100 kilometres of the Mount Kenya Electric Fence has been completed. The comprehensive fencing that will eventually encircle Mount Kenya is expected to cover a distance of 450 kilometres.

The electric fence is meant to give protection to a World Heritage Site, precious water towers and a unique range of biological diversity.

“As the project moves forward,” says Christian Lambrechts, Executive Director of the Rhino Ark, “we are constantly reminded of the size of the challenge. This includes agricultural development, such as privately owned tea fields inside the forest, like in the Thunguru Hill Forest. This obviously slows us down as these activities are investigated”

Human-wildlife conflict is also a problem. Over the past few months, a section of Lower Imenti on Mount Kenya has become a major human-wildlife conflict zone with eight members of the local community killed by elephants or electrocuted by home-made fences.

“Eight elephants have also been killed,” says Christian Lambrechts, “Human- wildlife conflict in this area is partly the result of vandalism and partly poor maintenance of a 20 kilometre four-strand fence, built in 1997, which eventually collapsed.

“From lessons learned in the construction of the 400 kilometres Aberdare Fence, completed in 2009, we believe we have the answers to such problems. One answer is to secure the commitment of the local communities towards building and maintaining the fence.”

In this case, community leaders from Lower Imenti approached the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and Rhino Ark and asked for assistance in building a new fence to protect this area of Mount Kenya. Not only that – the communities raised part the funds needed, and KWS and Rhino Ark deployed a second fence- building team to the area in early March. KWS and Rhino Ark have also established improved fence supervision and monitoring system on Mount Kenya to address poor maintenance.

In January a surveillance flight organised by Rhino Ark, the Kenya Forest Service (KFS), the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the Mount Kenya Trust flew above the forests of Mount Kenya, located in Tharaka Nithi and Embu counties, to monitor illegal activities such as the growing of marijuana and the logging of indigenous trees. While low cloud cover made it impossible to see any marijuana growing area, an extended logging site was detected along the Thuchi River. Under the supervision of the Director of KFS, the necessary measures have now been taken to end this activity.

A Patrol Monitoring System has now been established for Mount Kenya with KWS assistance and technical support from ESRI, one of the world’s leading mapping software companies. Four KWS rangers and two scouts from the Mount Kenya Trust have been trained in the use of the system which is being fully tested in the field.

The system will enhance the collection and transmission of data on incidents in protected areas and provide managers with a web-based interface to access question and visualise observations made, while following tracks during patrols. This will enable managers to know exactly where patrols are conducted, identify areas not normally patrolled, and map out hotspot areas where illegal activities take place.

Source: Rhino Ark