Facing Mount Elgon with great optimism
EDGE Fellow Jacob starts his adventure in search of an elusive EDGE amphibian species…
I cannot tell the number of times that I have thought about beginning my project on Du Toit’s torrent frog in Mount Elgon on the border of Kenya and Uganda. I have found myself thinking about it early in the morning before dawn, in the daytime amidst my busy working schedule, and it has not been unheard of for me to sit thinking about it in the middle of the night.
Yesterday, reality dawned on me when I finally stepped at Kitale, the largest town in the vicinity of Mount Elgon. The town is packed with people and there are an amazingly large number of motorbikes and bicycles, dubbed ‘Boda-bodas’ (border-border), but this didn’t distract me from the vivid view of Mount Elgon that can be seen to the west of the town. It is an image I have forever longed to see – a mountain of hope and inspiration.
In Kitale, we were met by our new-found friend Josephat Ngoria, nicknamed Friday. Friday’s brother, George, is a colleague of mine at the National Museums of Kenya and he had facilitated the meeting. Friday is the Divisional Youth Leader, and an ardent farmer, who has lived at the base of Mount Elgon for the better part of his life. He enthusiastically agreed to be our local field guide, and will be a huge asset to our field team given his familiarity with the mountain. Friday has never worked on amphibians but he is very eager to learn and help us successfully complete the project.
Even after the long, overnight travel on the rough Nairobi to Kitale road, we could not rest without paying a visit to one of the rivers on the mountain. We navigated our way to Chorlim Gate, one of the Kenya Wildlife Service entry points to Mount Elgon, located almost 33km from Kitale town. Adjacent to the gate is Cheptendan River at an altitude 2,114m above sea level. My thirst was quenched as I touched the crystal clear waters flowing gracefully.
We will stay in the area, carrying out a reconnaissance survey for the next week. Moving anticlockwise, we will be visiting all the rivers and streams on the mountain, marking all possible study sites which will survey in more detail during the main study. When we return to these sites, we will comb the whole area, turning every possible rock and log, wading up and through all the streams with the hope that we will come across Du Toit’s torrent frog as well as studying the other frogs in Mount Elgon.
I am optimistic that soon we will have a message of glad tiding, furnishing the whole world with news of the whereabouts of Du Toit’s torrent frog. As they say, where there’s a will there’s a way!