Come see tree your mum hugged and kissed, King Charles III told

If he fails to visit, they argue the conservation icon should at least lobby for the inclusion of the forest in the Queen's Commonwealth Canopy (QCC), like Mau Forest in Rift Valley, covering approximately 455,000 hectares.

"Legend has it that the Queen cut in on her busy schedule of rewarding World War soldiers and inspecting gold mining along the Lirhanda gold mines, where the UK was a key stakeholder with an epicentre in Ikolomani, Kakamega, to visit the forest where she ended up hugging and kissing a gigantic Elgon Teak tree that is still standing," says Benjamin Okalo, a renowned Kakamega Forest tour guide with unrivalled institutional memory of the forest.

"I would wish that King Charles lll comes to see the tree and other outstanding features inside the 23,000 hectares forest like the innumerable butterfly species that have been subject of study even by universities from London."

This comes even as no one can produce a photo, receipt, or visitors' book the queen signed when she visited between the 1940s and 1950s just as a princess.

In a previous interview with the forest's long-serving manager, Mr George Ayimo of the Kenya Forest Service (KFS), we gathered that during the Queen's tour in the forest, the art of record keeping was "not as perfect" to withstand the test of time.

He nonetheless confirmed the tree had withstood the test of time and could be "somewhere in the league of over 750 years."

Julius Abungana believes King Charles III, who has been a passionate advocate of environmental and climate causes for at least five decades, should champion the allocation of conservation funds to the conservation of the forest his mother loved.

"I know the forest could not be in his mind, but since it has had some Royal footprint, it will not be too much to ask that he adds it up to the QCC list or create a separate fund to conserve it," he says.

A tour guide in Kakamega forest shows a tree that was allegedly hugged and kissed by Queen Elizabeth. [File, Standard]

"Even if it's not for his sake, he can do it for the sake of his mother and most importantly, for the sake of nature to deal with the climate crisis," says Abungana.

The forest sitting in Kakamega and Vihiga counties has attracted more researchers from international and local universities due to its unique biodiversity, topping 200 researchers every month on average.

Jameson's Mamba, Bush Viper, Rhinoceros-horned Viper, Gaboon Viper, Gold's Cobra, Forest Cobra and the Black-lipped Cobra are some of the varied snakes in the forest.

You will easily spot the Black and White Columbus, De Brazza's and Red-Tailed Monkey, which keep hopping on top of trees when you tour the forest during the day, and the ubiquitous baboons, and flying squirrels if you stay until the night.

The forest also harbours a giant vertical gold mine running about 150 metres that is home to African bat species to add to the over 25 bird species inhabiting the forest.

Apart from the tree hug and kiss, the legend of the Queen's visit remains non-committal on whether she enjoyed the other fauna and flora of the forest.

Notwithstanding, the locals want the visiting King to set time or money for a visit or conservation of the forest.