Our community and conservation news from the Masai Mara
As part of our new conservation partnership with the Kenya Bird of Prey Trust, we welcomed two of their directors, Shiv Kapila and Stratton Hatfield, to Little Governors’ Camp over the final weekend in September. Our guiding team at Little Governors’ Camp learnt a lot about the work of the Mara Raptor Project and had plenty of interesting questions answered.
The guides discovered how they can assist in the work of the project by photographing any satellite tagged or ringed/banded raptors and sending these images along with coordinates of the location seen into the project to add to the database. Our guests are encouraged to do the same.
Kenya Bird of Prey Trust gives a presentation to guides at Little Governors’ Camp
The MRP is particularly interested in the ecology of martial eagles – one of Africa’s largest raptor species. Again, our guides are in a unique position to provide direct information regarding the prey species of any martial kills that they witness. Photos that clearly show the band and the prey species are very valuable to the project, such as this one below.
Martial eagle with Hadada ibis kill – photo credit Marco Carniel and Steve Narasha
Guide Collins was especially lucky as he was able to take Shiv and Stratton out on a game drive in search of the critically endangered white-headed vultures that had been spotted from Governors’ Balloon Safaris last month. We found the nest just as a heavy rainstorm set in, so we took the opportunity to ask the directors all things raptor!
Guide Collins and Shiv talk about the ways the Governors’ guides can assist with raptor research.
Masai Mara rainstorm in September.
On our way back into camp, we witnessed our resident leopardess, Romi, ambush and kill a fully-grown lone male impala! Unfortunately it was getting too dark to take photos, but it was a memorable moment indeed.
Early the next morning we took to the skies in one of the Governors’ hot-air balloons to observe nest sites from the air. We were able to locate hooded vulture, Wahlburg’s eagle, martial eagle, white-backed vulture, bateleur and tawny eagle nests.
Stratton and Shiv on the look out for raptors from the balloon basket.
The highlight was flying past the white-headed vulture nest in the enormous African greenheart tree and to see that the egg had hatched; a tiny, fluffy, white chick was present and both of its parents were nearby!
A white-headed vulture spotted from the flight.
Stratton, who is one of Kenya’s top ornithologists, was extremely excited to also spot a great snipe, which he had not seen before in Kenya, as well as a purple heron – a species that has only been recorded a couple of times in the Masai Mara.
Governors’ Balloon Safaris flies over the great Migration
On Friday the 17th we distributed over three tons of food to the Mara Rianda and Aitong communities, using our last remaining funds kindly donated by the Mara Rianda Charitable Trust (85%) and other funds sent in by individual donors (15%). Since the funding was reduced compared to previous months, we were only able to provide just the very basics (beans, maize flour, rice and bars of soap) in order that we could continue to help all 280 of the families. They were as thankful as ever to receive this support. We are hopeful that as tourism continues to open up slowly, some of the financial pressures they have been facing will also begin to ease.
Our latest Masai Mara food drive
Our migration crossing-point patrol vehicle is now in use and has already covered well over 1500km of ground. This is one of our old Land Rovers which has been refurbished by our workshop team at Governors’ Camp. We were helping the Narok County Government rangers to patrol the main wildebeest crossing sites during August and September and to ease any disturbance to the herds by tourist vehicles. We have provided the car and a driver to transport the rangers between crossing points during the day.
The car is also being used to assist our community liaison officer to travel between the various villages to check up on the progress of construction works that we are helping to facilitate, such as the new Enkereri Primary School boys dormitory and the new staff accommodation building at The Mara Rianda Health Clinic.
Foundations for Enkereri Primary School boys dormitory
Loldia House supports The Kenya Bird of Prey Trust
We have purchased ten owl-nesting boxes from The Kenya Bird of Prey Trust as part of their outreach program in order to try and boost owl numbers on Loldia Ranch. Five were made specifically for barn owls which will be placed atop buildings and the others for spotted eagle owls will be assembled in tall trees.
A spotted eagle owl on Loldia Ranch
Owls are completely harmless to humans yet they are feared by many people in Kenya due to cultural taboos and superstitions. They are one of the most economically valuable wildlife animals for agriculture, catching up to 2000 mice per year (more effective at keeping down rodent pests than poison). Since Loldia Ranch also encompasses an agricultural farm we felt this would be the perfect place for them to thrive without persecution. We look forward to sharing news from the boxes once some owls move in!
Barn owl – photo credit Will Fortescue
The final Loldia community food drive saw the distribution of two tons of food to our neighbours living in Kasarani Village on the 9th of September. Many thanks as always go to the Chairman’s Foundation via the Wilderness Trust for supporting this, as well as all of the previous Loldia food drives.
The Loldia team facilitates a much-needed food drive.
“Let me say that it’s a rare thing to find generous people. Thoughtfulness and Kindness is just what you do and you do it so well! Thanks a ton for everything”~ Sarah Njoki, Chief of Kasarani Village.
Loldia Primary School has completed a new kitchen and construction began on their new dining hall with donations from Kenya’s Vice President Mr. Ruto. Unfortunately the funds were not sufficient to complete the dining hall project. Donations through The Trust for African Schools have ensured the building activities could continue. Thankfully, one of Loldia Primary School’s most active donors, Ms. Grace Gray from the UK has committed to funding the dining hall until its completion.
The new Loldia Primary School dining hall.
This is wonderful news indeed for the students at LPS and the Kasarani community as a whole. The school children will soon be able to have their lunches in an environment protected from any prevailing elements. Hopefully, the hall can also serve as a Community Centre for the people of Kasarani. Hopes are that the project will be completed in the next couple of months.
Funds are still needed for dining tables and food utensils. If you are in a position to help us supply some of these for the school we would be incredibly grateful. There is also a need to supply food for some of the most needy children. It costs just USD3 per month to supply a meal each day to a child, and yet the vast majority of the kids’ parents are not in a position to pay this so their children must skip lunch each day. Any donation amount will go a long way towards providing the basic supplies that they require. Donations can be made via our secure online payment link.
Community news from Governors’ Mugie House, Laikipia
On the 10th of September our Governors’ Mugie House team with the support of the Mugie Conservancy and Ekorian Camp staff, visited eight schools (both primary and secondary) in Laikipia, in order to distribute much needed supplies to the children. Over 2500 pupils, teachers and other staff benefited from the support. A full day was spent loading and unloading over three tons worth of food over miles and miles of bumpy roads! The recipients of the support have been incredibly grateful.
Even on a food drive, one can come across amazing wildlife out here in Kenya; a large male leopard with a somewhat unusual, almost jaguar-like rosette pattern, and the Akimat lion pride were all spotted on the way back to Governors’ Mugie House following the distribution events!
We would like to sincerely thank The Chairman’s Foundation, via the Wilderness Trust for their enormous financial support of our Laikipia food drives over the past year. None of this would have been possible without their help.
Global days in the world of wildlife
September 22nd was World Rhino Day. These ancient creatures symbolise the perils facing our natural world more than any other. At the start of the 1900’s the global rhino population was around half a million animals. By 1970, just 70,000 roamed the wild. Today, the number has plummeted to only around 28,000.
There are five species of rhino. Four of the five are threatened with extinction. Three of those are critically endangered, meaning they could go extinct in our lifetime. Threats to rhino populations include habitat loss and fragmented populations that inhibit breeding. However, poaching to meet the illegal demand for rhino horn on the black market (mainly in Vietnam) remains the largest threat to their survival.
Both black and white rhinos can be found in Kenya, whilst in 2017, following a decade-long absence, 18 black rhinos were reintroduced into Akagera Park in Rwanda.
White rhinos are listed as “Near Threatened” with an estimated population of between 17,212 – 18,915. After experiencing a short reduction in poaching in 2020, due largely to border closures and lockdowns as a result of Covid-19 mitigation measures, white rhino poaching incidents are again on the rise resulting in their continued population decline.
There are two living white rhino subspecies, northern and southern. The northern white subspecies was officially declared extinct in the wild in 2018, following the death of the last male, Sudan. Today, the only two living northern white rhinos in the world are two females at the Ol Pejeta conservancy in Laikipia (Kenya). Advancements in Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) continue to show promise for rhino breeding. Reproductive scientists from Biorescue have harvested, fertilized, and frozen eggs harvested from the living females and frozen semen samples from deceased male northern white rhinos. There is still a long way to go before a northern white rhino calf could be created through this technology, and due to their advanced age, neither of the remaining females are capable of carrying a calf to term, so a surrogate mother will be selected from a population of southern white rhinos if a viable embryo is developed.
Northern white rhino – photo credit Will Fortescue.
Black rhinos are listed as critically endangered with only 5,366 – 5,630 individuals remaining. Though still recovering from devastating poaching losses since the 1970’s, the black rhino has seen an encouraging population increase of 16 – 17% over the past decade.
A black rhino in Kenya’s Masai Mara.
In the early 1980s, the Kenyan government, realising that the black rhino was headed for local extinction, implemented several strategies aimed at saving the species. One collaborative strategy was to place the remaining black rhinos into relatively small, intensively protected fenced sanctuaries on government and private land. Kenya produces a new Black Rhino Action Plan every five years. The current plan’s goal is to achieve a population of 830 black rhinos by the end of 2021. Kenya’s worst year for poaching was in 2013 when 59 animals were killed – more than 5% of the national population. The poaching rate has since declined, with just four animals poached in 2019 and none during 2020 – the first zero-poaching year in 21 years.
You can help in making a difference to the survival of these iconic creatures by doing any of the following:
September 24th was World Gorilla Day. A day to remind ourselves that we need to continue our commitment to protecting gorillas in the wild and to raise awareness for gorilla conservation globally.
Baby mountain gorilla – photo credit Alisa Karstad.
It was also a very special day in Rwanda as they hosted their annual Kwita Izina naming ceremony. Each of the 24 infant mountain gorillas born last year in Volcanoes National Park were named. If you’d like to get involved and help to save gorillas here are some things you can easily do:
If you feel in any way moved by any of these initiatives, and you would like to support us, you can make a donation of any kind through the Governors’ Camp Collection Community and Conservation Trust’s secure online payment portal. We will ensure that any funds you send are used to directly improve the lives and well being of our community neighbours and wildlife. Thank you!
By Alisa Karstad, Community and Conservation Manager for Governors’ Camp Collection.