Conservation and Environment in Kenya: Monthly Updates
Conservation in Kenya Update - December 2015 and January 2015
With the end of the short rains and the onset of the dry season, the vegetation has started to dry up. This means less moisture in the plants which most animals rely on for water. The artificial waterholes distributed in the conservancy are jam-packed with wildlife. The one next to our camp was occupied day and night by wildlife coming drink, one animal after the other as well as warthogs seen leaping in and out after a swim.
A female leopard suspected to be nursing young ones, and usually very elusive, was observed twice in the mornings. Just after leaving the waterhole she was seen on two successive days walking majestically past our terrace area into the bushes nearby. Volunteers had to constantly monitor the watering holes to ensure that there was enough water for wildlife to quench their thirst.
The dry season in all ecosystems is never a blessing, with accidental and human fires frequent. The rangers and volunteers are on standby in case they are called upon, but these two months went by with no fires occuring.
The giraffe monitoring has been intensified and a catalogue of all suspected DOBs (Date of Birth) for the pregnant females has been created. This is to prevent a repetition of a case where we lost a giraffe due to birth complications. The following giraffes are expected to give birth soon: Jacky, Maggie and Olivia.
Fiona gave birth in the New Year, but unfortunately her baby did not make it. This has prompted us to closely monitor the pregnant giraffes to ensure they gave birth successfully, and to ensure that the young are healthy and able to walk. The practice of monitoring pregnant mothers until they give birth, and for a week after, will help to ensure survival of the babies of this endangered sub species which has less than 1000 left in the wild.
When Fiona’s baby died we noticed a behaviour which has been observed before in elephants, where the family members mourn the dead baby. This mourning was observed in from the day of the death up to the fourth day afterwards. Other members of the family accompanied by Fiona were seen close to the body, and even after it was eaten by the hyenas, they still frequented the same place. A story was written by one of our volunteers and sent to the Giraffe Okapi newsletter, where stories and research information on the giraffe and okapi from the field are shared.
“On the 1th of January Fiona gave birth to a New Year’s baby. The little giraffe was just a few hours old when we saw a first glimpse. After a while it started trying to stand up, slowly and carefully it dared to take its first steps. It was already pretty obvious that it took the little one a lot of effort, maybe a little too much. The next day, in the afternoon during Giraffe Survey, the same little one was lying on the ground with a wound on its head. Sad as it was, you could see it was making its journey away from life and earth. When we arrived we were already too late. We tried giving it milk, covering the wound and calling the vet. We never really found out the real cause of death. The following days several groups of giraffes, including Fiona each time, came to the place where the baby giraffe died. It truly is impressive to see that even giraffes have their own way of saying goodbye and mourning.” Milou Peperkamp (Dutch Volunteer).
The good news though is that the new born babies added to the family in August and October are doing well. They are always seen together with one of the mother nursing them or the other members of the family.
The continuous breaking of the fence by Buffalos which were entering the tree nursery at night has been averted by the installation of an electric fence around the perimeter. This job was well done by the rangers and our volunteers, and now our tree planting project which benefits the community and the schools around is back on track.
The tree nursery project is ongoing and we are putting in more effort thanks to the dedicated team on the ground. The trees are doing well with the staff and volunteers giving an extra hand, especially now with the high moisture loss in these dry months. The trees need constant watering and weeding. This is all in preparation for the onset of the rainy season in March.
We have pledged also to work with our sister conservation projects to plant trees in the upcoming months as well as on the Earth Day, 22nd April. We have pledged to plant over 3000 trees in the neighbouring schools and community land. This initiative is geared towards increasing the percentage tree cover globally and curbing the global human footprint, which is a stumbling block towards achieving sustainable development.
The perimeter fence surrounding the conservancy, which is solar powered, plays a very important role in the conservancy. The fence keeps wildlife within the safe haven, which mitigates human wildlife conflict.
The other role of the fence is keeping poachers out, hence the need for constant surveys to ensure its functioning well. This has helped to keep poachers away but another threat is now looming from poaching on the eastern side of the conservancy, which is unfenced. Volunteers helped out in surveying the border to ensure that poachers don’t come in - this is done using a vantage point as observation. This strategic point gives a 180 degree view of the eastern side of the conservancy.
Working with rangers this enable the spotting of poachers before they get in, which gives the rangers time to contact the Kenya Wildlife Service.
Our new social project, with an aim of exposing our conservation volunteers to the Kenyan rural cultural setting is, on course. A walk to the village allowing a good experience of the village livelihood, and the children will always give them a cheerful welcome. The ladies will be shown and participate in the family chores undertaken traditionally by ladies, and the same applies for men. The crop varieties and livestock will also be seen, and knowledge on the ethno botany is always passed along.
This activity begins at 2pm and ends at sunset after a local dinner, before volunteers are taken back to the camp. This is usually a relaxed atmosphere and enjoyed by all.