In Summary
  • The forest's destruction is a thorny issue as it is ecologically and economically critical for Kenya and parts of East Africa.
  • In addition, more than 10 million people, including members of the indigenous Ogiek community, depend on the rivers.
  • A tour of the Mau is not a refreshing exploration of mother nature as the once beautiful and scenic landscape is depleted.
  • Deforestation and widespread degradation are evident from the busy Narok-Bomet highway that overlooks the 400,000-hectare forest.

Anyone seeking to understand the extent of Maasai Mau Forest's destruction needs to prepare "physically and mentally" as the findings "drain you".

This is according to Chief Inspector Njoroge Mugo of the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) who took a journalist from the Nation on a tour.

With KFS rangers, the journalist went on a five-kilometre trek that took about three hours.

While describing the destruction that he saw, he speaks of a severely depleted forest that leaves one with feelings of "sadness, heartbreak and despair", and of a mission that is "not for everyone".

Mau forest destruction

Kenya Forest Service rangers walk past a river that is drying up inside the Maasai Mau Forest during a patrol on September 6, 2019. PHOTO | FRANCIS MUREITHI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

THORNY ISSUE

The forest's destruction is a thorny issue as it is ecologically and economically critical for Kenya and parts of East Africa.

In addition, more than 10 million people, including members of the indigenous Ogiek community, depend on the rivers.

The government has tried before to evict illegal settles but challenges have included their claims of ownership, accusations against police on the group and political interference.

Meanwhile, coverage of the situation on the ground from the peripheries has proven insufficient and so have accounts from witnesses and statements from authorities as they often give scanty information.

Mau Forest destruction

Kenya Forest Service rangers during a patrol inside the Maasai Mau Forest at Sebetet area on September 6, 2019. PHOTO | FRANCIS MUREITHI |NATION MEDIA GROUP

EXTENSIVE DAMAGE

For anyone, a venture into just five kilometres of the forest would be akin to a tough endurance challenge.

The journey is not for everyone, least of all those who are unfit and who do not find tough terrains thrilling.

And as Mr Njoroge warned, the tour is not a refreshing exploration of mother nature as the once beautiful and scenic landscape is depleted.

Deforestation and widespread degradation are evident from the busy Narok-Bomet highway that overlooks the 400,000-hectare forest.

Some of the rivers in the Mau are muddy and drying up, with decaying logs floating on them. In addition, the beehive that Ogieks placed on some trees long ago are now a rare sighting.

Wild fruits are also difficult to find and gone are the soothing sounds of River Mara's waters as it snakes its way through deep valleys and rolling foothills.

Wildlife are a rare sighting but domestic dogs bark endlessly at chirping birds.

Smoke from timber houses also engulfed the forest and illegal community learning centres stood out like sore thumbs.

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