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Identification of Predators Responsible for Kills

As a wildlife officer, one of the skills I have realised one has to have in his fingertips  is the identification of predators responsible for kills be it in the bush “my office” or while responding to Problematic Animal Control (PAC), these skills come in handy when identifying the predator responsible for the kill so as to come up with the ideal solution for the specific animal.

A basic autopsy of the animals killed i.e shoats or cattle can reveal so much; dies the animal have a bite mark on the neck, was it constricted, which parts have been bitten off and how many of them have been killed can be key to identifying the culprit (predator) of which the most common are; Spotted Hyena, Leopard, Lions and wild dogs among other small carnivores.

 

For understanding the impact of predators on prey species, it is obviously necessary to know about their feeding: what prey species are they killing?  What proportion of them do they take?  What age, sex, and condition are these prey?  And how do they compare in number and agesex distribution with the live prey population?

It must be remembered that most predators are extremely flexible in what they eat.   Their diet certainly varies from place to place, depending partly, of course, on what prey species are present in different areas.  For the samreason, the diet may vary with season as the prey species present change.   Even if the numbers of different prey species in an area do not alter, there may be differences·itheir catchability, due behaviour of the prey.

It is extremely difficult to sawhat proportion of prey animals are truly “available” to the predators.   And there are certainly differences between individual predators in the prey animals they take. 

Kills can be examined by waiting until the predator has finished feeding, or if this is impossible (e.g. because of lack of time, or because a small prey animal is likely to be totally consumed) by temporarily driving it from its kill. Predators can usually be made to withdraw by driving slowly towards them and separating them from their kill which can then be observed from close range.  Although most predators will flee from a human on foot, this method disturbs them considerably, and they may not then return to their kill.

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CANNIBAL LION

Cannibalism in Lions is often displayed when a male lion takes over dormancy and territory of a rival pride, often kills any existing cubs fathered by other males; which brings the lionesses into heat more quickly, enabling the invading to sire his own young.

But my encounter with Sior a lioness of the Schora pride at the Ol Pejeta conservancy feeding on the carcass of a freshly killed lioness by her pride at night made me draw a sharp breath of shock.

I have always known lions as scavengers which happily steal food from other animals, or eat leftovers after a kill, often seen them bullying other predators into giving up their meals. but as you can see in the clip above Sior nibbles away the remains menacingly.

According to Wikipedia Cannibalism involves consuming all or part of another individual of the same species as food. To consume the same species, or show cannibalistic behaviour, is a common ecological interaction in the animal kingdom, and has been recorded in more than 1,500 species so it shouldn’t be such a dillema, here’s the real catch I have witnessed lions killing hyenas but never have I seen the lion eating the hyena, wild me in lets keep the conversation flowing

In your opinion, Why do you think Sior fed on the dead lioness?

A JOURNEY TO KENYA’S MOST REMOTE REGION

Alberto Borges is a Young National Geographic Explorer, an Honorary Member of the Scientific Exploration Society—UK, and the Founder of The Explorer’s  Club of Kenya and magazine which was first published in 2014. Presently, a 3rd year at Catawba College.

 The previous days’ desert run from Marsabit to North Horr had obviously tired us out. A not-so-cosy bed and a lukewarm shower were comforting but the high temperatures gave us a restless and sleepless night.

At the crack of dawn I watched several desert birds such as the Jackson’s hornbills, crowned starlings and fan tailed ravens forage scraps of food in the sand. It seemed strange as I couldn’t figure out what they kept picking out from there. The locals were now taking their goats and camels for grazing; a typical day in North Horr was beginning.

As there is little to do for a visitor, except to visit any of the three oases and engage locals in ‘chitter-chatter’ on how and what their goats feed on for the day. We however, decided to conquer North Horr’s only highest spot, Daban-Dabli some 1000 ft a.s..l, but only a few hundred feet above the surrounding terrain, and a few miles north of the settlement. It was not an easy climb, since it was steeper than it had seemed. The summer sun scorched us mercilessly.

However, once we got to the top, we had an excellent view of the surroundings, open glades below and Mount Kulal on the southern horizon. The breeze was pleasantly cool and refreshing.

 On our return to the settlement, we saw a herd of Thompson gazelles prancing away to a safe distance. A local cautioned us against climbing down from the steeper incline as there was a high chance of encountering hyenas.

In the middle of our delicious mbuzi choma (roasted goat meat), slaughtered by the locals to welcome our arrival, the D.C received a call with sad news. Some 130 miles from here en route to the border town, Ileret, at an oasis called Darate, two lorries transporting relief food to Ileret were barred from proceeding due to ethnic differences of Gabbra (Kenyan) and Dassanach (Ethiopian) people who frequently crisscrossed the border. The situation was made worse by the killing of four Gabbra men by the Dassanach herders during this period.

 

The Dist. Commissioner (DC) summoned the O.C.S, the O.C.P.D, the area chief and about twenty police officers. After a long discussion, the DC concluded that they must immediately rush to the troubled area, and try to bring peace to the two communities who were then preparing for war. I thought this would be a perfect time to tour and explore one of Africa’s most remote regions and to understand the hardships of the people living there. I requested the D.C for me to tag along as an observer and to my surprise he agreed. However, he made it clear that it was highly risky as the area could turn to a battleground if things didn’t go as planned and that my life would be at jeopardy. None the less, I was excited to experience the adventure in a totally new way.

We sped off just after lunch in a convoy of two Land Cruisers in a westerly direction, churning up huge clouds of dust. The scenery quickly changed from sand dunes to pans and barren lava fields giving us an impression that we were on the surface of the moon.

For two hours the track was relatively smooth and progress was fast as we drove at nearly 100km/h in straight stretches.

 The track then climbed for several hundred feet until we reached a fertile plateau as compared to desert standards, locally known as Little Chalbi. Here I saw hundreds of camels and thousands of goats grazing in lush  meadows however there seemed tbe no people let alone huts.

Leaving drought stuck North Horr heading to Derate

The track quickly meandered out of sight; the Cruiser snarled its way over thickets and ruts. With no GPS or mobile network, our phones had long been rendered useless.

I consulted my map only to find out, Little Chalbi which lay approximately between 3 – 4 North of the Equator and 36 – 37° East of the Greenwich, wasn’t even indicated on the map I had. We were now off the beaten track when out of the blue it reappeared.

Little Chalbi

We drove through several rock strewn lagas (dry river beds) off Puckoon Ridge.  I had the impression that we were in a time capsule travelling thousands of years back in time, as I had not seen even one person for nearly a hundred kilometres. The landscape was untouched by humans; the little vegetation cover was dry or maybe dead. It was wild, slowly weathering and seemed to come to life during short violent flash floods.

Puckoon, Ridge, East of Sibiloi National Park

I noticed strange tall birds that were least bothered with neither the Cruisers’ diesel grunt nor the deep rumble or the stones being thrown by the tyres whenever we abruptly came to a laga. Their heads were always tilted at a forty five degree angle and didn’t move as we whizzed by. They seemed deeply engrossed with what they were doing. These huge birds are known as the Kori Bustards; the world’s highest flying birds.

The journey was getting more rough and torturous; dusk was beginning to engulf us and several nocturnal creatures were awakening. Night jars were flying off from the ground, bush hares scampered off the road, jackals and dik diks were often being seen near thickets, their eyes glowing in the dark. Suddenly we saw a camp fire, tens of men and hundreds of goats on the side of the road. We ground to a halt in an area called Darate. The foliage was dry, with small ridges covered with lava fields and dry bush. Further ahead, was an oasis fringed with palm and acacia trees surrounded by two hills and several lagas. There was a wind blown dilapidated police post with a communication radio as their only connection to the outside world.

The officers jumped out of the Cruiser and went to interrogate the men. The area M.P, a member from Marsabit  County Assembly and other Gabbra men had been spying on neighboring Dassanach people and plotting against them. They however told the D.C. they were mourning the death of the four Gabbra men who were killed by the Dassanach.

We drove to the police post further ahead where we saw the two lorries we heard about earlier, their drivers and turn boys and nine Dassanach people, mostly women and children had hitched a ride to Ileret. The D.C. summoned the M.P and the member of M.C.A for a discussion along with the O.C.S and the O.C.P.D. It was now dark and the meeting took place under a tree with the clear, star studded sky as the only source of lighting. Meanwhile, two goats, respectfully donated by the M.P to the D.C were being slaughtered. This would soon be our supper.

During daybreak, the following morning, I was taken aback by the immense strength of the wind as I walked around the camp. Engaging the officers in small talks revealed that I wasn’t the only one who had a rough night. Most officers slept on bare ground whilst a few others in the back of Land Cruisers trying to get cozy and warm. I managed to squeeze my self and sleep awkwardly in the cabin of a Cruiser. It had been a long, lonely and sleepless night for everyone.  

Desolate wilderness roamed by tough nomads and survived by hardy plants

As we had breakfast, which comprised of tea made with goat milk, army biscuits and a few groundnuts the D.C had carried, there was a lot of confusion on what was the days’ plan. Everyone had their own imaginary plans but it was up to the D.C to decide on what next. He consulted the O.C.S and the O.C.P.D and not long after, they arrived at a decision. We would escort the lorries to Ileret where the relief food was desperately needed. 

 The next leg of the journey began at about mid morning; progress was slow due to the lorries and yet again several lagas where one had to drive slowly and cautiously. After a mere 10Km, the convoy suddenly came to a halt. We saw an old Dassanach man who was carrying a rifle and head rest cum stool. The D.C stepped out of the Cruiser to enquire the man’s activities. He took my binoculars with him of which somehow made him more superior… well, from a local’s point of view at least. The old man told the D.C that some twenty donkeys of his strayed away at dawn, one of which was a new born foal.

In the background are the wind swept structures that the Administrative Police once lived. This is one of the most remote police posts in E. Africa

He suspected that they went to the oasis to quench their thirst, just near the police camp as he pointed at the hoof prints along the track. I clearly remember seeing donkeys around the camp earlier, however it seemed nobody else did.

We continued clipping off miles of dry, desolate uninhabited wild country as the hours past by. There were several dry bush birds I kept seeing, such as Kori bustards, red and yellow barbets, chest-bellied sand grouse, yellow necked spur fowls, vulturine guinea fowl, superb starlings, fan tailed ravens and Jackson’s hornbills. All this time, Lake Turkana was beckoning us but was unseen, our view blocked by ridge after ridge. However, the tracks had gradually changed from small lava rocks to smooth sands which hinted we were getting closer to the lakeshore and border town. Suddenly, many huts and small structures appeared and soon, children were chasing after the convoy. We had reached.

Ileret is a small outlandish cluster of Dassanach settlements. There are fisheries stores, N.G.Os and missionaries and of course the lakeshores which are home to crocodiles and hippos. The D.C assigned an officer to take me to the lakeshores in his Yamaha motorbike whilst they discussed the situation.

The lake was beginning to flood its shores and the waters were calm and had a deadly brownish hue, this was contrary to what I was expecting. Tales of early explorers that I had read, to Lake Turkana told of the waters being jade in color, just like the oceans yet rougher than the North Sea.  The brownish hue was being caused by siltation from the over flooded Omo River which was carrying sediments from the Ethiopian Highlands.

 

At this time of the year, the over forty varieties of fish are more in the north than in the south as the sediments bring in nutrients hence breeding occurs. The fishermen harvest high yields of fish and the lake is teaming with plenty of water birds.

After spending some time by the shores, we headed back to the town, at the police station where the rest were having yet another goat meat lunch. We then toured the new Lake Turkana Basin Institute founded by Dr. Richard Leakey to study various fossils that he and his team discovered in Koobi Fora.  Later, we began our return journey to North Horr which took us more than five long hours through the boundaries of Sibiloi National Park. We arrived in North Horr by 9.00p.m safe and sound but tired, dusty and hungry. 

Darate Oasis

                   

Interested in Joining the explorers club? Get in touch through any of their contacts below

THE EXPLORER’S CLUB OF KENYA,

P.O.BOX 39939-00623

NAIROBI, KENYA CALL:+254 706 561 519

EMAIL: explorers club- kenya@gmail.com FACEBOOK: THE EX- EXPLORER’S CLUB KEN- YA.

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DRIVING IN THE WILDERNESS THE GLEN EDMUND WAY

The numerous driving schools in Kenya have become so commercialized that by the time you get your license and you’re behind the steering wheel the reality of the situation hits you in the face how half-baked you came out from them, I remember how congested the table classes were and don’t get me started on the practical part it was just a formality if you don’t chip in something to the instructor he will brush you very fast and actually most of the time even step in the clutch for you and even engage the gear giving you lame excuses how sloppy you are, calling in the next person as you go to the back of the overcrowded old lorry.

By the time we got to the day for the final road test practical exam at kasarani stadium half the guys were still asking how you get the lorry started, as usually we were quite crowded and had to be brushed off haste-fully only three guys apparently failed the rest of us were certified drivers that was back in 2008 but I believed much hasn’t changed.

As a tour operator driver guide, I get to spend most of my time out in the bush where I have had so many bad experiences which are inevitable to every driver regardless of where you’re driving. We have all been subjected to driving situations that were not catered for in the standard driving test. These situations dictate the future experience and the vulnerability of us the drivers, their passengers and the safety of fellow road users.

Drivers are exposed to varying degrees of challenging situations and many of us are expected to drive vehicles for which we received very little or no training at all. When i heard of how easy it is to enroll at Glen Edmunds performance driving school the only advanced driving company in the African continent whose courses are internationally accredited  I knew I had enrolled especially after reading on their website that they give a 90-Day No Questions Asked, Money Back Guarantee I figured these guys must take their work very seriously, and the kind of training that the instructors get cant be compared to any other since this is the only one of its kind in Africa. There are lots of courses to choose from including; Security, Defensive Driving, HGV, 4WD Training, Motor vehicle training, Oil & Gas, Blue light training, Self Defence while Mobile just to mention thus there’s something for everyone, I definitely went for the 4WD off Road Defensive Course.

I enrolled and the first order of business was to complete 4WD E-Learning course learning the theory of safe and correct use of a 4WD vehicle in all types of off-road environments which, being a good driver means doing the basics well all the time and this theory part is really essential, you complete at your own pace one I was done with the final exam it automatically generated the completion certificate I knew eligible for the practical session check it out http://elearning.glenedmunds.com

You can either go for the field practical sessions with their vehicles or come with your own, for me I preferred what am used to and went with a land cruiser arrived at their offices and the kind of reception I got made me think of becoming a politician in the next life, after a while everything was in check my martial instructor Amos got in and off we headed out to the 4WD training center where I went through vigorous training components which gave me a clear understanding of the correct and safe use of the four-wheel-drive vehicle in all types of Off Road environments which included; Ascent and Descents with 3 gradients of different difficulty, water obstacles, cross Axel section, Ridges and Ditches, Long track cotton soil and rocky slopes, winch points, instant braking on high speed (my second favorite) but what crowned my experience was the steep Ascent and descents.

 

You definitely need to find a program that accurately measures your skill levels so that during your re-certification training the instructor is able to quantify your progress and asses which areas need to be improved upon, this courses are quite necessary every 18-24 months. visit their website www.GlenEdmunds.com for more information or call 0725635687

Learn from the experts

 

If there’s one thing that  I am really looking forward to is being behind the wheel in the next Rhino Charge, I have watched and admired the skills that the drivers portray. That’s definitely top on my bucket list