Mara Raptor Project
July is the peak breeding season for most of the raptors that nest in the Mara. The Mara Raptor Project team has been busy monitoring over 100 active nests in the National Reserve. These include 20 endangered lappet-faced vulture nests and 58 critically endangered African white-backed vulture nests.
Lemein Par monitoring the nest of our resident martial eagles – photo credit Alisa Karstad
Very sadly, the martial eagle chick which hatched a couple of months ago to our resident pair of eagles was found dead at the base of the tree two weeks ago. It’s thought that it may have fallen out of its nest during strong winds. This is a great shame as martial eagles rarely breed more than once in every two years, though they may attempt to lay an egg each year if conditions are favourable.
As an endangered species, it is important for us to learn and understand as much about the ecology of these birds in order to better protect them. We have named the parents ‘Robin’ and ‘Nancy’ in honour of the original managers of Governors’ Camps – and we hope that they will have better success in raising a chick to fledging next year.
We made a contribution towards the general running of the Mara Raptor Project which will help to keep Lemein Par in the field monitoring these important birds.
Lemein Par monitoring a lappet-faced vulture nest – photo credit Alisa Karstad
Mara Predator Conservation Program
This month we were pleased to be able to assist three of the team members from the Mara Predator Conservation Program with complimentary flights from the Masai Mara to Nairobi. By offering flights at no cost for their staff who need to travel between the Masai Mara and Nairobi for work, we help to ensure that their organisations limited resources can be spent focusing on scientific research of predators or assisting with community outreach activities, rather than being taken up by travel expenses.
Assistant researcher Brian Kaelo was able to avail of a flight ticket; one of the many benefits offered by our conservation partnership – photo credit Fernando Faciole
We also supported the printing of their quarterly Predator Post magazine to be distributed to various stakeholders in the Masai Mara. This pamphlet covers news of the various lion prides as well as cheetahs living in the Mara.
Mara Rianda Primary School
We are excited to share some exciting news! In collaboration with The Kenya Wildlife Trust / Mara Predator Conservation Program we have launched a brand new wildlife club at the Mara Rianda Primary School! Thirty students were selected, as well as one teacher who shall act as the patron for the club.
Wildlife club members at the Mara Rianda Primary School
Wildlife clubs play an important role in educating the next generation of conservationists as to the importance of protecting the biodiversity of our planet, starting with the environment surrounding their own homes. Club activities will include meetings, clean-up events, conservation talks, debates and discussions, game drives, exposure visits to the Mara Discovery Centre, screenings and discussions of relevant wildlife films and documentaries.
Kenya Bird of Prey Trust
This month we continued our ongoing support for The Kenya Bird of Prey Trust by funding the purchase of a new freezer for the Soysambu raptor centre and buying more meat for the rescued birds living at the Naivasha centre. We highly recommend a visit to the Naivasha centre for any of our Loldia House guests as it provides a great opportunity to get up close and personal with some of Kenya’s most iconic raptors.
Be sure to visit the Naivasha Raptor Center during your stay at Loldia – photo credit Fernando Faciole
Back in April a young, critically endangered, Rüppell’s vulture was brought into the Kenya Bird of Prey Trust. It was uninjured, but very thin. The team there assumed that it had got itself lost on one of its first flights. During the first week of rehabilitation at the Naivasha Raptor Centre it was fattened up in its own enclosure before joining the other vultures in the larger enclosure to learn how to be social and fend for itself.
Soon after, in mid-May, another young critically endangered vulture was brought in; this time an African white-backed vulture that had fallen out of its nest.
The African white-backed vulture being fed by director Shiv Kapila prior to release – photo credit Fernando Faciole
Both vultures made good progress and were fitted with leg bands and GPS backpacks on the 28th of June.
The Rüppell’s vulture having its leg band put on which helps to ID the bird in the wild.
The African white-backed vulture being fitted with a solar-powered GPS tracking device.
They were released on the 2nd of July in Soysambu Conservancy, just north of Loldia House.
The two vultures awaiting release – photo credit Nick Penny
Rüppell’s vulture taking off from the release site on Soysambu Conservancy – photo credit Nick Penny
Both birds are still very young and so the team must closely monitor their movements. The Rüppell’s vulture visited the vulture wall in Hell’s Gate National Park as well as the Rüppell’s colony at Kwenia and is now in the Chyulu Hills (as shown by its flight tracking data below).
Tracking data for the Rüppell’s vulture – credit Kenya Bird of Prey Trust
At first the white-backed vulture’s tracking data presented some concerning signs; it appeared to not be moving around much at all. The team checked its physical position every day and were relieved to find it in the company of other vultures on the afternoon of 7th July. Later they were able to confirm its presence on a zebra carcass, so they knew it was finally feeding. The map below shows that it has settled nearby to its release site in Soysambu Conservancy.
Tracking data for the white-backed vulture – credit Kenya Bird of Prey Trust
We felt very privileged to be invited to attend the release and to name the vultures! Following an online Instagram poll, the names chosen by most popular vote were 101 and Defender, in honour of our long-running trusty fleet of safari vehicles.
In the past we have mentioned the major threat posed to raptors by power lines; they are one of the leading causes of raptor deaths in this country and can therefore be blamed in a large part for the precipitating rate of decline of many raptor species.
If you have a moment, we would be most grateful if you could sign this petition, Make our Kenyan Power Poles Safe for Birds. Signatures to this petition will be sent to The Kenya Power and Lighting Company (KPLC) to ask them to safeguard our power poles for birds. The more signatures the more powerful the message.
The Rhino Ark / Calgary Zoo Mountain Forest Partnership
This month we sent a contribution to this small project which is dedicated to monitoring, protecting and conserving the Eburru Forest habitat for the critically endangered mountain bongo and other species. We were able to cover the salary cost of two of their trackers for one month.
Photo credit Fernando Faciole
These men and women work hard, in difficult conditions to ensure that the forest and its wildlife are protected for future generations. Read more on this here.
Grevy’s Zebra Trust
Northern Kenya is once again battling through another severe drought. The situation is even worse than it was last year, since they are feeling the cumulative impacts of four failed rainy seasons.
Image credit – Grevy’s zebra Trust
There is a long road ahead to ensure the survival of endangered Grevy’s zebras and other wildlife in the region. We have made a donation to allow 140 bales of hay to be added into their supplementary feeding program. If you would like to learn more about how you can support their feeding efforts you can contact them via their website or follow them on Instagram @grevyszebratrust
In July we funded another mobile Moyo Foundation outreach clinic. Nurse Jedidah, with the help of Ekorian volunteers, conducted the outreach to the Longewan area; the team saw over 100 patients, including 73 women and 43 children.
Image credits – Amy Hardberger
Primary complaints were upper respiratory infections and gastroenteritis (a common condition that causes diarrhoea and vomiting). For the first time during an outreach, livestock drugs such as de-wormers, were available for purchase from the Mugie Sacco.
The Moyo team had not visited this area for a couple of years, but based on the success of the outreach event and a school outreach earlier on, they hope to return again soon. Due to the number of respiratory and eye complaints, nurse Jedidah would like to plan an outreach with the village women to discuss replacing cooking fires with cleaner burning gas stoves.
The Mugie community office recently launched a ‘Healthy Kids Program’. Our team at Governors’ Mugie House is working with the conservancy team to support this work. The first topic that was covered was an introduction to conservation, which our two guides Solomon Epodo and John Epiele kindly facilitated. We look forward to sharing plenty of interesting information with the school children, in order to encourage them to preserve their environment and actively participate in conservation.
Three of our recent guests visited the school towards the end of the month; we purchased stationery supplies in order for them to make a donation to around forty of the children. The headteacher mentioned the need for a volleyball and football too – the children were more than delighted to receive these!
Image credit John Neuman
A visit to a rural school during your safari with us is certainly something that we recommend if you are interested in learning more about how the Kenyan schooling system works. We can guarantee that it will be a fascinating insight into the lives of our community neighbours.
You are welcome to make in kind donations directly to the children during your visit, or if you feel moved to sponsor a child through further education or help to improve the facilities of the school, we can certainly help to facilitate this. Please see further information via the Packing for a Difference section of our website.
Official inauguration of the Kinigi Sector Office
Back in 2018, SACOLA (Sabyinyo Community Livelihood Association) – was requested during a meeting initiated by the local community and the local government, to assist with the funding and construction of the Kinigi Sector Office which would benefit all the 28,612 residents of the Kinigi sector. Construction started in 2019, however due to the pandemic the work was slowed down in 2020 and 2021.
The newly constructed Kinigi Sector Office.
SACOLA funded 268 million RWF (USD $261,000) while the remaining 65 million RWF (USD $63,310) were funded by the District of Musanze, amounting to a total of over USD325,000. The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International supported the equipment needed for the offices. During the construction, around 600 people from the surrounding area found employment.
Innocent Twagirimana, Executive Secretary of the Kinigi Sector in his new office.
The official inauguration took place on Friday the 8th of July 2022. Gatsimbanyi, one of the community members living adjacent to the Volcanoes National Park said during the opening ceremony: “The main causes that drive people to get involved in poaching and other illegal activities in Volcanoes National Park are associated with poverty, ignorance, culture and commercial purposes. Since the introduction of the revenue sharing scheme associated with the presence of our life saver, SACOLA, we can no longer tolerate whoever may be tempted to go into the park for illegal activities. The entire community is, through SACOLA, well sensitised about conservation. I would like to thank all the tourism partners who continue to bring tourists to Rwanda because as a result, SACOLA can support us in different projects like paying school fees for the children from poor families, paying yearly medical insurances, building schools and now building the new sector office.”
A celebration with music and dancers was enjoyed.
By Alisa Karstad, Community and Conservation Manager for Governors’ Camp Collection.