Mount Kenya – WorldAtlas
The second highest mountain in Africa after Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Kenya’s highest peak, the Bation, rises to 17,057 feet. The mountain, which is an extinct volcano, is located in central Kenya, 150 km northeast of the country’s capital, Nairobi. The snow-capped mountain is also surprisingly close to the equator, which is 10 miles south of the equator. Lying in the shade of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya is located 320 km south of this mountain. For its impressive landscape and bewildering biodiversity, Mt. Kenya and its surrounding habitat were recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site from 1997. Besides Bation, Nelion (17,021 feet) and Point Lenana (6,355 feet) are the other notable peaks of Mt. Kenya. Tyndall and Lewis, meanwhile, are the largest among the 12 small receding glaciers that feed streams and marshes in the mountain and areas below.
History of the mountain
The last volcanic eruption of Mt. Kenya is estimated to have taken place between 2.6 and 3 million years ago. The stratovolcano likely reached a height of about 19,700 feet before eroding to its current height of 17,057 feet. Before Europeans arrived in the region, the region around the mountain was inhabited by indigenous African tribes such as the Embu people. In 1849, a German missionary by the name of Johann Ludwig Krapf became the first European to report the presence of the mountain, as well as the one to give it the name of Mt. Kenya. Krapf’s reports quickly spread like wildfire, and thereafter several attempts were made to climb the mountain. After many unsuccessful attempts, in 1899 British geographer Halford John Mackinder and his team were the first to reach the top of Mt. Kenya.
The fertile soils and availability of water on the lower slopes of Mt. Kenya supports agricultural practices producing a wide variety of crops. Most notably, these include tea, coffee, wheat, barley, rice, bananas, and citrus fruits which are all grown here. More than 200,000 people inhabit this region, mainly engaged in agriculture, cattle ranching and forestry activities. The mountain forests have been heavily exploited by the timber, charcoal and construction industries for their timber resources. The attraction of climbing the high snow-capped mountain, coupled with the possibility of observing its incredible biodiversity and natural splendor, also attracts many tourists to this place every year, increasing the incomes of the inhabitants of the region thanks to the flourishing tourism industry. The great ecological importance of Mt. Kenya, with its astonishing variety of flora and fauna, led the country’s national government to grant protective status to this ecological region, officially doing so by declaring the formation of Mt. Kenya National Park in 1949.
The fauna and the flora
The flora and fauna of Mt. Kenya varies with its different elevation levels. The dry and hot climate at the foot of the mountain favors the growth of meadows and scrub. As one ascends, the rich volcanic soil of the lower slopes of the mountain favors the growth of high-yielding agricultural crops. Large areas of these slopes, which were previously forested, have now been cleared for food and cash cultivation. Human settlements, such as those of the Kikuyu, Embu and Meru peoples, are also scattered in this region of the mountain.
At higher elevations, Mt. Kenya supports the growth of dense mountain forests including trees (East African juniper, Podo, African olives), grasses (clover, balm, nettles) and shrubs (raspberry, elderberry). These forests also have a natural bamboo area around their middle. The drier, cooler mountain climate above the mountain forest belt allows the growth of heathlands, with their short, shrubby vegetation, including populations of plants such as African sage, Erica, and species maple grove. Higher up, there is afro-alpine vegetation, which gradually gives way to alpine desert vegetation, where only mosses and lichens cover the rocky surfaces. Finally, towards the summit, bare and lifeless, rocks and glaciers covered in ice and snow form the landscape of Mt. Kenya.
A large number of species inhabit the mountain forests of Mt. Kenya, including elephants, leopards, hyenas, rhinos, the rare albino zebra and Sunni fallow deer, as well as a large number of avian species. The latter includes hornbills, parrots and touracos, while swallows can also be seen on this mountain. The Afro-Alpine zone is also home to its own set of species, including mammals (African dormouse, grooved-tooth rat, elk, zebra), birds (Alpine cats, Mackinder’s eagle owl, red sunbird), butterflies and wild flowers. The heathland animals, for their part, are representative of a mixture of species from both mountain forests and Afro-alpine areas.
Threats to the ecosystem
It is estimated that nearly 7 million people depend on Mt. Kenya’s water resources for their livelihoods and livelihoods. However, the shrinking of the mountain’s glaciers, due to a combination of global warming, illegal irrigation practices, extensive cattle grazing on the mountain slopes, and the clearing of vast tracts of mountain forests, have all reduced the water retention capacity of the mountain. . This threatens the well-being of the inhabitants of the regions adjacent to this mountain. Illegal logging, expansion of human settlements, clearing of land for agriculture (including growing marijuana), poaching of wildlife and increased forest fires have all led to the destabilization of Mt. Kenyan ecosystem. Such destabilization has pushed many critical species in the region to the brink of extinction.