An aerial survey by the Kenya Forest Services, (KFS) has revealed massive illegal logging and charcoal burning in the hearts of Maasai Mau and Olpusimoru forests.
A team led by Alex Lemarkoko, the Deputy Chief Conservator of Forests in charge of security and protection, on Tuesday found the business was thriving despite the national moratorium.
The business, Mr Lemarkoko said, has resulted in the felling of indigenous trees, mostly the Podo, Olea Africana and Red Cedar, in the general northern direction of forest cover.
“We conducted an aerial surveillance over Maasai Mau, Olpusmoru and community forests in Olokurto and Kilapa and discovered that logging and charcoal burning were still going on unabated," he said.
The KFS boss said they also discovered that a syndicate was working with a network of loggers in selling logs in Nakuru, Nyanza and markets in Nairobi.
Mr Lemarkoko cited the case of a lorry seized in Nakuru two weeks ago as the driver ferried cedar and Elgon teak logs..
He said they believed the logs were from Maasai Mau and that their estimated value was Sh500,000.
Mr Lemarkoko warned the cartel of a swoop by the KFS and their prosecution. He reported that since the moratorium was announced, 2,325 people have been arrested and arraigned for having 16,527 bags of charcoal and 18 tones of timber.
“We have also seized 7,500 pieces of timber and 228 donkeys ferrying charcoal in bags at night in different locations countrywide,” he added.
Mr Lemarkoko participated in the survey alongside Narok County Ecosystem Conservator Mwai Muraguri and Dickson Ritan, the Mau Forest enforcement team commander and Narok's Senior Warden of the Kenya Wildlife Service
The moratorium on logging has been in place since February following public outcry over illegal logging, the reason for diminishing water levels in the country's key rivers.
The ban was first effected in February 2018 and was to run for 90 days in community and public forests.
In May that year, it was extended for six months, and later for a year.
At the time, Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko said the extension would facilitate the rehabilitation of forests.
He said the move would also pave way for a total overhaul of the KFS management structure and processes, curb corruption and enhance its effectiveness.