In late December we caught our first poachers after years of trying. One of our rangers (both of the rangers involved in this capture will remain unnamed here) found a line of 16 snares that stretched about 400 meters. Every opening through the bush over the course of those 400 meters were snared with some wire heavy enough for large game such as Buffalo or Giraffe. Other wires were lighter and set for smaller gazelles. When the snares were found our ranger cleverly left the scene totally intact without disturbing any of the snares or laying his tracks down where the poacher would find them. On the next consecutive 2 mornings and evenings we placed a ranger waiting in hiding with a camera to capture the identity of the poacher.
(this pic shows how hard the snares can be to see even when you are looking straight at them)
On the third morning our ranger was in his hiding place pre dawn with his camera ready when small birds spotted him and sensing that he was a predator starting making alarm calls above his head. While the ranger was watching the birds the poacher suddenly appeared before him, having come to the sound of the birds. As the ranger tried to get his camera up to take the picture he was seen and the poacher ran. His identity though was known and he in fact turned out to be someone who had worked on Tumaren once before helping us clear some brush.
(with the light behind the snare is easier to see)
The police were promptly called and after they were picked up from their station (police in Kenya rarely use their own vehicles) they were driven to the poachers house where he was sleeping inside. On the premises the police uncovered more snares and the suspect promptly started admitting his guilt.
After taking statements and booking the poachers partner / brother we hoped that they might get a sentence that would fit the brutality and greed of the crime. When someone lays this many snares they are doing so for business not simply for the pot. In the course of waiting to catch the poacher several animals were maimed and killed trying to escape and so it was with great dismay that we learned they had been released after only a few days in jail. We have yet to learn why and how they got out but clearly you can assume that they had some help jumping what should be a serious charge.
Incredibly, a week back we were greeted at our camel boma by the poacher himself . He had come to “apologize” ! No sooner though had we accepted his apology when he asked for a job. Rather than shut him down we suggested that should our area remain snare free for the next consecutive few months then we would give thought to some temporary employment.
(This is the damage done to a tree from an animal trying to escape from a snare. for a small animal to inflict this much damage on a tree you can only imagine the damage inflicted to their own bodies)
Lots of these Variegated Grasshopers around now. Its dry here and they often seem to be around when its dry (or maybe i just hear them better in the withered grass?). These guys travel in small swarms (oftern times about 30 or more individuals). Insects with black and yellow markings are often times poisonous or foul tasting and so i would not be surprised to find that these guys were also distasteful.
We find Desert Roses downstream on the Ewaso Nyiro River and east of us at lower altitudes .Yesterday though, Kitilla, one of our rangers came to us to say he had found an unidentified plant along our eastern boundary. We were shocked to find that it was a Desert Rose. These incredible flowering bushes, despite a poisonous sap is a popular ornamental plant that makes its way to nurseries all over the world. The sap is also used by some African tribes as a pois0n to tip their arrowheads. This individual is the only Desert Rose that we have seen in our area. How it was dispersed so far from his friends in the lower hotter country is a mystery. Anyone know if birds eat Desert Rose seeds?
Here are the latest images of our friendly Honey Badger or Ratel who has been raiding Parm’s bee hive he has set up behind our offices. Below are the pics Parm got of the culprit. We need to experiment further with baffles and other ways of discouraging our friend from destroying more hives.
Not too long back we hosted a very nice Dr. and his son on a walking safari. Tim, who works at a hospital in the UK brought a great bag of surgical instruments for us to distribute.
In the states and most first world countries these instruments are these days disposable – A sad commentary when so much of the rest of world go without these critical tools for health care. After boiling all the instruments for a good half hour we gave a large set to the Mpala Health Outreach Clinic pictured below. The mobile clinic helps people in our area who have no access to proper health care as well as HIV/Aids education and Family planning.
We have Lesser Kudu on Tumaren but we have only seen Greater Kudu on some of the nearby hills (recorded less than .5kms away). It is likely that Greater Kudu have crossed Tumaren as well but we have not yet seen them. On a recent trip I took the following picture of a Greater downstream on the Ewaso Nyiro River and then The Lesser I took a few kilometers from Tumaren. Seeing these images together is nice because you can more easily see the differences than you might in some guide books. The first image is the Greater. Males have a pronounced dewlap, they are generally large and bulky, have an even and overall greyer coloration, and lack the more striking white markings that the greater has on his neck.
And here is the Lesser. He is a smaller with more dramatic coloration. Lesser often are said to have more stripes but this characteristic is not needed for ID. Habitat is usually the best way to narrow it down quickly, Lesser preferring flatter dryer, hotter places while greater prefer more rugged hillside type habitat.
I found this fellow a few months back on a walking safari down the Ewaso Nyiro River and forgot to post his handsome mug. Have a look at his ears. He has clearly being fighting with another. Bush babies are prosimians (which is latin for split nose). They are primates and like lemurs shared a common ancestor with humans in the not so distant past.
Caught this adult Bat-eared Fox in the camera a while back. You can really see the size of his insect probing ears. What you cant see is a set of exceptional jaw muscles capable of extremely rapid bug chomping (i think i remember that they set some kind of chomping speed record in the mammal world but know i cant remember).
Solifugids aren’t from hell folks, it just makes a catchy headline. The other day this guy (2.5″ across) roared into our tent. Solifugids or Sun Spiders as they are commonly called move at high speed. They are nocturnal predators of small insects (this post is in the insect category but i realize that solifugids are not insects but arachnids) and when this fellow came into our tent he was likely hunting under the plastic ground fly. Read more about what these guys are all about on Wikipedia below: