The main river that flows north from Nanyuki and the Aberdares through Laikipia is dry. In the terrible drought of 2000 the river stopped momentarily but resumed quite quickly. Yet now we find ourselves in a rather typical year with a river that has been dry for several months. The wildlife is suffering terribly and I worry for the Hippos and the crocodiles that could be extirpated from the entire drainage should these conditions persist.
The main problem now is not weak short rains but too many small farmers pumping from the river upstream. A friend who is in a Naro Moru water association upstream said that in a given short stretch of river near them they counted 400 small Honda pumps taking illegaly from the river. These farmers then dig holding ponds which they then use to irrigate their fields. Many people have taken the opportunity to blame the larger farms. While they must share a bit of this burden the majority of large farms are highly regulated by the government and must not only keep within given guidelines but also practice efficient irrigation techniques (drip etc.) The small farmers practice no conservation and they are sucking our part of the world dry. Many in our area (Samburu and Masai who are pastoral people and depend on the same water for their herds), particularly the younger men have spoke about walking the river upstream and burning out every pump they find. I sympathize with their frustration.
These shots were taken several months ago as some of our walking safari clients were leaving on the road to Nanyuki. You can see in the photo that one of the front dogs has a collar. This will be one of the Laikipia Wilddog projects animals and we will be sure to forward this post to them for identification. In the picture there is a fence in the background. This fence borders one of the large conservation ranches and functions to keep black rhino within a large area and also restricts illegal grazers from entering from the main road. The fence allows all animals but the rhinos from passing and so do not get the impression that these animals are at all enclosed or tame – they are very wild and free to roam all over our area.
Its always nice to see vultures coming into carcasses in our area. Vultures, are taking such a terrible hit globally and even here in Kenya trends have shown that dramatic declines in particular areas, including Laikipia. The following images of Ruppel’s Griffon Vultures were taken on a zebra carcass a few months back.
A baby elephant was found dead today on us below our dam in an area the elephants have been spending a good deal of time. The carcass appears to be about three days old. There were lion tracks nearby as well as Hyena but our rangers felt that neither killed it. Because not all of the carcass was yet consumed they thought he may have died from disease and that the hyenas had then fed on it. We have put the camera trap on the carcass. Poor little thing.
Here is a list of the birds of Tumaren. It can be used as a Bird List to Laikipia excluding only some of the more montane species that we don’t get east of the Ewaso Nyiro river and that might be found on the higher country on the Laikipia Plateau. I have never uploaded a pdf file in one of my blog post so i’m unsure if it will work. hope so.
Bird people. Please let me know your ideas or omissions.
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.
On Nov. 13 th while on safari on the Ewaso Nyiro river we ran into 21 WildDogs hunting. They were in the process of harassing a group of four Waterbuck that seemed very frightened and stressed. The Waterbucks would run and then turn to face the dogs. The dogs would then back down and look for another opportunity. At one point a Dikdik sprang from a bush behind the dogs and 4 engaged it in chase. Luckily for Mr. Dikdik he made a safe escape. Meanwhile several dogs kept returning to a certain patch of bush. As we watched the area with our binoculars we realized that they were eating and that they had a kill. When 2 young dogs began playing with a leg we decided that it was a young Waterbuck that they had taken. Very exciting and great to be able to watch the dogs for a good half hour as they played and chased each other.
I have noticed more and more carapaces of dead tortoises in our area in Laikipia. They range in size from medium to large and show no signs of physical trauma. I’m wondering if there could be a fungus that could be spreading between them that may have originated from captive animals. I understand that tortoises in the states have had problems like this.???
The Following Appeal was made by colin Jackson of Mwamba Bird Observatory and while it is a bit off topic for Laikipia i still think it is a pending disaster that more people need to know about.
This is a plea to raise serious concerns and put pressure on the Kenya government to not go ahead with the plans to turn 33,000ha of one of our most important wetlands in Kenya into sugarcane plantations.
The Tana River Delta is one of Kenya’s largest and most important freshwater wetland systems with a significant local community of cattle herders and others dependent on it and having been so for centuries. As a wildlife refuge it is particularly important site for thousands of breeding birds as well as a feeding site many more – with 15,000 water birds of 69 species counted on just one day in January 2007including 1,600 herons, a flock of 1,400 Open-billed Stork, 58 Allen’s Gallinules, a single flock of 2,500 Ruff, 3,200 terns, a flock of 76 African Skimmers etc…, – and that was only covering a small proportion (c.15% max) of the whole delta on a random day. Systematic observing would produce many more valuable sightings. There is a major heronry in the delta, the only one for some 100s of kms, it is a highly important breeding site for fish and there are still elephant, lion, quite a lot of plains game and probably 800+ hippo in the delta (a count of 400 together in just one pool was made in 2006).
The Tana Delta is under serious threat of destruction from a proposed sugar plantation development that will cover an area of 33,000ha (80,000acres – about the same size as Amboseli National Park) and will have massive environmental and social impacts on the area. The plantations will stretch right into the heart of the main wetland area and not be restricted to the bush area to the north as previously thought.
River deltas are known for being fragile, dynamic and extremely rich and important wetland systems, flooding in times of good rain and later drying out again. Any small amount of playing with the hydrological systems will upset the delicate natural balance and wreak havoc on the ecosystem. To put sugar plantations right into the heart of the Tana Delta will spell the end of the delta. Sugar is widely known as an ecological desert in itself and the effluent and pollution from the processing plants in Africa is highly damaging as will be the impact of the many 100s (1,000s?) of workers and others who will be attracted to the area and who will need food, water and somwhere to rid their sewage and rubbish.
It will be a national natural disaster if this development is allowed to go ahead the way it is currently planned. The local community living in the delta, represented by the Lower Tana River Delta Conservation Trust, are fighting it hard and need all the support they can get.
Please write an email of even a single line to the following addresses expressing your concern about the project – this needs to be done by the closing date for comments which is 28th August:
TISP EIA Team Leader:
and cc to:
Thank you for your support.
— — — — — — — — — — – — — — — — — — — — – — — —
Mwamba Bird Observatory & Field Study Centre,
A Rocha Kenya
PO Box 383
Tel: +254-(0)42-32023 (O), 32037 (H)