FORUM FOCUS 1604 - page 6

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CONSERVATION INACTION
April 2016 IssueNo. 7
ByGwili Gibbon
M
ount
Kenya
is
synonymous with the
landscape of Laikipia.
This protected area consists of the
Mount Kenya National Park and
surrounding forest reserves, and is
designated as a World Heritage Site.
It is recognised inVision 2030 as one
of Kenya’s most important ‘water
towers’-a key water catchment area
for theTana andEwasoNg’iro rivers-
with moorlands and forest providing
water resources that are essential to
Kenya’s economic and environmental
health.
Since 1999, the Mount Kenya
Trust (MKT) has been working to
protect the habitats and wildlife of
the mountain through collaboration
with key government agencies. These
include the Kenya Wildlife Service
and Kenya Forest Service as well as
local communities and NGOs. The
Trust uses patrols and electric fences
to protect wildlife and people from
one another.
MKToperates five patrol and fence
maintenance teams. The members of
these teams are employed from the
communities that border the reserve.
Communities include Ntirimiti or
Kibirichia located to the east of the
Mount Kenya Elephant Corridor, and
MaraniaandKisimaFarms.The teams
are managed in close collaboration
with the Kenya Wildlife Service’s
Mount Kenya division. One of these
teams conducts patrols on horseback,
and they operate from a base built on
the edge of the northern moorlands
whichwas kindly donated byKisima
Farm.The team isknownas theHorse
Patrol Team.
During a recent visit by KWS, the
Mount Kenya SeniorWarden, Simon
Gitau, called for the expansion of the
HorsePatrolTeamandpledged toadd
armed rangers to the team. In order
to achieve this level of expansion,
members of the MKT have joined
forced with mountain guides from
African Ascents to undertake a
fundraising climb which will summit
the three peaks of Mount Kenya.
The expedition has been branded the
MountKenyaThreePeaksChallenge.
Itwill involve a sixday trekwithover
HorsesandPeaks:TheMountKenyaHorsePatrolTeam
MountKenyaTrust rangersandsupportersplan tosummit the threepeaksof
MountKenya inorder to raise funds for theMountKenyaTrustHorsePatrol Team
2,000 feet of technical climbing.
Historyof the team
The Horse Patrol Team currently
consists of five community wildlife
officers, mostly employed from
nearby Meru County. Many of these
officers had never even seen a horse
before. Now they know and love the
ten ponies under their care. Eight of
these ponies were imported from
Ethiopia, and a further two were
kindly donated byCharlieWheeler of
NgareNdare.
Gelvas, the latest teammember to
join theHorse Patrol talks ofworking
with thehorses,whichhedescribes as
“good animals that help us to patrol
the forests and protect the water
catchments.”
The Horse Patrol Team covers an
area of northern moorlands that was
once badly poached and included
other illegal activities. Previously,
the KWS have been under-resourced
in this region. Yet the activities
of the HPT have started to have a
significant effect. During the course
of their work, the team has cleared
many hundreds of snares and made
several arrests and recoveries of
bushmeat and other prohibited forest
products. The members of the patrol
team also act as the eyes and ears
of the area, reporting bushfires and
illegal livestock, all thewhilekeeping
KWS and local community members
informed.
The Horse Patrol Team is entirely
donor funded. Key donors include
the International Fund for Elephants,
SenecaParkZoo andTuskTrust.
MountKenyaTrust
The Trust works to protect
biodiversity and improve the
livelihoods of individuals living in
nearby communities.
Today the MKT’s work spreads
over several programmes. These
include
community
education,
awareness, and family planning, tree
planting and reforestation, habitat
connectivity projects, human-wildlife
conflictmitigation, and illegal activity
monitoring and reduction.
In addition to the Horse Patrol
Team,MKT helps with the continued
monitoring and protection of
elephants using the Mount Kenya
Elephant Corridor, and supervises the
fencing of the Imenti Forest Reserve
as a part of the Rhino Ark Mount
KenyaComprehensive FenceProject.
TheHorsePatrol
Team currently
consists of five
community
wildlife officers,
mostly employed
fromnearby
MeruCounty.
Many of these
officers hadnever
even seen ahorse
before. Now they
know and love the
ten ponies under
their care.
AfricanAscentscompletinga
technical climb
Camera trap imageof elephant usingunderpass
Proud rangersand theirhorses
Onpatrol beneath thepeaks
1,2,3,4,5 7,8
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