Thousands of exotic trees at the Shimba Hills National Reserve will finally be harvested after a long-standing disagreement between the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the Kenya Forest Service (KFS).

The KFS wanted the plantation harvested as most of the trees are dying of old age but KWS raised concern over how the plan will be implemented without affecting wildlife. KFS and KWS agreed to form a 4-man team to implement the plan.

The team, together with the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), will conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment and come up with a report to be presented to the forestry minister and the boards of the 2 parastatals.

The main issues raised by KFS were that the plantation is old and needs to be harvested to reduce the loss and at least earn some income for the service. Shimba Hills National Reserve has been declared a conservation area which means no more exotic plantation will be established in it. The area will instead be left to regenerate naturally.

The exotic forest covers about 8% of the reserve and has Cypress, Pine and Eucalyptus that was planted way before the area was gazetted as a reserve. It is feared that about 450 elephants, 150 sable antelopes and more than 400 bird species, may be negatively affected by the move if implemented.

The reserve is also a water tower area, with 5 main rivers flowing through the forest, including Mukurumudji, Pemba, Manolo, Ramisi and Marere, which serve a third of the Coastal population with fresh water.

There is word that an investor has already been consulted to fell the old exotic trees to pave way for the natural ones because the old trees have exceeded their germination period inside the reserve. KWS was against the move saying felling down the exotic trees would cause irreparable damage to some unique species resident within the park.

KFS on the other hand maintains that the felling of the trees should be a routine practice that will generate millions of shillings in revenue for the country and that it is an ongoing practice in other reserves and parks.