Life on the Conservancy, Working with Giraffes.
Trip Start Jul 13, 2009
14Trip End Sep 11, 2009
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I went out with the rangers to do a habitat assessment of the acacia tree forest, the dominant tree species on the Conservancy. For some unknown reason, the giraffe are stripping and eating the bark of the yellow fever acacia trees, which is killing a lot of trees
We’ve also gone out in the Range Rover to search for colobus monkeys, who live in the tree canopy in the dense, vine forests near the lakeshore. We've seen about 8 colobus monkeys, but I think there are more. 14 were translocated here a few years ago, and we need to find out if their population is stable. There’s also a possiblity that they are being poached by the locals to sell to the Asian market, where colobus monkeys, like most endangered animals, are bought to be killed for the sake of making traditional medicines. Ugh.
Life here is a succession of random, interesting events. One day the rangers invited us to go on camel patrol with them to look for snares along the Conservancy's boundary. Riding a camel is not that easy, surprisingly, because they can be unpredictable. Both times Kendall and I tried to mount our camels, it shot up in the air and tried to shake us off. We had to leap off from 5 feet up! We felt pretty insecure on our camel, and it started to trot several times. But what a fun ride! We collected a few snares along the way.
We made one weekend trip into Nakuru town and visited our friend Moses. He borrowed a friends car and drove us up to Menengai Crater, a massive caldera. We were trying to help Moses out by getting him more driving hours so he could get his license (it's difficult and expensive to get a license in Kenya, especially when you don't have a car), but he drove like a 15 year old. Finally made it to the top of the windy, cliff-edge road and were at the top of the crater
A week later Kendall left, so it's been a little lonely here. Right after she left I made the stupidest accidental decision: sunbathing for 4 hours. I spent a few days last week literally bedridden because I had the absolute worst sunburn of my life. Intelligent me, I laid out by the Delamere’s Pool all day without sunscreen, forgetting that we are at the equator and at 6000 feet. After 3 days I’ve finally recovered a bit and can walk fine now, although I'm peeling from head to toe in complete strips
Another day, I had a wonderful surprise and was able to visit Lake Nakuru National Park! In my last week in Kenya, I finally get to enter the park that I came here to work at. It was amazing. We saw both black and white rhino amongst thousands of flamingos, and had brunch amongst a herd of giraffe and a troop of baboons. To top the day off, it was our boss Kat’s birthday yesterday so we had sundowner drinks by the lake, and then drove 30 minutes to the nearest town for more drinks. The town is full of ex-pats, mostly Brits that now call Kenya home. The town has a boarding school and an English Pub, a little slab of England in rural Kenya. I haven’t been around that many white people for 2 months now! It was a bit strange, I must admit. We didn't get home until 4 AM, which is ridiculous considering I go to bed at 9 PM here. A British-Kenyan race car driver drove us home (not joking here), and we shot over the railroad tracks with a train blaring its horns about 50 feet from us. It was like an Old Western. Didn't remember this until the next morning though, which was probably a good thing because it was terrifying.
My last week at Soysambu has been filled with goodbyes and wrapping things up. Dr. Julian Fennessy of The Giraffe Conservation Foundation came out for a few days and helped me finish up the giraffe work and the habitat assessmentRothschild’s giraffe, has only 750 individuals remaining worldwide and has never been studied. Julian hopes to turn my project into a long-term study that he can use as background data to try to get the Rothschild giraffe listed as an endangered species. He also helped us start up a habitat assessment, where we set up GPS plots around the lake to measure the amount of bark stripping on the yellow fever acacia trees.
On our very last night at Soysambu, we went on a night game drive and were ridiculously lucky (as usual) and pulled up right next to a huge male leopard that had just killed a big impala that was still kicking. It was so AMAZING! We watched him for over an hour as he protected his kill from several spotted hyenas, and dragged it over the bush and up a steep rock face. Could not take my eyes off of him.
I leave for Nairobi, then home, tomorrow! Alan is going to accompany me to Nairobi tomorrow, which will be great. I will definitely miss Kenya but am really looking forward to seeing everyone and having the comforts of living in the first world again. It’s going to be a shocker, though.