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Flora in Kenya

The flora in Kenya is mainly influenced by variation in climactic conditions and of altitude on Kenyan terrain. The water from rain, rivers, streams and lakes supports the flora. Mount Kenya for example has a wide range of flora from 6-meter giant tree groundsel senecio, helichrysum, and lobelia to small and giant heathers ericas and phillipias that grow to about 10 meters.

Kenya's famous thorn tree Acacia has over 40 species, which is resistant to drought and is usually used as a building material. The Masai Mara is famous for its savannah grassland and the Acacias. The
Kenyan forests like Kakamega, Aberdares, Mount Kenya and Arabuko Sokoke has exemplary display of its flora. They are over 11,000 plant species in East Africa.

Forests occupy about 2-3% of Kenya's land area and yet, they are reservoirs of biological diversity (genes, species and ecosystems). These forests and the biological diversity they carry are important because it contributes directly to the well being of Kenyans, especially those in the rural areas, and indirectly to the mainly agricultural economy. It is widely accepted that forest resources and associated lands should be managed to meet the social, economic, cultural and spiritual needs of present and future generations. In Kenya, forests provide wood and wood products to over 80% of all households.

In Kenya, forests can be classified into the following regions according to climatic conditions: coastal forest region, dry zone forest region, Montane forest region and the western rain forest region. These forests contain 50% of the nation's tree species, 40% of the larger mammals and 30% of birds. The indigenous forests have endemic and threatened species.
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Fauna in Kenya

Wildlife in Kenya is not confined to the parks and reserves although it is generally more abundant in such areas. Thus, although safaris tend to be routed through the parks and reserves, a visitor will often see plenty of wildlife outside. On an arranged safari, a visitor should have little difficulty in recording between 30 and 40 species of mammals and at least 150 bird species. From the reptile family one is certain to see crocodiles and quite a few lizards, large and small. Much of the land in game reserves is savannah: rich pasture shaded with trees, and it is here that the antelope herds are mainly found. A remarkable harmony where several species can graze the same land, each eating different grasses and herbs and no one species so numerous as to interfere with the domain of others. Antelopes come large and small; the largest - the eland weighs in at around 600 kilos, a hundred times the weight of the dainty dik dik. Wildebeest, among the most numerous of antelopes, share their grazing with zebra and are naturally gregarious but the smaller antelopes such as the suni, oribi and duiker are rarely found in any numbers; indeed they are almost always solitary or in pairs. These are the antelopes, which inhabit patches of thick cover found in the savannah, and some of them, like the duiker, have evolved with shorter forelimbs thereby making the dive for cover easier. 'Duiker' means diver in Afrikaans.

Where there are antelopes, there are also carnivores - lion, leopard, cheetah, hunting dog, and hyena, the latter as much a hunter in his own right as the more familiar tag of a scavenger. Lion and leopard are rarely found making a kill in daylight. Not so the cheetah, who needs to be able to see to use his principal weapon, speed. Visitors will see a range of the smaller carnivores - serval cat, genet and jackal are examples. Jackals are also predators, particularly the beautiful golden-backed (or oriental) species that, again contrary to popular concept, rarely scavenge. Even the most common jackal, the black-backed, finds only one third of its food from scavenging. But of the predators, the average visitor first seeks out the lion. A guest is unlikely to be disappointed for they are quite common in most of the parks and reserves but nowhere more numerous nor more splendid than in the Masai Mara. Lions spend a good deal of the day sleeping or dozing becoming alert in the early evening especially when the need to feed exists. Lions are remarkably selective in their tastes. On the whole, they kill antelope and zebra, but warthog, baboon, ostrich and jackals are all killed and eaten. A lion eats around 20-25 kilograms at a meal, sometimes more.

Elephant range across a wide spectrum of habitats from the hot coastlands to the cold moorlands of the Aberdares and Mount Kenya at 3600 meters. Very few other animals have this range. Elephants are found in most of the parks, herds of 100 or more can be found in Meru, Amboseli and sometimes in Samburu. Despite their great size, elephants are remarkably passive when not bothered. The need to maintain its vast bulk (some 150-200 kilogram of forage a day) keeps an elephant on the move and constantly active - even at night, the incessant search for food continues. It is this restlessness, which makes elephant watching so rewarding.

The wanton destruction of the rhino, throughout the whole of Africa, has severely reduced the rhino population to the point where it has become necessary to relocate most of the remaining few into safe sanctuaries. Nairobi National Park, Lake Nakuru National Park, Lewa and Tsavo all now hold many rhino populations although in the Masai Mara, in the forests of the Aberdares and Mount Kenya, it is still possible to find rhino, which have not been translocated. The best time to see them is in the early morning for in the heat of t he day, they return to thick bush, as their heat absorption capacity is poor.

Giraffes too roam the savannah with little competition for the tender leaves of the acacia trees, which are their principal food. The reticulated species, found north of the equator, must be one of Kenya's most striking animals. The lakes, swamps, rivers and riverine forest support their own specialized wildlife. Hippo, of course, irritable and cantankerous, share their habitat with the little loved crocodile. The largest concentration of crocodile, anywhere, is to be found in Lake Turkana and at Sibiloi Park, the numbers are especially great with as many as 50-60 crocodiles per kilometer of beach. Crocodile feed mostly on fish of which our rivers and lakes hold a considerable variety; the Nile perch found in Lakes Victoria and Turkana is a notable species reaching enormous proportions - 50-kilogram specimens are quite common. The cape (or African) buffalo, judged by most conservationists to be the most dangerous of big game, inhabits grassland where there is preferably thick cover and swamp in which to lie up, but like the elephant it is also adapted to life in dense and cold forest. Yet ferocity is clearly not the mark of buffalo in groups. Their herds, which can be numbered in many hundreds, are quite timid. This is not the place to describe the wealth of wildlife in any detail. Suffice to glimpse, this great pageant in anticipation of a visit.

Birdlife in Kenya

Kenya has a vast variety of species, over 1000, in a vast variety of habitats. From Montane forest to tropical coast, in every conceivable altitude range: deserts, open savannah grassland, lowland forest, bush and scrub, lakes and mudflats. This huge variety of birds is made possible by the lack of climatic extremes. Kenya straddles the equator and has no 'winter' as such - only wet and dry seasons. In the northern latitudes, huge numbers of birds migrate south to avoid the harsh on coming winters. From as Far East as the Bering Straits and as far west as the northern tip of Norway - they come in millions to East Africa. It has been estimated, give or take a few million, that as many as 6,000 million birds make the journey each year.

Combine the migratory birds to the incredible variety of local birds, and you have an ornithological paradise. Of great importance to those planning bird safaris is that birds can be found in abundance outside the national parks. There are many areas of Kenya covering the same wide variation of habitat, which do not have national park status. In these places, game may be scarce but birds are always present. Examples are Lake Magadi, only 110 kilometers south of Nairobi in the Rift Valley; Kakamega Forest in Western Kenya, a remnant of the great rain forest that once covered much of East Africa; Lake Naivasha 90 kilometers north of Nairobi; and the thousands of hectares of farmland, private ranches and even suburban gardens in Nairobi. All these areas are prolific in birdlife.
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