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.
Today we went to Nanyuki and around midday we began to see billowing smoke coming from up from the Mt. Kenya forest. We were told that the fire has been going for several days, that the British Army was helping to contain it and that it appeared to be largely contained this morning. Winds in the afternoon though got the fire raging and now at 9:00 at night almost the entire Mountain is aglow in embers. At Tumaren we are 70km from Mount Kenya and the ring of fire looks to cover a very substantial area from here. We can only hope that much of the primordial forests are spared and that much of the burning is in the understory and not in the canopy of the large Olives and Cedars. Hopefully we will know more in the morning.
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.