A Most Interesting Parasitic Flower

On a recent backpacking trip through the Mathew’s Range we ran into a few examples of this most stunning plant.  A bit of research suggested that it could possibly be Hydnora africana, a parasitic of Euphorbia.  The description that we found online though shows a Euphorbia very different from the ones that we have in the Mathews and we wondered if  this Hydnora could possibly be a different species.

…Interesting.  Anyone have a clue?

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Lion Eats Camera Trap

When Tumaren Rangers, Nuno, longamon and Kichine heard that 8 of the neighbors cows had been killed by lions after they had been left out for the night, they rushed to the scene to place a cameratrap on the carcasses.  When they returned in the morning they could see by the tracks that a Lion had returned and fed then paced all about where the cameratrap had been.  Yet, tho and behold, the cameratrap was gone!  They suspected foul play but could see no sign of human tracks.  They decided to follow the lionesses tracks instead.  Over the course of half a kilometer they followed her tracks until they came upon the rather bruised camertrap with a whole through its glass.  The lioness at this point let out a growl from adjacent bush and the Rangers left.  Later ranger Kichine while walking in the same area found why this lioness has been so faithful to this little patch of bush – she has 3 kittens!  We have spoken now to all our rangers, congratulating them firstly on their discovery and asking them to leave this area alone for several more months until our lioness and her young move on.  The following is a picture of mumma lioness minutes before she took the camera and then a picture of the camera itself with bite marks and a damaged glass.

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Baby Aardvark Rescue Part 2

Excellent news, the baby Aardvark (who we may have named Aarthur) has survived his operation.  For three hours Dr. Dietter Rottcher and Dr. Sanjay Gautama worked on a broken hind femur which was snapped clear in 2.  They put in a metal pin, a standard operation for a dog but for a species as different as an Aardvark, rather unchartered territory.  Both Doctors reported just how different his anatomy was and how the articulation at the joints was utterly odd.  Their best accesible anatomy book was for a Dog’s muscles which is rather like using a Ford Fairmount Manual to drive the Space Shuttle. The most frightening part of the surgery though was the anaesthesia.

As part of our research we contacted a series of specialist Vets and Curators connected to American Zoos. Dr. Roberto Aguilar Veterinary Advisor – Xenartha Taxon Advisory Group was very helpful in recomending specific drugs and techniques that have worked well for him in surgery with Aardvarks and Pangolins.   I cant remember the specific drug that Dr. Rottcher used but he mentioned that it was an ‘old fashioned’ one and that he did not have access to many of the modern drugs mentioned in the email from Dr. Aguilar. This had us worried, especially when it took Aarthur so long to come out of his drugged state.  When we visited him in the evening at 7pm Aarthur was still totally out of it and unable to drink or eat.  This was 4 hours after the surgery. Under the close and compassionate care of the Rottcher Family though, Aarthur made it through the night drinking  roughly 90 Ml of his milk and termite milk shake when he finally stirred in the early hours of the morning.

Now Arthur has been home with us for a full 24 hours. He is eating well and sleeping well and is living now by the foot of our bed in a wooden box to contain his movement of his injured limb.  We are feeding him every 2-3 hours but hope that we can find an easier schedule as we get to know Aarthur’s needs.  A number of people besides those mentioned above have been very helpful advising us on how best to care for an Aardvark. We thank them for their kindness and they are mentioned in no particular order below:

John Gramieri – Mammal Curator San Antonia Zoo

Angela Price – Memphis Zoo

Joe Flanagan – Houston Zoo

Ron Surratt – Ft Worth Zoo

Sheryl Dikeman – Omaha Zoo

Doug Armstrong – Omaha Zoo

Mandi Olsen – Omaha Zoo

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Baby Aardvark Rescue

This baby Aardvark was found during one of our camel safaris on Aug. 28th. This morning I took him to the vet for an x-ray after sleeping with him in the same bed. He has a broken leg and rib. The leg surgery on Thursday will be long says Dieter Rottcher the leading wildlife vet here. We just hope he will make it till thurs….

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Pictures of 2 Rare Antelope on Tumaren

Two of our hardest to see animals are pictured here, a Bush Duiker and a male Bushbuck.  While common in other parts of Kenya they are infrequent in our area and we see them only occasionally.  Both of these animals have been spending quite a bit of time near our camp on the river recently and it has been nice to have them around.

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Baby Elephant Rescue

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Elephant in Mourning

It is too easy to give animals human attributes, particularly when you have an animal dealing with the death of one of its own.  Yet the following pictures, that were taken over a 24 hour period after a young female elephant’s death, are compelling and leave little doubt that animals mourn.

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In the next two shots the mother lies down beside her calf and sleeps for several hours. At this point the young Elephant had been dead for more than 12 hours.

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Elephants Dying From Mysterious Disease

In the past month a number of Elephants in our area have died of a strange, yet undiagnosed (atleast by us) disease.  Our tracker Leshilling Lemanyass says that he has seen this problem with Elephants many times and that he suspects it effects their stomach and digestion.  We have found two sick animals on us both of whom appeared to have trouble passing their manure (legs spread in a prolonged and uncomfortable looking way).  Our guys who work for us as Rangers and as trackers on our safaris have also described skin problems corresponding with this disease.  If anyone knows anything about this disease which has been killing many elephants in the greater Laikipia / Samburu area we would love to know the what it is.  These sad pictures are of a young female that we found this morning as it was dying.  Its mother was still guarding it and it was only for a few minutes that we were able to get to her.  We assumed that she was already dead but she was still breathing but with no movement from any other part of her body besides her blinking eyelid. Very sad.

This is an image of the mother and matriarch guarding the body:

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Wilddogs coming out of our ears!

30 Wilddog at Tumaren yesterday drinking water about our river camp!  I sent the pictures to the Laikipia Wilddog Project with two close ups of 2 of their collared animals.  Kayna from the LWP was able to confirm the identity of both dogs based on markings, one of which was the alpha male.  This particular pack also is one that typically spends more time north of here and it was informative for Kayna to know that they sometimes also frequent our area.  Now she says that when she cant get a signal during their tracking flights that they will remember to cover our area as well to see if they are in our neck of the woods.  Such incredible animals.

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This is the alpha male:

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