Community & Conservation Laikipia Loldia House Masai Mara

Reforestation efforts and understanding reptiles and amphibians in Kenya.

Masai Mara

Reptile and amphibian course

The highlight this month was welcoming herpetologist expert, Stephen Spawls to the Masai Mara. He travelled from the UK in order to spend one week with our guiding team.

Thirty guides attended the course, including our small team from Governors’ Mugie. It was an absolute privilege to learn first-hand from Steve and our guides have come away from the course with a deeper understanding of the often overlooked ‘cold-blooded’ world of frogs, snakes, lizards and tortoises.

Governors’ Camp guides with Stephen Spawls – photo credit Alisa Karstad

Topics ranged from the identification and biology of reptiles and amphibians, to their ecology, conservation and awareness. We covered how to safely find, observe, collect and handle them. It was also important to learn how to get good photographs of reptiles and amphibians, which will be useful when we have guests who have a special interest in seeing them.

Learning all about reptiles – photo credit Alisa Karstad

A major issue that was discussed was snakebite; knowing which species are dangerous, how to avoid being bitten and how to administer first aid and seek medical treatment. There were morning talks accompanied by PowerPoint presentations and quizzes, followed by afternoon practical sessions and fieldwork.

Highlights included collecting reed frogs at night around the edges of the Little Governors’ Camp marsh (we had to abandon the collecting mission a few times because a big bull elephant seemed to want to keep investigating what we were up to)! The second group were very lucky to find a female puff adder- one of Africa’s most venomous snakes; this was expertly handled by Steve to demonstrate how to safely pick up and remove a dangerous snake. We really enjoyed the photo sessions where we were able to get behind the scenes tips and tricks that help when photographing reptiles and amphibians.

A common reed frog – Photo credit Alisa Karstad

There were plenty of entertaining moments, including when Steve emptied a big rubber snake out of a cloth bag onto the table without thinking and the guides all got the fright of their lives, falling over each other to get away as they thought it was real!

There was also plenty of humour when we found a Battersby’s green snake in one of the trees. Steve tried to catch it and it dropped to the ground, followed very quickly by Steve (who is in his 70’s) – the guides were most impressed by his lightning fast reflexes!

A Battersby’s green snake – photo credit Alisa Karstad

Steve is the co-author of many books including Kenya: A Natural History, Field Guide to East African Reptiles and Dangerous Snakes of Africa, all of which provide excellent learning material and are highly recommended.

Mara Predator Conservation Programme 

A student, David Pesi, who was originally supported a little bit through secondary school by the Mara Rianda Charitable Trust, is now attending ICS College studying Tourism Management. Each month we cover his rent in an effort to help him continue pursuing his dreams.

He recently spent his holiday at Governors’ Camp and took the opportunity to get involved with some of our sustainability efforts. This included helping with our tree planting programme which saw him distribute 69 indigenous tree seedlings to the Mara Predator Conservation Programme for planting in and around their headquarters.

Following his request for us to help with providing rubbish bins to a nearby cultural village, we were pleased to donate two used oil drums to MPCP which will be painted with our logo and then used at the village.

Seedlings and used oil drums- Photo credit Mara Predator Conservation Programme

He also had found a sponsor of his own accord to help provide sanitary pads to 120 school girls at Mara Rianda. His efforts are highly commendable and we hope he has inspired some of the younger generation to take part in conservation activities.

In-camp Sustainability

With David’s help we planted a further 100 trees this month both in and around our camps and in Aitong and Mara Rianda villages. Each seedling is carefully nurtured by Fred, our gardener in our little nursery before being planted out.

Fred is in charge of the garden and nursery at Governors’ Camp – photo credit Felix Rome

We use tree protectors for as many of them as we can, to prevent herbivores from eating them before they have the chance to grow.

Tree protectors made by our vehicle workshop at Governors’ Camp – photo credit Felix Rome

Our team pulled out 9.8 km of Datura stramonium (an invasive weed) from Governors’ Camp to the Musiara Gate as well as along the road to Little Governors’ Camp from Il Moran and the road from Governors’ Camp to Private Camp.

Great Rift Valley

TAFA Soccer Academy

This month was very exciting for some of the children from TAFA as we sponsored field trips for them to two important centres of conservation in The Great Rift Valley.

On the first trip, thirty students travelled to the Elsamere Education Center which is on the other side of Lake Naivasha. Established in 1963 by Joy Adamson (the author of ‘Born Free’) and her husband George, the Elsa Conservation Trust is dedicated to educating young Kenyans on the importance of wildlife conservation. Here they listened to a 45-minute conservation lesson, learnt about the ecology of Lake Naivasha, visited the Joy and George Adamson Museum, went for a Nature walk and planted 3 trees.

TAFA kids get ready to plant trees at Elsamere

They then visited the Kenya Bird of Prey Trust’s Naivasha Raptor Center, where Leah and Jonathan welcomed them in and educated them of the need to protect and restore bird of prey populations in Kenya. Birds of prey are often maligned by local communities as they are shrouded in myths and legends that stem from a deep misunderstanding of the true importance of birds.

They got to meet many of the rescued birds, including getting up close and personal with Phil, a friendly Verreaux’s eagle owl.  Having Phil perch on their gloved hands, will have changed their young minds about owls in a way that we hope will benefit owl/bird conservation in Kenya.

With Phil the Verreaux’s eagle owl

“We at TAFA understand the reason and need to protect and restore bird of prey populations in Kenya. Words are not enough to thank you and together with Governors’ Camps and Loldia House I submit my sincere gratitude to you” ~ Sammy, Founder & Coach of TAFA.

A letter of thanks from one of the TAFA children

The second field trip involved twelve kids visiting Loldia House for an educational morning on the lake and on the conservancy. We regularly offer these trips because many of the TAFA children come from disadvantaged backgrounds and have never before been exposed to wildlife and wild places. We hope that memories of the day will stay with them for many years to come and plant a seed in their young minds that helps to aspire to protect their natural heritage.

Enjoying the views from out on Lake Naivasha

We also continued our monthly food support to the project. Each month we cover the costs involved with providing a daily cup of finger-millet porridge to the kids. This helps to ensure that no matter how difficult their home life may be, they are always guaranteed a meal at the center.

A cup of ‘Uji’ is appreciated by all – photo credit Nick Penny 

EcoTourism Kenya

We welcomed back the audit team from EcoToursim Kenya, this time to Loldia House for its first ever EcoTourism audit. As with the Mara audits, the team were keen to learn about all of our sustainability efforts, our ongoing commitment to ensuring our staff work in a safe workplace and of course our community and conservation efforts in the region. We look forward to sharing the results of this audit in due course.

Laikipia

In April, Mugie Conservancy received an equal amount of rain to that of the entire 2022 year, this made for a very green May, with plenty of wildflowers and new shoots all across the conservancy.

We finally received good rainfall on Mugie – photo credit Felix Rome

Following the lion collaring exercise last month, it is great to see tracking data available for all five lions via the EarthRanger platform. These collars are being used for real-time Human-Wildlife mitigation strategies.

Sarabi is the latest female to be fitted with a collar. Sarabi means ‘mirage’ in Kiswahili; you may recognise it as the name given to Simba’s mother in Disney’s The Lion King.

One of the four collared lionesses on Mugie – photo credit Felix Rome

Mfalme is the male, he is the only male so far to be collared on Mugie. His name means The King in Kiswahili.  The other three previously collared are Gaby, Esmi and Walimu.

The A4 road that bisects Mugie poses a conservation challenge as it splits the conservancy in two. Wildlife collars and camera traps help to build databases that can be used to inform policymakers about issues such as the location of wildlife corridors, speed bumps and overpasses that help to protect a host of different species living on the conservancy.

A lioness walks along the tarmac road on Mugie – photo credit Felix Rome

Mugie conservancy has started the process to establish a lion database using The Lion Identification Network of Collaborators (LINC). The platform will provide an opportunity of uniquely identifying each individual lion in the conservancy and contributing to the build-up of the national lion database.

Our guests can head out with our guides to track the lions and learn about this unique twenty-first century model of conservation.

Governors’ Mugie guide Solomon looks for lions using our very own tracking equipment – photo credit Felix Rome

The Moyo Foundation

Every second month we sponsor a medical outreach clinic for remote communities living in the areas surrounding Mugie Conservancy in Laikipia. These outreaches bring vital medicines and knowledgeable personnel to people who would otherwise not have access to such resources. During the outreaches, the small team sees hundreds of patients, mainly women and children. Therefore, it is a perfect opportunity to provide de-wormers and vitamin supplements to the children who are often suffering from malnourishment in various degrees.

Intestinal worms are prevalent in children living in tropical Africa; they can have significant effects on learning and growth as the worms are parasites that use much of the limited food the children eat. Family planning techniques are discussed with the ladies to help prevent unwanted pregnancies occurring, especially in the younger women and teenagers.

A medical outreach clinic on Mugie – photo credit Nick Penny

The Bloodhound Unit

To support the rangers on the ground in their operations, Mugie has a K9 team composed of three dogs and four handlers. The unit plays a key role in tracking down suspects and over the years it has helped Mugie solve several wildlife crime incidents and petty crimes in the nearby villages. Our guests are welcome to visit the dogs where they can enjoy a tracking demonstration.

Mugie’s bloodhound unit is open to guests for a fun tracking demonstration – photo credit Harry Blakey 

By Alisa Karstad, Community and Conservation Manager for Governors’ Camp Collection. If you would like to learn more about any of our Community & Conservation efforts you can reach out to us via email info@governorscamp.com.

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