Mt Kenya Fact Sheet

Mount Kenya

• Kenya’s highest mountain, and the second tallest in Africa, it is an extinct volcano formed about 20
million years ago that was covered by an ice-cap for most of its existence
• Batian, the highest peak, is 5,199m or 17,057ft above mean sea level, and 16.5km south of the Equator
• In Kikuyu culture, some believe that God, or Ngai, lives on Mount Kenya. In one legend, Ngai rested on
the mountain while on an inspection tour of Earth. Ngai took the first man, Gikuyu, to the top to point out
the beauty of the land he was giving him
• The Mau Mau Caves at the foothills of Mt Kenya near Nanyuki are historically significant. During the
Emergency, between 1952 and 1960, Mau Mau Freedom Fighters used these caves for storing supplies and
as a hideout from British colonial forces
• There are several vegetation bands from the base to the summit, including thick forests, bamboo zones, grassy
glades, moorlands, tussock grasslands, and sedges
• As many as 81 plant species are endemic to Mount Kenya, including giant lobelias and senecios, which are
flowering plants, and a local subspecies of rock hyrax
• The mountain and its surrounding habitats are a refuge for Kenya’s second largest population of elephants
and its third-largest population of lions, both of which are ‘vulnerable’ to extinction according to IUCN.
Endangered African Wild Dogs and
near-threatened Mountain Bongo also live here
• President Uhuru Kenyatta directed KWS to raise the national flag on Batian peak at midnight on
December 12, 2013, to commemorate 50 years of Kenya’s independence

Why is Mount Kenya so important?

• More than four million Kenyans live in the six counties ringing Mount Kenya – Meru, Laikipia, Nyeri, Kirinyaga,
Embu, and Tharaka – and most congregate on the mountain’s fertile slopes where rainfall is highest
• Millions more people in Nairobi, around the Tana River Delta, across northeastern Kenya, and even as far away
as the Somali border, rely on water from rain that originally fell on Mount Kenya
• It plays a critical role for all of Kenya collecting and storing rainfall and water, feeding the country’s largest river,
the Tana, which through hydropower generates up to 50% of Kenya’s electricity
• An estimated 95% of the water from Nairobi’s taps started its journey on Mount Kenya
• It provides water for major irrigation schemes
• Kenya’s third longest river, the Ewaso Nyiro, runs from two main tributaries that start at Nyandarua and on
Mount Kenya, and continues through Laikipia then waters a huge area of arid northern Kenya before dispersing into the desert
• Its celebrated rich biodiversity includes the Afro-alpine moorlands, giant heath, East African bamboo, and
major types of forests including mixed closed canopy forest
• Wildlife includes elephant, leopard, giant forest hog, and a small reminant population of mountain bongo
• Bird species are also abundant

The protected areas

• An area four times the size of Nairobi is protected on Mount Kenya: 715 sq. km in the National Park towards
the summit, and 2,100 sq. km including the National Reserve covering most of the forest belt
• The National Park was established in 1949. UNESCO listed it as a World Heritage Site in 1997
• A third of Kenya’s elephants – roughly 11,000 individuals – live in habitats sustained by the mountain, e.g. Laikipia,
Samburu. Of those, 2,600 elephants live in the Mount Kenya National Reserve

Who is in charge?

• Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) is the National Park’s custodian, and has a mandate to protect the wildlife and the
habitats of the National Reserve’s indigenous forest
• The Kenya Forest Service (KFS) manages commercial forest plantations and helps protect the indigenous forest
itself in the National Reserve

What threats does the mountain face today?

• Timber logging: most of Mount Kenya’s camphor trees have been lost in the past 30 years
• Charcoal logging
• Bushmeat poaching
• Water extraction

How are things already improving?

• Illegal activity has decreased since a landmark 1999 aerial survey. Large-scale logging has declined and there
is impressive forest generation. Where forests were destroyed in the 1990s we have an obligation to ensure indigenous
trees are put back
• Mount Kenya Trust’s horseback patrol team has seen a 50% reduction in illegal activities they encountered
between 2014 and 2015, from 168 to 81 incidents (e.g. logging, grazing, snaring)
• Ivory poaching peaked in 2011 and 2012, as it did nationwide, but KWS has since controlled poaching with the
help of communities, partners, and better laws. Only one elephant was poached on Mount Kenya in 2018.
• Elephant fences and the internationally renowned Mount Kenya elephant corridor, spearheaded by Mount Kenya Trust,
have reduced human wildlife conflict significantly. The corridor’s success led to an extension of the Mount Kenya World
Heritage Site.
More fencing and two more elephant corridors are planned
• KFS formed Community Forest Associations under the new forest act, improving livelihoods for communities
bordering the forest, and giving them stronger rights
• Communities may farm crops in some forest areas in return for planting trees, under the Plantation Establishment
and Livelihood Improvement Scheme
• Mount Kenya Trust with KWS and other partners is increasing awareness about the importance of forests and wildlife,
particularly in schools
• Mount Kenya Trust’s Community Health Care Program brings wider health coverage for forest communities
• Mount Kenya Trust’s indigenous tree-planting projects, with KFS, have regenerated hundreds of hectares of forest and
provided income for community groups who run the tree nurseries that provide seedlings
• Mount Kenya Trust’s wildlife guards are all from the Mount Kenya area, and their influence is changing attitudes to
poaching. Their actions, alongside KWS’s dedicated rangers, have saved many animals from snares, traps, and domestic
hunting dogs
• Successes were only achieved thanks to extensive partnerships between all the institutions working for Mount Kenya,
and these links and joint efforts are strong. However, growing populations, climate change, finite resources,
and water supplies that are not equitably shared, together mean there is work still to be done. We cannot afford
to be complacent, and we all need all the support we can get

Public–Private Partnerships

• KFS and KWS’s main civil society partners on Mount Kenya are Mount Kenya Trust and Rhino Ark
• Mount Kenya Trust runs community and monitoring projects and has worked with KFS to reforest
degraded areas since 2004
• With KWS, Mount Kenya Trust fenced much of the western side of Mount Kenya to mitigate human wildlife
conflict, and continues to help communities maintain those fences
• Rhino Ark worked with the International Fund for Agriculture Development (Ifad), KFS, and KWS to replace
the existing two-strand fence ringing the mountain with the Mt Kenya Electric Fence, which is fully game-proof. Already,
170km has been installed, from the south east of the mountain to the north, with a focus on the Upper Imenti Forest,
a human-wildlife conflict hotspot. Learn More

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