Our dear friend Chiri Chiri was sadly killed last week defending his boma from an attacking Leopard. The cat took 13 goats that night and brave Chiri went in to protect his flock. With one strike the Leopard put poor old Chiri down. To his yelps came another dog from the neighboring manyatta and that dog too was killed by the cat.
We always spoke about Chiri as the smartest dog in Africa because he would cross through miles and miles of lion and leopard country alone to come and see us. We would feed him a bit and give him any vet care should he need then he would say goodbye and return to a myriad of girlfriends back on the group ranch.
Chiri was a real hero and when Pirjo Itkonen, a reader of wildlifedirect came out to visit us Chiri stood guard outside her tent when lions were roaring close by. Pirjo was kind enough to leave Chiri with a food allowance when she left.
Anyway, Chiri we will miss you. rest in peace old friend. Below is a picture of Chiri and below that a picture of the Leopard that most likely got him ( we took it only day later not far from where Chriri was killed).
We went recently to visit Tumaren at her new home at The Sheldrick Trust Orphanage. What a pleasure it was to see how happy she was with all her friends foraging in natural bush within Nairobi National Park.
I couldnt determine if Tumaren recongnized me after our long streesful night together a while back but his keeper felt that she did. She and many of the other young Elephants would suck our fingers which evidently allows them to get to know us. Another common method for greeting an elephant is to blow into its trunk.
After hanging with the Ele’s out in the bush for a while the keepers whistled and told them all it was time for milk. It was amazing to see how quickly they responded to the command, knowing exactly the routine and lining up for their march back to their comfortable quarters.
Back at milk time we met with the other group of orphans returning from their afternoon foraging. At the Sheldrick Elephant Baracks we were so impressed by the comfort and care provided to each and every orphan. Above each enclosure there was a hanging cot for each keeper. With baby elephants this is necessary as they are rather ‘needy’ and can deteriorate without companionship.
This year the orphanage has received more elephants than ever. The drought here is stressing the herds and many younger elephants are dying of starvation and even adults like Tumaren’s mum are succumbing to drought related illnesses. In times like this we must be very thankful that there is such a warm and caring place as the Sheldrick Orphanage.
Tumaren, as our Elephant had become known, spent the night in Hassan’s room at our main Office/Camp. She had a very long night pacing and bellowing in a shriek-type call i can only compare to the noises Dynosaurs make in hollywood films. Because she was under the same corrugated iron roof as everybody else it was a long night for all. Our original plan was to keep her window open so that she could check on me in my bed that i had set just beneath it. I had gone with this idea rather than sleeping inside the room because Tumaren was still quite feisty and she would have squashed me while i slept. The problem though that i found just as i was saying goodnight to Tumaren through the window was made quite clear as she launched both front feet up onto the sill and used her head and trunk to drag the rest of her body up so that she was teetering on the sill, trying to escape completly. Now i found myself in the strange position of wrestling an elephant alone at night in a window. I screamed for help. With the assistance of Leshilling and Tation we were able to get Tumaren back into the room. We then had to seal the window to prevent any further escapes.
After about 2 am Tumaren calmed a bit and while he kept pacing he stopped screaming. I got up every few hours to look in on him and allow him to smell me and be reassured.
In the morning we made a plan with some Kenya Wildlife Service representives to inspect Tumaren’s mum and get the go-ahead to send Tumaren to the orphanage in Nairobi. Mr. Dixon Too, Senior Warden for Laikipia and Senior Elephant Programme Co-ordinator Mr. Moses Litoroh.
After having a look at Tumaren’s mother they concluded, as we did the day before, that she should be put down. Afterward, It was a releif to know that she was no longer in pain and it was also good that we had removed Tumaren the night before so that she was not present at such a horrible moment.
As soon as we we able to, we called The Sheldrick Trust to notify them that Tumaren was ready for pick up. When back at the office we entered Tumaren’s room to calm her a bit before moving her. She was drinking well and even eating soft grasses that we picked for her.
After tying her legs, placing a blanket on her head and wetting down her skin a bit we drove Tumaren on her side to the Kimanjo Airstrip. From there she was picked up by a Boskovitch Airways Flight and brought successfully to the Orphanage.
We will keep you all up on Tumaren’s news as she fits in with the other orpahns. We are told to expect that she will loose some condition in the next week as she deals with the stress but that she should begin to regain condition after that period. Good Luck Tumaren!
Yesterday afternoon we received a report from one of our returning walking safari teams that they had passed a dying mother Elephant with one small young. The guys said that the elephant had appeared like it was sleeping but it was shortly realized that it could not stand up even as it struggled with the fear of approaching humans. Our team left the mother and young and returned to our camp to report what they had found. We jumped in the car and found this sad scene, the young female nibbling on her mums ear and appearing stressed and worried.
After deciding that the mother had a very short while to live, we decided to take the young Elephant to our camp rather than risk an almost certain death at night by Lion or Hyena. When we approached the little ele tried to defend her mum which was very heart breaking.
After a bit of a struggle we got the little elephant to the ground tied her feet and covered her eyes with a blanket to reduce stress. We then drove her to our camp where we lodged her in Hassan’s room.
With orphaned baby elephants it is important to reduce stress (as much as humanly possible), retain warmth and keep fluids up. This is why we had to keep the blanket on our little friend and also why I remained inside her room for long periods of time so that she would become accustomed to us and to realize that we were not going to threaten or kill her. To begin with she would ram me with incredible power into the wall. I learned to use the mattress below to divert her from squashing me completely matador style and then stroke and comfort her so that she knew that i was not going to harm her.
Conclusion of our long night to be told tomorrow as i slept very little last night. In the course of the evening we decided that our little friend should be named Tumaren.
Today Rangers Kichine and Kitilla found the below dead Lion cub stashed in a tree. Lion tracks were all over the base of the tree but it was obvious that no lion would have been able to stow the dead cub way up in the thin branches. The consensus on the ground is that a new Male Lion is in town who killed this young and that in the night a Leopard came to claim the cub and try to stow it for later. Even this seems like abnormal behavior on a Leopard’s part, also quite risky as the lions like this area and would love nothing more than killing a Leopard. Possibly in the middle of the night when the Leopard was feeling more brazen he was able to take the kill when the Lions were sleeping off a bit. Then in the morning when the lions realized what the Leopard intended they slept beneath the tree to prevent his return (there were no Leopard tracks to be seen as they were covered by Lion tracks that flushed just in front of our rangers). I have left the camera trap at the tree for the night to see who returns to the scene of the crime.
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)
I eat meat and probably too much of it. I found this article in the New York Times rather alarming. I have always known about these issues but the implications for just slowing down our meat consumption (rather than quitting outright) are incredible with regard to greenhouse gas.
First I would like to thank a very kind person named Sonja P for making a donation toward conservation in our area. The money will go toward scouts that are currently assisting the neighboring community ranch to patrol their large area. We appreciate your generosity very much Sonja.
Also we have had an influx of migrant birds in the past few weeks arriving from Europe, Asia and norhtern Kenya. Among the species that have been passing by, Long-legged Buzzard, Common Kestrel, Common Rock-thrush, Whitethroats, Willow Warblers, Isabaline Shrike, Red-backed shrike, Pied Wheatear, Northern Whetear, Isabaline Whetear. Below is a picture of a non-migrant resident bird, our friend the Scops Owl.
In early 2006 my wife, Kerry Glen and I purchased a 3000 acre property in Laikipia adjacent to the Ewaso Nyiro River. The ranch, which we named Tumaren (dragonfly in Masai), is now dedicated exclusively to the conservation of wildlife. Since June, with the help of six rangers that we have hired, we have been patrolling the property, removing snares, and counting game.
Tumaren, like the larger Ewaso eco-system is rich in game. Â We have large populations of Gerenuk, Impala, Steinbuck, Common Zebra, Grevy’s Zebra, Elephant, Grant’s Gazelle and Dikdiks and smaller populations of Lesser Kudu, Thompson Gazelle, Eland, Hyena, Bat-eared Fox, Reticulated Giraffe, Hartebeest, Leopard, Cheetah, Lion and Wilddog. The Laikipia Plateau is a spectacular part of Northern Kenya where visitors can experience a great diversity of wild animals and landscapes. With the highest diversity of large mammals in Kenya, the second largest population of elephant in Kenya, most of the worlds Grevy’s Zebra, and 50 percent of all the Rhinos in the country; it is an understatement to say that Laikipia is of a great conservation significance. This ecological value as well as the fact that Laikipia is an unprotected area, predominantly in private ownership was the impetus for me to begin this blog. I intend to focus the musings of this blog on Tumaren and the conservation challenges that the area is confronted with but I would also like to include natural history notes and bits and bobs of ecological interest. We are always looking for knowledgeable people when it comes to the identification of insects and obscure plants and I invite participation when it comes to deciphering the ecology as well as the conservation of our little part of Africa.