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Imenti Forest; Meru Region
The Upper and Lower Imenti Forests are a 70 km2 (7,000 hectare) forest reserve that is an extension of the Mount Kenya forest complex, which extends like a finger 25 – 30 kilometres out east into the cultivated lands around Mount Kenya . These forests are a dry season refuge to elephants moving from the drier Meru plains and adjacent areas en route to Mount Kenya and also a destination for the elephant populations of Mount Kenya who migrate in search of a warmer climate.
At 5,199 metres (17,057 ft) Mount Kenya is the highest mountain in Kenya and the second highest in Africa, after Kilimanjaro. The lower montane forest between 5,900 and 8,200 ft. is heavily exploited for timber, much of the logging illegal, while the rich volcanic soils below 5,900 ft. are intensely farmed sustaining crops such as tea, coffee, beans, maize, bananas, potatoes and vegetables on the wetter southern slopes. The northern slopes are dryer, where there is large scale farming of wheat and barley.
As a vulnerable finger extending into this fertile land, the Imenti forest also faces extreme pressures from outside in the form of illegal logging, farming and settlements in the reserve. However, much work has been done over the last decade to protect the forest and reverse the damage caused by the illegal encroachment. Since 2000, two significant portions of the forest have been reforested and, under an initiative to fence the Mount Kenya Forest Reserve, the fence-line has been extended to include a sizeable portion of the Imenti Forest. This initiative has brought the Forest under the wing of the Mount Kenya Forest Reserve and National Park, ensuring the future of this important habitat. Moreover, as of 2010, elephants that access the Mount Kenya and Imenti Forests have been able to do so by travelling through an elephant corridor that links the Imenti Forest and Mount Kenya with the Ngare Ndare forest, Borana Ranch, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and beyond to Samburu National Reserve.