Gardening

A 200-acre Botanic Garden in Kitale

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Crocodiles at Kitale Nature Conservancy in Trans Nzoia County, on June 09, 2018. The conservancy is also home for deformed animals. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA

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Summary

  • A statue of the late Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai dressed in an orange dress holding a tiny potted plant welcomes nature lovers to the garden.
  • On the land, he has grown hundreds of indigenous plants, collected from almost everywhere in Kenya.
  • There are about 600 to 700 different plant species.

, a 71-year-old retired mathematics teacher started his botanic garden on just two acres. Now the Kitale Nature Conservancy sits on 200 acres and has from cows with bizarre conditions to lions and hyenas.

A statue of the late Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai dressed in an orange dress holding a tiny potted plant welcomes nature lovers to the garden.

On the land, he has grown hundreds of indigenous plants, collected from almost everywhere in Kenya. There are about 600 to 700 different plant species.

Crocodiles, tortoises, ostrich and hyraxes mingle almost freely at the conservancy. Animals with dwarfism, elephantiasis, twisted neck, hernia, short tails— conditions that make them an abomination— also roam around.

There are several carvings of wild animals and stone writings with one notable that reads “the 11th commandment, thou shall not destroy planet earth, it is our only home.”

Mr Ndura was a mathematics teacher for 27 years. After he retired, he started travelling all over the country to collect plants. ‘‘I am convinced that it is important to conserve these plants some of which are almost extinct,” he says.

He has grouped the indigenous plant species into different families that includes the cider of the Lebanon, ficus sycomorus and euphoria tirucalli. There also a number of gardenia species like gardenia ternifolia and gardenia posoqueria.

In 1984, Mr Ndura moved from Limuru to Trans Nzoia in search of vast land to focus on his nature conservation activities. He started by buying land using his savings, then he slowly bought more.

“I used savings from my salary and a micro-finance business to buy two acres of land where I started the botanical garden,” says Mr Ndura.

“By then, an acre of land was going for Sh20,000. I spent about Sh100,000 as starting capital which included collecting different plants species,” he says.

His passion for nature saw the conservationist start housing animals with deformities.

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A tortoise at Kitale Nature Conservancy in Trans Nzoia County, on June 09, 2018. The conservancy is also home for deformed animals. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NMG

“Initially, I didn’t have space to keep the animals. I bought 10 more acres before bringing in the deformed animals,” he says.

In 2000, he bought a deformed cow with four horns and a distorted mouth for Sh40,000.

His neighbours used to associate the deformed animals to any bad events that occurred in the area. “Some thought I was a mad man because people think these animals are bad omens. When there was no rains or if lightening killed livestock in the area, the neighbours came and demanded that I relocate the animals from there,” he says.

However, with time, Mr Ndura says, the neighbours started coming to see the bizarre animals.

The conservancy attracts lovers and students who come to spend their pastime at the park or learn about animals.

“Any initiative that doesn’t involve the youth is bound to fail, it is crucial to nurture conservation culture at the tender age so that they interact with the animals early and curb poaching,” says the conservationist.

He hopes that the bizarre animals can also help researchers study about gene mutation.

His environmental efforts have paid off and in 2010, he won the Head of State’s Commendation award from former President Mwai Kibaki.

Not all of the animals in the conservancy have deformities. He has Ankole cows, originally from Uganda, to help share information on indigenous domestic animals, which are drought tolerant and disease resistant.

The conservancy also hosts two lions, which were donations from Nairobi National Park, baboons, cane rats and a number of bird species.

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