Wildlife of Matthews Range
Matthews Range, also known as the Lenkiyio Hills, is an isolated patch of tropical mountain forest in Kenya. The range rises from the arid brown plains of northern Kenya like a green tropical island,
An international team of scientists has begun exploring one of the most isolated patches of tropical mountain forest in East Africa.
Botanists have already uncovered more than 100 species never recorded there before – including animals like tiny rats, bats and butterflies as well as plants.
But the forest is also threatened by growing numbers of local herders, looking for new places to graze their cattle.
The BBC’s Peter Greste joined the expedition and spoke to Patrick Milonza, entomologist Dino Martins and mammologist Judith Mbao at their base camp to find out what they have discovered so far.
The forest cloaked peaks of the Mathews Range rise over 2,700 m above sea level from a sea of low lying arid semi-desert. The expedition organized by the Northern Rangelands Trust and Namunyak conservancy was funded by The Nature Conservancy and scientists were drawn from the National Museums of Kenya, as well and from TNC it’s self.
You are probably wondering why a team of high level scientists should descend on a remote island of forest in nothern Kenya? Well, this particular mountain has hardly beens tudied, unlike many other mountain ranges in the country. It’s isolated location suggests that the mountain could be home to many unique species. Conserving the area will require good knowledge of what is there, and that’s what we were setting out to findout.
The area is isolated, and holds forests of juniper and cycads. It is home to Rhinoceros, elephants and other large mammals, as well as some Samburu people. The mountain range is asky island: surrounded by plains, with no other high ground nearby, the species there have evolved independently.. Part has been designated as a wildlife sanctuary.
It has been this way for at least 10 millennia, the dry sea lapping against its shores – sometimes rising, sometimes falling in a tide driven by periods of global warming and cooling that has always kept it cut off from the rest of East Africa’s forests. But that isolation has also helped protect the Matthews from any serious human encroachment.
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