Trained dogs to boost forest protection

Chairman Emmanuel Mayiani, Community Forest Association- Loitokitok receiving 100 bee hives donated by Worldwide Fund for Nature ( WWF). Photo Michael Opiyo

By Michael Opiyo

The Kenya Forest Service (KFS) will soon use trained dogs to increase its capacity of forest protection and conservation.

The process of integrating canine security into pre-existing human and technological security systems will help KFS to provide greater security capabilities.

New protection measures were informed by the need for KFS to remain responsive to the ever-changing dynamics of security risks and threats facing the vast forest ecosystems in the country.

Two forest rangers George Adero and Joel Omondi who have undergone four months training on dog handling, recently conducted a demonstration to the Chief Conservator of Forests (CFC) Mr. Julius Kamau at Karura forest station.

The dogs also underwent a four month training on obedience, criminal or attack work, tracking, obstacle and tunnel work, guardian duties, and explosive or ammunition sniffing.

The CCF said the complexity and ever-changing forest crimes threatening the conservation and protection of forest resources in the country have necessitated the new strategies and interventions to complement efforts of securing forests.

‘‘The canine capability and a well-trained team of handlers will enhance KFS capacity to scan and detect trespassers and deter forest crimes with greater precision, accuracy, and with fewer distractions,’’ noted CCF Kamau.

Kamau tasked the Enforcement and Compliance (ENCOM) division to develop a strategy on areas where the canine unit will mitigate and adequately address security threats in installations and forests prone to crime and violence.

They are also expected to develop a strategic plan that would guide the KFS to deepen resource mobilization.

Some of the forests that need adequate protection are the Mau Forest in Narok County, Ngong’ Hills, and Loitokitok Forest both in Kajiado.

The community in Loitokitok formed the Community Forest Association (CFA) to protect Loitokitok Forest which is part of the Amboseli National Park echo system.

It was established in 2005 and since then, they have been at the forefront to ensure the forest remains green.

The group recently they recieved 100 bee hives donated by Worldwide Fund for Nature ( WWF) to empower them conserve the Loitokitok Forest.

Since its inception, the CFA has planted over 1.6million trees in partnership with Kenya Forest Service ( KFS), Tourism Finance Corporation (TFC) and Kenya Power among others.

In preparation for tree planting in the month of November and December this year, the group has procured 150,000 tree seedlings, 60per cent of them indigenous trees.

The seedlings will be planted before end of the year becaue Kajiado County is receiving enough rainfall.

CFA chairman Emmanuel Mayiani said farmers and schools will receive 60,000 free tree seedlings to sensitize them on the importance of tree planting and forest preservation.

Mayiani was  appointed to head the Nairobi Conservatives covering Karura Forest, Ngong Road Forest, Loitokitok Forest, Mashuru, Namanga and Ngong Hills and also lead the CFA groups in Kajiado County.

“These will be the best opportunity to make Loitokitok forest and Kajiado County at large green,” said Mayiani, who is also a member of Nairobi Conservancy Community Forest Association (NCCFA) Board.

He said apart from the donation the group received, WWF will also help run awareness campaigns on forest preservation and tree planting in Kajiado County by end of this year.

The CFA is aiming to attain the 10 per- cent forest cover demanded President Uhuru Kenyatta by 2022.

The CFA will soon sign down Memorandum of Understanding with Tourism Finance Corporation.

Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko, Environment visited Loitokitok early this year to encourage the group to plant more indigenous trees.

He said the Loitokitok forest was not only a tourist attraction and a water catchment area but also sustains the Amboseli ecosystem in Kajiado County.

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