Kenya, in East Africa, is home to some of our planet’s most striking landscapes and wildlife.
Visible from space, the Great Rift Valley runs the length of the country from north to south, its undulating hilly landscape punctuated by the sharp peaks of mountains and shimmering lakes.
Africa’s second-highest mountain – Mount Kenya – is also found here, 150 km north-east of the capital, Nairobi. When not shrouded in mist, this extinct volcano provides a jaw-dropping backdrop to a classic savannah landscape grazed by megafauna.
The ‘big five’ – elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard – can all be found here along with a huge variety of other species, from the well known (such as giraffe, zebra, African wild dog and umbrella thorn trees) to many other less familiar but equally remarkable species. It is little wonder, therefore, that Kenya attracts over a million tourists every year – a great many of them heading out on safari.
Perhaps less well known, however, are the riches within Kenya’s coastal waters, which harbour significant marine biodiversity including black corals, mangroves and seagrass. The southern stretch of the coastline features small islands that provide crucial overwintering and feeding grounds for birds, as well as important nurseries and feeding habitat for dolphins and five species of sea turtles.
Unfortunately, Kenya’s remarkable biodiversity is facing many threats – from habitat loss and unsustainable development (including massive shifts to agri-business) to poaching, pollution and climate change, all of which need to be addressed urgently to preserve the integrity of the country’s rich natural environment.
In particular, the degeneration of the vast rangelands through over-grazing (especially by increasing numbers of sheep and goats) is jeopardising the future of local pastoralist lifestyles, and undermining a traditional form of land use in which pastoralists and wildlife have been able to co-exist.