On the 6th of September at 10am in the morning wilddogs were seen hunting around Tumaren Camp. A walking safari nearby were able to see the dogs briefly as they tore off after some Impala. This is not an uncommon observation on our trips and we see wilddogs often hunting in the area. While some lodges in Kenya use radio telemetry to find their wilddogs, we prefer old school tracking and spotting to the ‘canned hunt’ approach. It was thrilling then to see that our pack had some very new pups with them as well.
Kechine, one of our lead rangers continued to follow the wilddogs as they descended toward one of our dams. In thick bush he was able to catch up with the dogs just as they met with an adult lioness. There was a standoff just before the Lioness lunged and was able to grab one of the new pups. She promptly killed the dog while the rest of the pack circled in obvious concern and stress. A rather sad day for our dogs but a very interesting interaction that Kechine (also pictured below) was able to observe and document on his new Nikon camera.
Did you know that Sir David Attenborough’s introduction to his series Africa was shot in Laikipia? We are among the very few operators who ever visit this stunning spot and it is a pleasure to know it also appeals to our hero, Sir DA.
Tumaren is booming and the wildlife are all breeding, frolicking and fighting. THIS is the time to be on safari! I have never been able to fathom why so many people and agents steer guests away from Kenya during the rains. It is by far my own favorite time to be on safari and more international visitors should know about how nice it is.
The rain brings out lots of life that has to hide away during the long dry periods. The tortoises start to roam widely in our area and begin to search out mates. Insects of all color and shape emerge to pollinate or eat the equally diverse collection of flowering plants that erupt. Birds are nesting and the young attract the attention of many kinds of predator. The lush vegetation prompts most of the plains game to go into breeding mode – the stallion zebras fighting off advances from other males while the gazelles too come into season and begin to drop their young in the long grass. Its a predator’s dreamscape.
To give an idea of what people are missing by not travelling during the rains, here are are just a few images from a 2 hour game drive in Samburu. I didn’t stop for the bugs or flowers as there were just too many for the kids in my car.
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).
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:
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.
We got this big boy last night out on the road. you can see the setting moonlight in the background. We think he is the same mail we got in our cameratrap at an Impala Kill earlier in the year. Fortunately, he did not find the Easter Bunny who did visit us with chocholate this morning.
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.