Life in the Forest – Short stories from The Aberdare Mountains.

I mentioned grandpa on the very first l article I posted here. He was among the key people to inspire my interests in nature conservation.  He was once a park ranger but ended up tending to tree nurseries after retirement. 

 It was impossible to maintain a frown around him.  When we were very young,  he would take my sister and I around our village for strolls and tell us long scientific names for the common tree and plant species. We did not understand those names and I honestly still don’t care for them. But it’s through these walks that I learnt the value of these plant species and to date,  that gives me enough ground to advocate for their conservation. 

Being in the Abardares brought back memories of grandpa.  May he rest in peace. 

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Ignore the lady and focus on the diverse plant species behind her. Looks like “Alice in wonderland” had some good inspiration from Kenya.

Away from the bustling urban life and from a good network range is the picturesque Aberdares.  The air is crispy enough to give you waves of refreshing chills with each deep breathe. The peaceful and lively ambience that nature radiates here could make any fool feel significant. Very few people will understand this statement, “Everything here feels important.” 

We are received warmly by the wardens who give us a brief talk about the park.  After the talk we are advised on what to look out for including a buffalo without a tail, a black leopard,  the burnt part of the ranges,  another buffalo with weird horns,  primates, ungulates and the different plant species.

skull with weird buffalo horns. Ranger mentions that it may have links to its sexual orientation (Hermaphrodite???)
She was one of my favorite people
Stacelotis agathanicus: Endemic to Karatina. Her single horn resembles those of the rhinos. 
  •  There are 44mammal species,  290bird species and 779plant species.  The Aberdare National Park is internationally  recognized as an Important Bird Area (IBA).  There is a black rhino population protected in this park.  The forest is a water catchment area which serves the people and the surrounding ecosystems.  It is one of the five main water towers in Kenya.  The hydroelectric schemes along the Tana rely on water from the catchment. 

Truman’s Field Lectures 

Meet Truman and some of the Princeton fellas

His energy is contagious.  It feels like our eyes are opening for the first time.  We are all sitted on the ground with our legs crossed. He sits in the centre of the circle. Everyone else is contributing to the conversation without feeling pressured. 

After the discussion,  we all rise and rove across the moor.  Everytime he stops,  there is something exciting to learn. The class is full of activity.  We bend to feel the triangular-notched grass blades; kneeling to view colorful details of tiny flowers and tasting the bitter sap of leaves that he says are preferred by some ungulates. 

This class is important as it allows us to compare different features between the forest and the Savannah ecosystems that we had visited earlier.

Here are five of the most interesting plants we saw at the Aberdares (From Truman’s lecture) 

  • Lobelia deckenii spp  satimae : Endemic to the Aberdare forest 
  •  Rag weed : species nearly similar to the rosettes in the mount Kenya region. 
  • Helichrysum gloria-dei : plants with very beautiful white and sometimes red flowers that can last for almost an year without wilting(of course if watered well) 
  • Tillandsia usneoides (Spanish moss) :from the genus Usnea.  It is common to see this lichen on trees in the Aberdares especially near the water falls. 
  • Bedstraw;  Truman says that this has been used to stuff pillow cases and mattress.  It holds on to your class. Interesting plant. 

    Special thanks to :

    1. D. Kimuyu 
    2. Truman 
    3. Josh
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    12 thoughts on “Life in the Forest – Short stories from The Aberdare Mountains.

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    1. So your grandpa knew Scientific names of trees!!! He must have been a true naturalist. Trees and their scientific names confuse me.
      There is a black/melanistic leopard in the Aberdares??

      Good post…informative and funny at the same time…Waiting for another post on Aberdares.

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      1. Oh yeah.. He was crazy about trees. And don’t worry about scientific names, you are not alone. There is the black leopard. We did not get to see it but we saw it’s poop. So it’s there.

        Thanks Vicki!

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        1. Good question. There is a whole guide for animal poop. It was funny at first but Shit sampling is real. It is actually a thing that most ecologists will do when they want to tell the abundance of a particular species. Each kind of animal has different shaped poop. Guys like Dr. Kimuyu from Mpala Research Centre have really sharpened this skill…

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        2. That’s what we were believed. I believed it because it was definitely a carnivore’s poop, almost similar to dog poo… Also because of how they digest their food

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    2. Hmm.. Wonderful blog. Makes me miss traveling upcountry. Especially where you talk about taking a deep breath. I don’t know the last I did that lol πŸ˜‚ there’s a lot of dust and warm air in the part of Nairobi that I stay.
      The sexually oriented buffalo πŸƒ is one of a kind. I wish I could see it in person while it was alive, I wonder how it was feeding, weren’t the horn too long to prevent it from reaching down to the grass? Or maybe it fed only on twigs and leaves ☺ *smiles..

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      1. Thanks so much for visiting,Nyash. Can’t imagine the amount of fog and dust in your lungs baba,lol!

        Now about the buffalo, I love your thinking. There is no way that those horns allows it to feed on grass!!! I’ll get back to you on that…

        Liked by 1 person

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