Today on our way to work, we saw something pretty wild. Two male giraffes were walking on either side of a rhino fence. One decided to cross at one of the gaps in the fence. It took several awkward steps through the posts and across the rocks. Meantime, the other giraffe came closer to meet it. Then it reared up to face its adversary.
The first giraffe — the one crossing the fence — then also reared up and struck the second giraffe, which literally went over backwards, neck first. It landed very awkwardly and then lay totally still.
By coincidence, in the car with us was the retired Head Vet from the Denver Zoo, Dave Kenney, who now does conservation vet work with the zoo. We stopped and got out to look at the prone giraffe, assuming he was probably dead or unconcious. We were just approaching the giraffe — who had still not moved at all — when suddenly the giraffe sprang up and leapt away, leaving a small pool of blood on the ground where his head had been.
Most likely the giraffe was knocked unconsious in the fall and we happened to be right there when he woke up. It was a good thing Dave was NOT inspecting the giraffe for injuries as he had planned to do, right at that moment!
Siva is still in the north, most recently in an area called Hurri Hills near the Ethiopian border. The trip is going well so far and he should be back next week.
Meantime, we wanted to introduce you to one of the important members of the Laikipia Grevy’s Zebra Project, Vicky Zero.
Vicky first came to Kenya in January 2009 (having mostly worked on lizards and fish, before then), working for another project based at Mpala that is studying parasites and disease in Grant’s gazelles. Starting in March, Vicky began working part time for Siva, looking at parasites in Grevy’s dung (see some of our earlier posts about this). She began working full-time on the Grevy’s project in August and has been helping with parasite and genetics work, Grevy’s censuses, as well as data and database management. She is a great member of the team and a real asset to the project!
Vicky is going to be writing more about her work, particularly the zebra photo-ID database she has been working with, over several posts, so check back soon to hear more!
I spoke to Siva on the phone yesterday and they were in the town of North Horr, east of Lake Turkana. Their trip seems to be going well so far. They found a few zebras a couple of days ago — although I didn’t hear where exactly. I’ll keep you posted when I hear anything more about their progress!
Today I’m heading off to northern Kenya on “the big trip” several colleagues and I have been planning for almost two years now.
The purpose of the trip is to look for remnant populations of Grevy’s zebra in the vast area of northern Kenya. Historically, this area was the heart of the Grevy’s range. Now, Grevy’s are found almost exclusively in the far southern part of their former range, in Samburu and Laikipia districts. (Interestingly, Grevy’s were never found in Laikipia until a few decades ago; now, Laikipia – where I do most of my work – is home to more than a third of the remaining Grevy’s).
The area north of Laikipia and stretching on up to the border with Ethiopia is a huge, arid terrain with very little infrastructure. It is in many ways the “Wild West” of Kenya – where livestock rustling and banditry still prevail. Over the next three weeks, we’ll be traveling up through the “frontier” town of Laisamis, continuing north along the eastern edge of Lake Turkana, then northeast to the Ethiopian border, down to the Chalbi Desert, and back down to Samburu and Laikipia through Marsabit. See the map below prepared by my colleagues Guy and Zeke from Marwell Wildlife:
Based on past surveys and anecdotal information, we only expect there to be a few hundred Grevy’s left in this large area. We know little about Grevy’s in this area because of its remoteness and poor infrastructure. During the trip, we’ll be looking for zebras and trying to figure out what steps might be taken to save them. We’ll be interviewing local people to learn where they may have seen Grevy’s (and any other wildlife), what they know about Grevy’s conservation status, and what threats there might be to Grevy’s in those areas.
With this information, we hope to identify areas where conservation projects and investment might help to save – and ideally rehabilitate – remnant Grevy’s populations.
I’ll be traveling along with a group of close collaborators from Grevy’s Zebra Trust and Marwell Wildlife. We’ll be a total of 13 people in three Land Cruisers. We’ll have to take all our fuel and provisions for the whole trip, finding water along the way wherever we can. We’ll have a satellite phone for emergency communications, but I won’t be able to post anything to the blog until I come back. Corinna will be posting some updates.
I’ll ook forward to telling you about the trip when I get back in late February!