Mount Kenya Trust rangers and supporters plan to summit the three peaks of Mount Kenya in order to raise funds for the Mount Kenya Trust Horse Patrol Team.
Mount 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 in Vision 2030 as one of Kenya’s most important ‘water towers’-a key water catchment area for the Tana and Ewaso Ng’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.
The MKT operates 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 Marania and Kisima Farms. 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 which was kindly donated by Kisima Farm. The team is known as the Horse Patrol Team.
During a recent visit by KWS, the Mount Kenya Senior Warden, Simon Gitau, called for the expansion of the Horse Patrol Team and pledged to add 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 Mount Kenya Three Peaks Challenge. It will involve a six day trek with over 2,000 feet of technical climbing.
History of 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 by Charlie Wheeler of Ngare Ndare.
Gelvas, the latest team member to join the Horse Patrol talks of working with the horses, which he describes 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 bush meat 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 the while keeping KWS and local community members informed.
The Horse Patrol Team is entirely donor funded. Key donors include the International Fund for Elephants, Seneca Park Zoo and Tusk Trust.
Mount Kenya Trust
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 conflict mitigation, 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 Kenya Comprehensive Fence Project.