Thursday, December 8, 2016

Celebrating being the Eco-Warrior best guide of the year (2016) award

I am so glad to have been voted this year as the winner of the annual Eco-Warrior award as the guide of the year. The award recognizes sustainable tourism/conservation practices. I was voted for my role in the vultures research and conservation awareness in schools around the Mara on the plight of the vultures on the Mara-Serengeti Ecosystem. This has been alongside my busy schedule as a guide.

Since 1996, I have been involved in the study of the vultures in the Mara, looking at their breeding status and their general concentration. From 2003, i  teamed up with other researchers, Simon Thomset, Munir Virani (both from peregrine fund) and Corinne Kendall of Princeton University, so as to lift the level of research and data collection for scientific publication. We have published 2 papers so far;In 2008 October, the BBC natural history aired this project during the Big Cat Live program.
Some of the questions that we seek to answer are:
1  What factors drive the dynamics of the Mara vulture population?
2  Are any species declining?

3  What is their breeding status?
4  Do the resident species have a breeding season?
5  What are the threats affecting vultures in the Mara?

Populations of vultures in Africa have generally declined due to various threats such as poisoning, persecution, and lack of food and nesting habitats. At least three species of Gyps vultures in south Asia are listed as critically endangered by the IUCN's Red Data Book due to poisoning by the pharmaceutical drug diclofenac from contaminated livestock carcasses that have caused populations of these species to crash by as much as 95%. This was first highlighted inKenya in 2002.
Vultures in Africa, in particular in East Africa, face a threat from the effects of poisoning of terrestrial predators and possible effects of pharmaceutical poisoning through contaminated livestock carcasses. A catastrophic collapse of vultures in the Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem could have dire ecological and socio-economical consequences for the future of the Mara National Reserve. The Serengeti-Mara ecosystem is the main feeding, foraging and breeding grounds in East Africa for the vast majority of vultures in the region yet little has been done to study these dynamics in the Mara. 
The Serengeti-Mara complex is one of the most well studied ecosystems in Africa except for its birds of prey, six of which are regionally threatened. There is justified concern amongst the conservation community that rapidly changing land-uses threatens the future of this World Heritage Site. The status of vultures in general has been ignored as far as data on their distribution, abundance, threats, ecology and behaviour is concerned.
Vultures play a key ecological role in the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem by consuming large ungulate carcasses, therefore ridding the environment of potential disease causing organisms that could threaten the survival of other inter­dependent and co-existing species. They account for
nearly 70% of the consumption of large wild herbivores in the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem. Put in this perspective, the ecological role of the vulture community in the Serengeti/Mara is of greater importance than all the carnivores and mammalian scavengers combined. All too often, wildlife management policies have ignored vultures and concentrated their research and resources on the photogenic "Big Five", with little or no concern for what are certainly the most ecologically important animals, such as vultures. The catastrophic collapse of vulture populations in South Asia has raised the profile of these efficient avian scavengers. Mechanisms are already in place where research and monitoring of vultures can help in preventing a similar population crash inAfrica.

Monday, October 3, 2016

A great photographic safari in the "Pearl Of Africa"

After a great migration safari in Masai Mara, I headed of west, in pursuit of the primates on a photographic safari with Nathab/WWF. Our first stop was at Kibale forest in Uganda where we had great opportunity to photograph the chimpanzees. On top of tracking the chimps in the forest, we did a walk at Bigodi swamp as a warm to the main tracking activity.
Kibale National Park contains one of the loveliest and most varied tracts of tropical forest in Uganda. Forest cover, interspersed with patches of grassland and swamp, dominates the northern and central parts of the park on an elevated plateau. 
The park is home to a total of 70 mammals species, most famously 13 species of primate including the chimanzee.
It also contains over 375 species of birds. Kibale adjoins Queen Elizabeth National Park to the south to create a 180km-long corridor for wildlife between Ishasha, the remote southern sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park, and Sebitoli in the north of Kibale National Park. The Kibale-Fort Portal area is one of Uganda’s most rewarding destinations to explore. The park lies close to the tranquil Ndali-Kasenda crater area and within half a day’s drive of the Queen Elizabeth, Rwenzori mountains and Semliki National Parks, as well as the Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve. We stayed at a beautiful lodge (Ndali) which sits on the rim of crater lake. The location gives you stunning views of the surrounding, whether looking west or east.
After Kibale and Queen Elizabeth National park, we proceeded to Bwindi.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park lies in southwestern Uganda on the edge of the Rift Valley. Its mist-covered hillsides are blanketed by one of Uganda's oldest and most biologically diverse rainforests, which dates back many years and contains almost 400 species of plants. More famously, this “impenetrable forest” also protects an estimated 400 mountain gorillas– roughly half of the world’s population, including several habituated groups, which can be tracked.
On our safari, we tracked Rushegura group which has 16 members, which includes one silverback and two black-backs. We also tracked Mubare or "M" Group which has 15 members. There is only one silverback in this group. Gorilla tracking is the park's main tourist attraction. Tourists wishing to track gorillas must first obtain a permit to do so. Gorilla tracking generate much revenue for Uganda Wildlife Authority and neighboring communities which is crucial for gorilla conservation. The gorillas seldom react to tourists and there is plenty of photographic opportunities over the one hour viewing time. There are strict rules for tourists to minimize the risk of diseases passing from them to the gorillas.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Migration update- Late July 2016

The concentration of the migrating herds is at two major areas, The Mara triangle (where most of the herds are at the moment and east towards Keekorok lodge. Th eother areas of eh reserve and conservancies have patchy herds. The Serengeti herds in the past week kept streaming into the Mara triangle, with heavy crossings by lookout hill. These kept crossing the River by look out hill over the week. Most of the Mara plains are still teeming with a sea of over grown red oat grass. To most herbivores this is quite tough and rough for them and this explains why the herds have just been rushing through the reserve when there is plenty of grass.

The have a heavy crossing activity at the paradise crossing point over the week as herds cross over to the west of the Mara River. These have been moving across Paradise plain to the River and crossing over west. Many have been dying from predation by crocodiles and others from trampling in the stampede in the river. It is a week full of excitement for the Mara visitors some of whom had to stay the whole day to witness this natural phenomenon. Northern Serengeti is now quiet with few wildebeests, but still active with its cats.

Crossing point
Crossing point 
Exit stampede

The herds on the move

Great photo opportunity with nice sunsets/rise

The clean-up squad are always there to do their job

Lions get an easy meal during the migration

Many of the wildebeests fall prey to predators

For Many Mara lions, the migration is a time for procreation

Common sight in the Mara now, Wildebeests and other herbivores all over

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Wildebeests Migration progress in Masai Mara

The movement of the migrating wildebeests in the Mara progressed fast over the past few days. It took the wildebeests only took 2 days from the central plains to get to the Mara river and are now across on the Mara triangle. There have been a lot of animals crossing over the last few days
The herds which had gathered south of the Talek on Burrungat plains have been crossing north of the river, and have proceeded all the way upto Double Crossing area and some of the herds are already heading to Topi plains. The crossings were quite slow but dramatic to see the wildebeests crossing the almost dry river in such a rush creating a cloud of dust in the process. The Olkiombo and Rekero prides of lions have suddenly waken up to a feast. They have been making kills almost daily at the river crossing on the Talek, when the animals come to cross.
The rest of the herds that proceeded towards the lower side of the Talek have been crossing near Rekero camp. I reckon these will head towards paradise crossing and then over to the triangle.

Down at Look out hill there were heavy crossings two days ago, which continued yesterday. Many animals are crossing over to the triangle. The crossings however have been somehow easy for the animals in many places as the water is lower. There have been a lot of crocodiles attach in the river.  There is still plenty of grass on the Mara plains. We expect a bit of rain this month and that will bring out even more grass.