Mount Kulal… a unique ecosystem.

Jambo jambo!!!

I love research; anything to do with wildlife am interested. So here I am with a small grant to do an Avifaunal (bird) survey on Mount Kulal as well as document community utilization of the forests.
The in depth details of the project might bore you, so I will just share a few pictures, a little bit about the site and the journey.
Mount Kulal is about 700km from Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, East of Lake Turkana.
The forest ecosystem is unique considering it is surrounded by arid-land.
Mount Kulal forms the center piece of the larger Mount Kulal Bioshere Reserve under UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Reserve Programme.
The mountain has two blocks of montane forests separated by impassable wall of rocks.
We managed to visit Gatab forest block which is easily accessible by car unlike Arapal forest block which is very steep and accessing it is a challenge.
The habitat consists of mist and montane forests dominated by Teclea nobilis, Juniperus procera, Olea europaea and Prunus africana.
About 2,500 Samburu people live on top of this small mountain and they actively participate in the management of the forest. They rely heavily on the forest’s resources for water, honey, firewood, spiritual services, culture services and grazing their livestock.
There are no large mammals such as elephants and buffaloes since they were exterminated thirty years ago by the Samburu people. Occasionally you can see a troop of Olive baboons.
The good news is that charcoal burning and log harvesting is strictly prohibited.
It took the team a day and a half to get there.
The team used the Land Rover Defender 110 that was provided by the Ornithology Section, National Museums of Kenya.
You better have your supplies including plenty of water as you head out thus we made sure to buy all our food stuff and other necessities in Nairobi. We also carried an extra 100 liters of diesel in reserve.
Wednesday afternoon at around 1430hrs we were ready to set out and left Nairobi headed for Isiolo where we arrived at 1830hrs, we did stop along the way to buy vegetables and fruits. We spent the night in Isiolo.
We left Isiolo on Thursday morning at 1000hrs.
This section of the road from Isiolo is tarmac which ends at Merile a very small center where you join the rough road hence the need to use a powerful four wheel drive.
It’s so unfortunate that there are no road signs showing direction or distance (Kms) to Mount Kulal, you need to be very keen and knowledgeable on the routes.
About 1km on to the rough road, our pilot did a left turn, trust me on this, there was no sign of a road but again we were on track. This is when the proper rough road began with laggas (riverbeds), rocks and loose sand. We had an amazing “pilot” who’s visited the site one too many times, so it was very easy for the team.

There are small centers along the road with difficult Samburu names, I can only remember two; Gurunet (sp.) and South Horr.
Remember, the area is arid, dusty (ladies, carry those head scarves) and very hot; this is when water becomes your friend. Often than not, locals will always try to stop vehicles on this route to borrow drinking water hence the need to carry enough for yourself as well a few more liters to share!

It took us 8 hours to get to Mount Kulal having left Isiolo town at 1000hrs.

We camped there for 8 days, the locals were very friendly and showered us with goodies each day; fresh milk, fresh mutton, beef and sold us chicken. We felt so much at home. They also invited us to attend their ceremonies.
In short we had a good time!

The research was a success with a record of 75 bird species!


The nursery school
Livestock grazing, one of the major threats to the forest.

The forest

Mature trees

In the forest cooking lunch (rice and bean) followed by a cup of tea though on this particular day, Titus forgot tomatoes, salt and tea leaves back at camp.  Just so you know we did put out the fire.

Kulal White eye – endemic to Mount Kulal
Kulal White eye – endemic to Mount Kulal
Titus training the locals on bird identification
Busy processing the Spotted ground Thrush
These guys could not understand why we had traveled all the way from Nairobi to do the bird survey.
Forest fires during traditional wild honey harvesting
Cutting down of trees to make traditional beehives.
Sony, our guide
Our Entertainment box!
The team from left: Titus, Mwangi and Onyango a.k.a Onyii 

I hope you can see…I am holding a gourd used to store milk

Titus and some of the kids he taught on bird identification
African Paradise flycatcher
The beautiful view from the top of Mount Kulal
You better have warm clothes, 20+ liters of water and your 4wheel drive in shape before you ship out.
Thank you for passing by
Keep well! 

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