The equatorial African mountains may be envisaged as an archipelago of small islands of cool climate separated by extensive warm lowlands. Mt. Kenya rises out of a sea of savannah grassland to straddle the equator as the second highest mountain in Africa. It is an extinct central-type volcano that last erupted 3.5 million years ago. It built up during the great tectonic disturbance that also produced the nearby Rift Valley. It is the primary water catchment area for Kenya, supplying the major rivers of the Tana to the south and the Ewaso Ngiro to the north. The peaks are often covered with snow and 11 permanent glaciers.
On Mt. Kenya the temperature falls by an average of 5 C per 1000 vertical metres (3,421 ft). Because of the prevailing winds from the Indian Ocean on the coast of Kenya, the eastern and southeastern slopes of the mountain are the wettest. By the time the air reaches elevations above 4000 m (13,684 ft), most of the moisture has been extracted and the highest areas are characteristically very dry.
Cheetah and Lion have been spotted in the Alpine area but Leopard are the only large carnivores common in the high alpine. They feast off the Groove-tooth rat and the rock hyrax. They regularly traverse high passes in their wanderings and as a matter of fact, they have been seen near the summit of Pt. Lenana.
There are several small mammals found in this zone that have lovely names Groove-tooth Rats are likely to be seen scurrying along their well worn paths during the day. The nighttime chattering of the furry tailed African Dormouse can be heard in some of the huts. The Pigmy Shrew, the Mole Rat, the Striped Tree Mouse, the Harsh-Furred Mouse and the Four Striped Grass Mouse can also be sighted in the Alpine grassy areas.
Meru has over 300 species of birds and is famous as the setting for Joy Adamson’s book “Born Free”, the story of the Adamson’s life and research amongst lion and Cheetah. “Elsa” the lioness was the most well-known and her grave is marked here.
Meru is a popular tourist destination today
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