Tom on August 12th, 2014

While this story is dated 15 November 2013, it just showed up on a search of the BBC website. In summary, a pair of cheetahs had been preying on goats in north-east Kenya. The man who owns the goats decided to do something about it. Along with three other men, he waited until the heat of the midday, tracked them down and captured them by hand when the cheetahs grew too tired to run. He then turned them over – alive – to the Kenya Wildlife Service. His explanation was simple, he wanted to stop the cheetahs and receive compensation for the goats he lost.

I find two elements of this story fascinating. These men knew that cheetahs have limited stamina, at least due to their inability to dissipate heat. They also knew that cheetahs are not physically powerful animals – relying, instead, on their speed and agility to capture prey. To me this is a reminder that those who live in close proximity with wildlife often develop real knowledge and understanding of the lives of their animals neighbors.

But it’s the second part that I find most interesting – this man  did not kill these cheetahs! He could have easily killed them and still accomplish his primary goals. And we certainly know that, for thousands of years, people have have responded to livestock predation by killing the predators. The article does not say anything about why the goat owner chose to capture these cheetah, rather than kill them. Perhaps he admires these beautifully adapted hunters, despite their predations on his goats. It may be a poor example, but I admire the incredible engineering of wasps – despite their painful stings.

But I wonder if there is another explanation. Perhaps, some people are beginning to trust that the Kenya Wildlife Service can and, more importantly, will assist them when there are conflicts with wildlife

Read the original BBC article here

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Tom on August 5th, 2014

Wildlife conservation scientists have developed a method of using spatial planning software to increase the effectiveness of security patrols in the greater Virungas landscape – the home of the mountain gorillas. Their initial analysis showed that only 22% of the area was being effectively patrolled. With scarce resources for enforcement of wildlife laws, this novel approach could have significant impact on the conservation of wildlife species throughout the world. This is another example of the wide range of disciplines that can make a real difference in wildlife conservation. Here is a link to the abstract and the full report:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1365-2664.12227/abstract;jsessionid=6EA8F8FA6E6E7975CE3EF02BDEBF1BB9.f01t01

Tom on July 29th, 2014

ImpactOnAfrica is the umbrella under which we focus donations and other resources for the benefit of the communities in the countries that provide us with our livelihood. Even though all of the countries we travel in have their unique qualities, my heart always turns toward Kenya. While the wildlife and its diverse habitats are the visible attractions, it is the people I’ve met who draw me back.

One of those people is Peter Leich, one of our professional safari guides at Origins Safaris. Through Peter’s leadership, the Nyashep Education Trust was founded in Kendu Bay – on the shores of Lake Victoria. I won’t go into all the inspiring accomplishments that Peter and his team have brought forth, especially in the lives of girls. I think they can say it best – please take a look at their website and be inspired by the vision the Peter brings to his community. Nyashep Education Trust

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Tom on July 17th, 2014

When Theodore Roosevelt arrived in Kenya in 1909, he boarded the Uganda Railway at Mombasa. His descriptions of the wildlife he saw from the train are still among the most colorful accounts of East African wildlife ever written and can be found in his book African Game Trails. The narrow gauge Uganda Railway, extending from the port of Mombasa to Kisumu on Lake Victoria’s shore, was built from 1896 to 1901 in an effort to solidify England’s colonial claim on Uganda. Contemporary press reports were critical of the project, often labeling it The Lunatic Line. The Lunatic Express became a more familiar term with the 1971 publication of Charles Miller’s book, The Lunatic Express: An Entertainment in Imperialism.

In recent years, the condition of the tracks has deteriorated. While the occasional derailments have been problematic, the primary effect of the poor condition of the railway has been the additional length of time of any rail journeys. Rehabilitation started last year, with the rebuilding of the worst 46 miles of track. On July 16, the current operator of the railroad – Rift Valley Railways – commissioned new equipment to speed up the repair of the tracks. Now that real progress has been made and will continue, I dream of the day when we can board the Rift Valley Railways car in Mombasa and follow Roosevelt’s path on the train he called “A railroad through the Pleistocene.”

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One of our favorite organizations in wildlife conservation is the Ewaso Lions Project in the Samburu region of northern Kenya. Shivani Bhalla has led the effort to understand and protect the lions of the region through effective engagement with the local communities. Wildlife conservation has to go hand-in-hand with fulfilling the needs of the local communities and the Ewaso Warrior Watch is a shining example of a program that makes a difference.

While I could summarize some of their amazing success stories, I prefer to encourage you to discover them through the latest entry on the Ewaso Lions blog. Please take a look: Ewaso Lions

Tom on June 28th, 2014

We’ve just learned of the passing of one of Africa’s most forward thinking conservationists – Delia Craig. Along with her husband, David, and her sons, Ian and Will, Delia converted their family ranch – then known as Lewa Downs – into today’s Lewa Conservancy. It started with the creation of the Ngare Sergoi sanctuary for rhinos in 1983 – inspired by and in partnership with Anna Merz – another of Africa’s most dedicated conservationists. Lewa has since become one of Africa’s most successful and influential wildlife conservancies – creating an inspiring model for others to follow.

I met Delia briefly in 1989, during my first visit to Lewa Downs. As we were watching a pair of white rhinos grazing, a small Land Rover pulled up on the opposite side of our vehicle – away from the rhinos. Delia introduced herself and welcomed us to Lewa Downs. What I remember most was her obvious excitement that we came to see the rhinos and her shining smile.

We have lost one more of that generation, who were raised within a colonial world but who stepped out of those traditions and helped protect some of the world’s most precious wildlife refuges. There is so much more to Delia’s contributions to Kenya, her people and her wildlife – as detailed here, in her obituary in The Telegraph.

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