230918 charcoal bagsTo the untrained eye, it’s just a pile of dirt. Nothing remarkable about it. But it’s hiding something insidious: a charcoal kiln.

Last week, Big Life rangers helped arrest 8 suspects with 165 bags of charcoal. The charcoal came from the operation of 7 kilns, like the one seen here.

Illegal charcoal production, or charcoaling, is a problem across Kenya but especially in more remote areas where electricity and gas prices are higher. By felling trees, and burning them in low temperature underground ovens, charcoal can be produced relatively easily but at great cost.

The combined impact of deforestation and increased carbon emissions led to a ban on charcoal production in Kenya five years ago. Many critical species, including acacias, are used for charcoal production, with huge implications for local ecosystems including wildlife food and refuge, as well as water retention and erosion control.

This bust is the biggest Big Life’s rangers have conducted so far this year, and hopefully the last.
230918 charcoaling kiln