Mountain Dispatches – News from the Mt. Kenya Trust

(Posted 02nd May 2022)



MOUNTAIN DISPATCHES

January – March 2022


The first 3 months of 2022 were a metaphorical roller coaster. We went headfirst into project managing with the organisation of the10to4 alongside frequent, and then constant firefighting.

We are wowed and eternally grateful for the the support we received to assist us and our partners with firefighting. Only in mid April did we get some widespread rainfall, giving some respite to the inter-agency teams that have been working so hard to put out multiple fires over many weeks.

It’s clear that there are some serious security issues that need to be addressed and we are working with our partners and key community groups to address negligent and criminal activity on the mountain, as well as build our capacity to work more on fire prevention for longer term sustainability.

The 2022 Tropic Air 10to4 Mountain Bike challenge was a huge hit with participants thanks to a really motivated MKT team and the huge support of the local community, sponsors, participants and our generous hosts on both public and private land from Mount Kenya all the way down to Borana Conservancy.

Both the 10to4 and the fires have reminded us of what an incredible community we have and how much love and respect there is for our great mountain.



Firefighters were assisted by Tropic Air’s helicopters and skilled pilots who collected water from the high altitude mountain lakes to douse down the fires and give the teams on the ground a better chance of controlling the heat.
Photo credit: Joe Murethi, Tropic Air

Tropic Air 10to4 Mountain Bike Challenge

After the difficult but necessary cancellation of most of the races last year, we were very excited to host the 2022 Tropic Air 10to4 Mountain Bike Challenge. The whole Mount Kenya Trust team joined forces to plan the event this year, with our office team preparing Borana Race Village and reaching out to sponsors, and our rangers working hard in the field to clear the routes. 

The event was an incredible success this year, huge congratulations to the winning competitors and thank you to everyone who participated. 70,000 US$ was raised despite the fact that 30% of participants had deferred places from the 2021 event.


A big shout out to all of our sponsors, especially Title Sponsor – Tropic Air, Platinum Plus Sponsor Dormans, and Mini 10to4 Sponsor EastAfrican. Their generous support means that the lion’s share of entry donations and sponsorship money from competitors goes directly to fund the important work of Mount Kenya Trust and support our partners.  

Thanks to all our hosts, partners, sponsors and friends and amazing volunteers. We couldn’t have done it without you!



The ride for conservation!
Top: Cyclists at the ready at the start of the main day of races on Saturday 19th Feb! They were flagged off by John Njoroge, County Forest Conservator for Meru and his Deputy – on behalf of the Kenya Forest Service.

Above left: The final day of races is for the kids – a Mini 10to4 participant crosses the finish line.
Above right: Tropic Air out on the routes for the safety of all



FIRES

It’s been an extremely challenging fire season this year with particularly dry and hot conditions around the mountain. The first fires broke out in Ontulili Forest in early February, but team of 20 firefighters along with Community Forest Association Members quickly mobilised and were able to suppress the fire. On February 6, a 12 man MKT team spent two nights in the Aberdares to fight another small fire, with quick success.

Then from the 9th March, our team were fighting nonstop to control fires in the Aberdares and on Mount Kenya. Some were very likely started by careless illegal honey harvesters, charcoal producers and water abstractors in the Sirimon Ontulli and Mbaru areas (respectively), in the early part of March. Subsequently there was intense, frequent and much more deliberate activity in the Marania, Sirimon and Rutundu areas from the middle of March. it was clear (and proven by assisting intelligence sources) that fires were being repeatedly and intentionally lit by gangs.

Our rangers were working long days alongside KWS, KFS, CFA members, Kisima Farm personnel and the Rhino Ark team to control these fires. We commend them for their hard work. A special thank you to Tropic Air  for providing aerial support for aerial reconnaissance, ranger drops and water bombing with their incredible pilots. We are so proud to see how positive and upbeat our team has stayed when criminal activity continued to dog them after each fire was extinguished.

MKT employed the services of Joel from AEM management to clear moorland roadside vegetation in the Rutundu and Chogoria areas to assist with future management. Earlier in the year MKT and Rhino Ark coordinated and ran training for Gathihuru, Naro Moru and Kabaru Community Forest Association members. 6 more CFA groups were given awareness and training in December 2021.



Top: Satellite map of Mount Kenya and Aberdare fire as of 23rd March. 
Center left: a large forest glade on fire; Center right: predawn firefighting on the moorlands
A Moutn Kenya Trust ranger watches the fires spread up uphill


Beehive Fence

In early March technicians from Save the Elephants came to help us put up our first beehive fence along the Trust’s regenerative agricultural project plot boundary, and some adjacent farms. The Project Officer from Save The Elephants’ primary human-elephant coexistence project, The Elephants & Bees Project in Taita-Taveta volunteered him time to lead construction.
This is a pilot beehive fencet aimed mitigating human-elephant conflict in the area. If successful, the fence will be extended other neighboring farms. Our team manged to install the hives and and relocating some colonised ones. Thanks to Save The Elephants for donating beehives and for all the help and encouragement!
CSI Training An organisation called SMA consulting eached out to partner groups in the region (Rhino Ark, Calgary Zoo and Mount Kenya Trust and Ragati River Management) offering two sets of professional Crime Scene Investigation courses for field staff in the region. We gratefully accepted the offer and set up two training courses for inter-agency teams working on Mount Kenya, Eburu and the Aberdares. SMA had the funding to run the courses and the local partners assisted with the travel, logistics and accommodation for the teams.

Field and management staff from the Kenya Wildlife Service, the Kenya Forest Service, Mount Kenya Trust, Rhino Ark and the Bongo Surveillance Project took part and really made the most of the time to learn, brush up on skills and engage in practical crime scene management. The training provided internationally accepted best practice for approaching and collecting evidence at wildlife crime scenes. Training is based on 2 manuals 1 developed by INTERPOL and the other developed by the UNODC and the African Wildlife Forensics Network.

Huge thanks to SMA and the donor who sponsored the courses.



A HUGE SHOUT OUT
for your help with the Fires!


Watch Frank Richards’ video of the 10to4 in Feb!Copyright © 2022 Mount Kenya Trust. All rights reserved.
Our mailing address is:
PO Box 690
Nanyuki 10400
Kenya
Email:
info@mountkenyatrust.org

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