The Kibwezi Forest project, the newest of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust's essential Saving Habitats initiatives has been making huge headway having undertaken many vital measures to ensure the continued protection of the Forest and its pure water springs, whilst regenerating the damaged areas affected by unsustainable use of the natural resources over past years.
In order to safeguard the Forest, which incorporates nearly 60km2 of diverse groundwater and dry forested habitats, the DSWTs Kibwezi Team have been opening access tracks with routes considerately mapped and cleared to allow the Forest's anti-poaching unit rapid response to all areas, and the Umani Springs lodge guests some varied scenic game drives.
The most recent and ambitious project has been to establish a road within Kibwezi's fenced sanctuary offering a much needed route from the Forest's springs into the west side of the Chyulu Hills National Park. This important artery, carefully planned to ensure minimal impact, is for the continued monitoring of the area whilst also providing visitors to the Forest easy access to the west side of the National Park, home to the Chyulu rhinos; a community of free ranging black rhino.
This will help generate much needed revenue for the Kenya Wildlife Service in order to continue their protection of the Park. Before this road was cut through the lava, access to this side of the Park required a cumbersome journey onto the main Mombasa Nairobi highway and entry at Makindu, which meant that it remained an area scarcely frequented by the visiting public.
The daunting task of clearing and creating an effective road over a dramatic lava flow is no mean feat and this project has taken the best part of six months to acheive 20kms of road. Hammering through dense volcanic lava, which underlays parts of the Forest, a team of full-time casual labourers began creating the foundation for the road, whilst another team forged forwards, clearing bush along the carefully planned route, negotiating around key forested areas and sensitive habitats. This is the most recent lava flow in Kenya and reveals an extraordinary array of beauty, and earth's version of delicate underwater coral gardens.
The road teams, who were all employed by DSWT from the local communities bordering the Kibwezi Forest have benefitted greatly from the source of work and in turn have worked alongside the DSWT field rangers learning about the Forest and how it must be managed sustainably in order to protect the ecosystem and the springs, which provide a lifeline of water to the greater area.
Working against the high temperatures and uncomfortable conditions of the Forest the workforce have engineered this year-round track sustainably, utilising only natural resources whilst taking the upmost care to preserve the surrounding environment which is teeming with remarkable fauna and flora, and is an exceptional biodiversity hotspot providing a habitat for a number of threatened wildlife species.