring before it happens we don’t have to worry about crisis management which in itself is almost impossible to implement.
It’s just under 8 weeks away from the 10 to 4 Mountain Bike Challenge. If you are a mountain biking fanatic or you want to try this unique experience it’s time to sign up for this amazing ride. By taking part you will be helping the Trust with it’s work. For more info go to www.10to4.org!
It’s been a long time since I blogged so I will start with the good news. The Elephant corridor fence is finally being built and though we are still waiting for the funding to come in for Virgin Atlantic we will start with the underpasses as soon as we receive the money. Unfortunately we are under budget for this project because of the delay of payments and other unavoidable circumstances, particularly the economic climate. In order to be viable the corridor is also now longer than originally planned. This is because we have added a portion of land and because there have been ‘tweaks’ made in the alignment by the farms that the corridor will pass through. The picture shows the game proof fence that will form one end of the corridor on Kisima Farm bordering the Ngare Ndare Forest Reserve. The corridor is the first of its kind in this region of the world. We need further support to finish the corridor which will provide a vital route for elephants who need to migrate on and off Mount Kenya.
We need help to ensure our Joint Wildlife Protection team can get off the ground properly. In April three community scouts will be trained up to work with the KWS and KFS (Kenya Forest Service) Rangers. The vehicle, tents and equipment are all ready and I am so excited that Edwin will finally be able to be employed by the Trust on a full time basis. His dedication to wildlife has been wonderful. Along with the work that Trust supported Bongo Survaillance team are doing on Mt Kenya we will have a much better way of reducing the amount of poaching on Mt Kenya and as a result we will hope to see much less suffering. We will need help to keep the project on the ground however and appeal to any organisations and individuals who can help us protect some the endangered species and reduce the amount of indiscriminate snaring that all wildlife falls victim to on Mt Kenya.
Over Easter I stayed with a friend on Lewa Wildlife Conservancy as I was in the region for work the week before. We approved the company who iwll build the fence for the elephant corridor which is an exciting step. I saw footage of elephants using the proposed route on Easter Monday which was really exciting as we can be more confident than ever that elephants are happy with our choice of route. As ever the well travelled ‘family’ accompany me on all these adventures and I was able to introduce Gizmo to his first Elephant and Rhino. He was suitably impressed. I travelled back to Nairobi yesterday and will be meeting with my Trustees tomorrow lunch time to update them on our progress.
Well it’s been a day since I wrote the above and my Trustees meeting went well. I’m back up to the mountain region tomorrow but this time to attend a wedding on a conservancy called Ol Pejeta. Convenient as I have a meeting on the Monday in Nanyuki. I’ll report back on everything next week, this time with pictures.