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Bush Telegraph Newsletter

April 2014

 


Governors' Camp Collection News

February / March 2014 

  

February has been an interesting month in the Masai Mara, we saw the arrival of the first of the big annual animal migrations with the zebra from the Loitas arriving on the plains of the Masai Mara in big numbers and guests at Little Governors Camp had an extremely unusual sighting of a leopard sharing his kill with a pack of hungry hyenas, not something we have ever seen before in over 40 years of safaris here. In Rwanda Nelis takes a short trek to see the Sabyinyo Gorilla family and finds the Silverback very comfortably in control whilst the youngsters and other family members get playful all around. At Loldia lake levels throughout the Rift Valley remain high and sightings of waterbirds and leopards are consistently good and at Mfangano its full steam ahead as we continue with the building of three exciting new suites.
 
Governors Aviation continues to fly high and guests are enjoying our new check in facilities at Wilson Airport.
 

 

Game Report, Masai Mara 

 

Weather and grasslands 

  

Clear skies with relatively strong north easterly winds and with rainfall being only 32.6mm, there were two heavy showers that brought the marsh water levels up a little. Early morning temperatures were pleasantly cool at 17C and midday temperatures reaching 26C. Water levels in the Mara River were receding slowly although with the small rain we had levels rose a little. By end of the month the river level was seen to be receding quite quickly. Grasses are still short on many of the open areas although on deep alluvial soils grasses were still long which have kept Buffalo and Elephant who passed back and forth. The Diospyros trees are still fruiting this is an awful amount of fruit for this to continue. 

  

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

 

General game 

  

Game sightings have been well rewarded this month. Zebra from the Masai conservation areas came through during midmonth particularly after a little rain which had induced a little grass growth. Herds of them would move through the marsh and Musiara plains areas. Good numbers of zebra were being seen on the Musiara, Bila Shaka and Topi Plains. The Marsh grasslands to the west and east of the watered byways were holding large numbers of zebra. Large Herds of elephant can be seen in the Marsh, many of these came across from the Trans Mara conservancy, by end of the month many elephant could be seen scattered throughout the Marsh, a few older and large Musth bulls came through of which two of them have been seen in the Trans Mara and also in the Mara North conservancy indicating that large males will travel long distances in search of oestrus females. Very young calves have also been seen in these breeding herds with two youngsters that could only have been a few weeks old!! Buffalo are throughout the Musiara and Rhino Ridge areas, older sedentary bulls will be seen close to the camps or else on the edge of the Marsh. There is still a big breeding herd that habituate the Bila Shaka river bed. 
 
 
Photo courtesy of Daniel Beamish 
 
Topi in dense pockets will be seen at Paradise, Topi Plains and the Musiara Marsh. Small herds of cokes hartebeest will be found in smaller pockets of the reserve, Rhino Ridge, Bila Shaka and Paradise Plains see good areas to find them. Hippos appear to congregate into larger pod densities as water levels recede with deeper pools in some parts of the river seem to 'bubble' with hippo numbers. Numerous small calves can be seen, resident crocodile will always pose a threat to hippo calves as was seen at IL Moran and further down from Governors Private Camp. Many crocodile can be seen on the river banks particularly near the main crossing point, one can see over thirty crocodilians at a time with some of them being very large, an average large Nile crocodile can weigh as much as 800-900 kg and span over 15 feet long. 
 
Two hippo were seen being eaten by spotted hyena near north end of the Marsh, guides saw males fighting, one may have killed the other, this is not uncommon with hippo, when water levels become low hippos congregate into denser and denser areas and this causes aggression amongst males. 
 
Masai Giraffe are scattered throughout the reserve although the riparian woodlands of the river will host on occasions many giraffe as they are browsers there are many species here that will support giraffe. Dominant male giraffe will be seen eating the leaves of the Warburgia trees and this is appears to be a regular feeding habit of older male Giraffe, the leaf of the Warburgia tree or 'Elephant pepper tree' is very hot on the tongue so perhaps the Giraffe have blunt taste buds or a spicy palate! 
 
Impala and Olive baboons are residents along the tree line and Marsh verges, large troops of baboons can be seen in the early morning as they progress out to their feeding grounds and late evening as they head back to roost, these Savanah Olive Baboon will travel far out in search of food. Males of the species will often kill and eat young Thompson and Impala fawns and then will only share with close and favourable females for that intimate contact. The Olive Baboon seem to have the varied diet of their savannah members. Female Impala will often in over exuberant activity be seen leaping while throwing or kicking their back legs into the air, this is known as 'empty Kicking' and it reveals the dexterity of their limbs. Defassa waterbuck are also marsh residents, a few of them have been eaten by lion from the breakaway marsh lionesses. 
 
Often guests are seeing the 'big five' before 10.00 in the morning. The African rock Python in the Bila Shaka river bed area has been seen a few times again this month, on the morning of the 5th a serval cat was seen suddenly jumping and spitting at something in the grass, on closer inspection guests saw that it was the python that the serval happened upon, the python apparently paid no attention to the serval who was striking at the snake with its paw. Serval Cats at Paradise Plains and in the Bila Shaka area have been seen very frequently this month with two particular individuals who are really quite habituated. Side stripped Jackals on the north side of Rhino Ridge have been seen again, on the 22nd the dog had just caught a female Thomson Gazelle, and the bitch was seen a little later eating with its mate. There seems to be co-operative hunting between these monogamous Jackals where the males show no sexual dimorphism. Black Backed Jackals are being busy with Grants Gazelle fawns and those of Thomson Gazelles as well; these are also monogamous and co-operative canids. We have had a few sightings of Marsh Mongooses within the swamp marshes and byways. One was seen close to Governor's Camp, these are not the common mongooses we see around camp, they are a mongoose that live in the watered byway areas and feed on frogs, fresh water crabs and fish. The other two commonly seen species of larger solitary mongooses are the white tailed Mongoose, the Egyptian mongoose and the slender tailed mongoose who is very good at tree climbing. The two social species often will be seen frequenting the camps, with both the dwarf and banded mongooses being seen within the camp grounds, these are more insectivorous that their larger cousins.
 
Photo courtesy of Sue Lawless  
 
Cats 

 

Marsh pride of 25 lion all together, with their 7 sub adult cubs of varying age groups of 17 months and 20 months of age, Bibi, Siena and charm and the four musketeers. 'Red' the dominant male of the sub-adults is pulling his weight as well as being a strong worker of the pride. He now looks the part. Bibi is still looking her age and is a little thin as was seen last month. They have been feeding off the resident zebra, buffalo and warthog. 

 

Siena and her three cubs that are two months old now are being seen mainly in the Bila Shaka region and they are becoming very mobile now. 

 

Of the four breakaways Jicho and Sila while Kini and particularly Lippy are with the three cubs who are five months old, they will frequent the Marsh, Culvert and woodland areas close to the marsh. They have been feeding off waterbuck, warthog and reedbuck. Earlier on the month the three breakaways Lippy, Sila and Kini spent much time in the eastern plains area of the Marsh where they were supplemented with the many warthog here, the cubs earlier on in the month looked very thin and were seemingly not getting enough to eat, on a few occasions it was noted that when the large males tuned up at a kill site the lionesses were instantly chased off. Times recently have changed a bit with the lionesses killing a waterbuck on the 25th and managed to eat all of it themselves and while refusing the three young cubs to eat and were very good at sitting out while the larger ones ate their fill, latterly again they had killed a warthog and consumed it without interruption. Of the three cubs the little female who was lost last month is at home with her other siblings; this is a rare incident whereby a cub that was apparently accepted into the family without any sign of repercussion is a very moving feat of survival of a species that is under the constant threat of the human foot print. 

 

Photo courtesy of Jack Swenson 

 

Scar is doing amazingly well and has been spending time between Paradise Plains and Bila Shaka, later on in the month at the bottom end of the Bila Shaka river bed he had helped take down a Hippo and was the force behind it. This is one iconic male lion that has been probably anesthetised more times than any other cat in the Mara/Serengeti ecosystem. He was seen earlier on mating with Sila and we hope to see more of his progeny in three months' time. 

 

The paradise females who are three lionesses and their four cubs, two of which are 12 months old and the two are 17 months old. This pride is still being seen in the Paradise area of the Mara River, they have been feeding off topi, buffalo and warthog who at this time of the year will supplement the resident lion's diet. Two of the marsh musketeers namely Scar and Hunter have been down here many times on the latter half of this month. 

 

Leopard 

 

Romi and her 16 month old male cub are still the focus of all Leopard sightings. The male is due to move on out of his mother's home range, latterly in the month he was often seen some distance away from where his mother is. They have fed off impala and Bush buck. Recently they have been seen residing between the BBC camp site and the Governors Camp woodlands. 

 

The large male close to the mortuary crossing point has been seen a few times this month. The young male that frequents the Serena pump house area has also been seen near Malima tatu. 

 

The female leopard with two 9 month old cubs have been seen a few times only but quite away from where they usually are found which was near the rocky hill on the Mara River close to the west ridge fan that leads into paradise plains, this time they were seen between the Hippo pool and a dried river bed known as Kwa Nyoka. There are many impala and Thomson Gazelles with fawns here in this area. On the 11th there were two male leopards sighted at the double crossing who were sizing one another up, both seemed to have had a disagreement and received minor scratches. The younger of the two males then went and rolled in Buffalo Dung, perhaps those off times it is good to be and feel different!! 
 
Our guides and guests had an amazing sighting this month on paradise plains when they came across the big Paradise male leopard seemingly sharing his kill with a pack of hungry hyenas. It seems the leopard killed the young zebra and did not have time to drag it up a nearby tree before a pack of hungry hyenas descended. Begrudgingly the leopard shared his meal with the hyenas, this is an amazing sighting and in 40 + years of safaris in the Masai Mara one that we have not witnessed before. Last year we had a sighting of the Marsh Pride seemingly sharing a meal with a pack of hyenas around the same time of year so we think that a reduction in the number of available prey species at this times forces the top predators to share on some occasions.
 
Photo courtesy of Sue Lawless  

 

Cheetah 

 

The two brothers have been seen near Topi plains and Bila Shaka, they have been hunting and feeding Thomson Gazelles and also scrub hares. The female cheetah 'Amani' with one cub who is five months old was being seen near the double crossing and Topi Plains area. She is feeding off Thomson Gazelles and their fawns, on the 22nd she was seen with a female Thomson Gazelle, Hyena stole most of it from her, on the 26th she had killed a fawn and managed to eat most of this one. The three cheetahs are being very active in hunting impala and hares. 

 

Photo courtesy of Dave Roberts 

 

Walking in the Mara North Conservancy. 

 

This month we have done a few walks in the Mara North Conservancy. There are many zebra here although large numbers have filtered down to the reserve. On the 12th we saw an unusually marked zebra; it actually looked very nice in a sepia colour!! This is probably the prettiest patterned zebra that I have seen. Good numbers of Elephant in the Acacia Gerrardii woodlands and likewise giraffe who apparently move between the Mara River and the acacia woodlands. Warthog and Thomson Gazelles dominate the short grass plains, scattered topi males and females with individual male wildebeest dot the grassland plains. 

 

Photo courtesy of Sue Lawless 

 

Impala and waterbuck will also be seen between the woodlands and the open grasslands. At Midday good numbers of zebra and sometimes elephant can be seen near the salt lick that is close to the Olare Orok River and this draws them to water and trace elements they get from licking the earth floor. 

 

A small herd of Cape Buffalo were being seen mainly in white highland depression where coarse grasses are prevalent, this area has held this herd of buffalo for some time. On the 5th two Martial eagles were seen to be eating the remains of a Thompson Gazelle and this they had killed themselves, these large raptors are a constant threat to young fawns and likewise those of lion cubs. The Martial eagle is the largest of the savannah raptors. 

 

Some very large savannah Monitor lizards have been seen one of which was seen poking its head out of a termite mound probably warming itself in the early morning sun. Flowers that have the smell of Jasmin although an Olea are being seen often out of rocky outcrops. Kalanchoe rotundifolia are also being seen within the basaltic rocky areas. 

 

Large columns of the ponerinae ant as they forage for termite species. On the 11th a mound of the family Rhinotermitidae were discovered on the white highland ridge, this is where the soldier caste have the ability to exude noxious liquids through either a 'horn-like nozzle' (nasus) or a simple hole in the head (fontanelle). The fontanelle exude defensive secretions known as Terpenes. All termites eat cellulose in its various forms as plant fiber. Cellulose is a rich energy source. Termites rely primarily upon symbiotic protozoa and other microbes in their gut to digest the cellulose for them, absorbing the end products for their own use. Termites have an interesting social behavioural pattern and much is still needed to be learnt from them.

 

 

News on the Sabyinyo Gorilla Family 

 

Probably one of the shortest treks to the Gorillas that I have ever done. Quite fortunate though as the rain started falling around 3am that morning. To avoid the rain, we were all huddled together under the roof of the meeting point at the park office, receiving our briefing from the guides who would be conducting the Gorilla treks that morning. With a warm cup of coffee in hand, we listened very intently to all that the guides had to say. It's so easy to spot the first time trekkers, with expressions of overwhelming excitement and a hint of anxiety. 

 

Finally, the guides instructed the 8 of us to move to our vehicles and off we went. A twenty minute drive brought us to the starting point for our trek. Everyone was assigned a porter, given a walking stick and off we went. Not long into our trek, the first of several "how far still to the gorillas?" a question the guides hear all too often. Six hours was the reply from the guide which brought dead silence to the group.

 

Ten minutes later we were at the park boundary where the guide gave us another quick talk on walking etiquette inside the National Park. The trackers radioed down, informing the guides that they have found the gorillas and that we should come up. Everyone, less talkative now was trying to control their breathing in preparation for the six hour trek to the Gorillas. 

 

Only twenty minutes later, we came across the trackers, much to the relief of many of the folks in our group. We took out our cameras and not too far from us; we could see and hear a rustle in the bamboo. We followed the guides into the bamboo forest. First off all, we came across Shirimpumu, a very boisterous Blackback, soon to turn Silverback and shortly after that we had both the old man, Guhonda and his second-in-charge Silverback, Gihishamwotsi make their way down a trail through the bamboo. Gihishamwotsi is showing off, with constant playful defensive postures. 

 

Guhonda, not taking much notice of his antics continued down to where he settled for a nice bamboo breakfast. Above us, some of the youngsters were swinging between the bamboo clumps using vines hanging down from the bamboo canopy. With very little light for photography, most of the hour was spent just observing these incredible animals playing out their daily routine just metres in front of us. Still, even after so many treks, this is still an emotion that I cannot put into words that would justify what is felt when with the Gorillas. 
 
 

Privileged am I.... 

 

 

 

Photo and Text - Nelis Wolmarans, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge Manager 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good marlin weather holds for Watamu tourneys 

 

Written by David Slater 

 

The Watamu SFC Festival was fished in nice weather over last weekend, with 26 boats finding a total of fourteen marlin, seventeen sail and a mako shark over the two days with all the fish released. The first day leader was White Bear with two striped and one blue marlin, followed by Seyyida with two blue marlin and a sail, while Seastorm, White Otter, WIT and Shuwari also had a marlin each. 

 

On the Sunday, White Bear added another striped marlin to give anglers Robin James and Jamie Shepherd the first prize ahead of the team on Seyyida in second place overall with Tim Brown taking Top Angler for his two blue marlin and two sail. Unreel, fished by Mark and Millie Jury and Jinga found two blues and a sail the second day to take third overall and White Otter with two blues was fourth, with Gael Edwards awarded Top Lady Angler for her blue marlin. Jackson Safari on White Bear won the Skipper's prize, while Jameel Khan on What It Takes won best young angler for his marlin.

 

A days' rest, then most of the boats were at it again in the Hemingways 'Friends of Kenya" tournament, two whole days and a night of uninterrupted fishing, with boats trying for broadbill swordfish at night. Twenty-four boats caught nineteen blue, two black and two striped marlin, seventeen broadbill and twenty-three sailfish between them, an amazing total. Notably, Richie Moller in Pintail, a small eighteen feet open boat caught a 229kg blue marlin, standing up as the boat has no chair! Simon Roache on B's Nest caught a 270kg blue marlin which died on the line, another huge fish! 

 

Anglers Rick Lemonnier, Don Lafferty and Rich Roberts from Dubai won first prize, with four blue and two striped marlin and two sail on Neptune, fishing the North Kenya Banks for a terrific catch which put them well ahead of Pintail, with Richie Moller and Russ Brumby who came second, a fine effort in such a small boat. Third were James and Simon Redfern and Rhino Rauscher in Combava, visiting from Tanzania, with a great catch of three blue marlin and two sailfish, while Tom Cunningham, Peter Darnborough and Juma Chea in Alleycat were fourth with two blue marlin. 

 

Unreel came fifth, Mark and Millie Jury and Sean Cremin catching a blue marlin, two broadbill and a sail, while Matt Bell, Olivia Tandane and Fernando da Silva Cruz in Seastorm were sixth with a blue marlin, a broadbill and three sail. 
 

  

 
 
A Heart-Warming Friendship in the Wild
 
Did you know that rhinos can have best friends? Meet Rosie and Murembo's Calf (MC), two female sub-adult white rhino that share a fascinating friendship. 
 
The inseparable pair lives near Lewa's swamp and has formed an intimate bond. They enjoy close contact and often sleep together side by side with their noses touching and horns crossed. They use each other as 'scratching posts', lick each other's skin like dogs would, and even mirror each other's movements. 
 
Last year, sculptor Camilla Le May met the pair as they blocked the road one day and was so captivated by their affectionate relationship that she decided to sculpt them. She spent hours observing them as they moved slowly through the bush grazing, watering and sleeping.
The sculpture has been shortlisted and selected for the David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the year 2014 exhibition at the Mall Galleries, London, from the 2nd to the 7th of June! 

 

Share in our 2013 successes! 
 
  
Download our latest Annual Report and find out: 
 
* The translocation of black rhino from Lewa and Lake Nakuru National Park to Borana Conservancy to establish a pioneer population 
 
* The predator vs. prey relationship of the lion and Grevy's zebra on Lewa, use of technology to monitor wildlife, community involvement in anti-poaching and Kenya's new wildlife law 
 
* The success of Lewa's Education Programme and tremendous impact achieved through annual bursaries, infrastructure development and other projects 
 
How the Conservancy's water projects in the neighbouring communities have benefitted thousands, as well as the success of the Women Micro-Credit Programme 
 
* The Logistics' Team role in infrastructure development of the NRT conservancies, introduction of HIV/AIDS management by the Healthcare Programme and many more! 
 
If you would wish to receive printed copies of the Annual Report, please email info@lewa.org.
 
 
 Chiefs' Forum Held on Lewa 

 

Cognisant of the fact that chiefs continue to play a major role in law enforcement in Kenya, Lewa hosted the first forum for chiefs and their assistants from the neighbouring communities. The chiefs' influence is reinforced by their direct link to homesteads and knowledge on community affairs, and the turnout was encouraging, with all the 19 chiefs and their assistants from Lewa's surrounding locations attending the event. The meeting provided a platform for the chiefs to engage with Lewa's security, conservation and community development heads of departments. Insecurity in the area was of particular concern, especially the link between poaching, cattle rustling and road banditry.

 

 
Support Lewa Honeymoon Couple's Race to Give Back

The foundation of Lewa was built upon the generosity of loyal supporters, and our community conservation work carries on today thanks to donations from around the world. It is always a pleasure to learn more about our donors' stories and connections to Lewa. At the Lewa USA Gala last year we had the pleasure of meeting John and Jill Nielands, a couple who spent their honeymoon at Kifaru House, one of the lodges on Lewa.
 
During their visit, John and Jill had the chance to visit the Lewa Primary school where they fell in love with the teachers and children. Next month, John will be running a ten-mile race in Washington D.C. to help raise funds for the much-needed new classrooms and furnishing at Lewa Primary School. The classrooms are in great need of repair and any support you can give will help make a difference, just click on the link below. Thank you to John, Jill, and all of our other generous supporters from near and far! We are so grateful.
 
8th Celebration of African Wildlife 
and Tribal Life Safari  
 
We invite you to join us for this years Celebration of Wildlife and Tribal life safari at Little Governors Camp, from 29th September - 5th October 2014. 
 
Seven days on safari hosted by Jonathan and Angie Scott from Big Cat Diary, Warren Samuels world renowned wildlife filmmaker, Dave Richards one of Africa's foremost Birding Experts and your organizer and host Clive Thomas from Prestige Promotions. 
 
A message from the hosts Jonathan and Angie Scott
 
"The Masai Mara in Western Kenya is our second home - we were married there! It will be our pleasure to share 30 years of photographs, experiences, knowledge and celebration of this most exceptional region with a small, but intimate group - who will all have become friends 
 
The Mara is home to one of the highest concentrations of lions in Africa, as well as boasting good populations of leopards and cheetahs, some of which we have followed from birth. What better reason to choose the Celebration of Wildlife in the Mara for your safari of a lifetime. This is an ideal time to witness the spectacular wildebeest and zebra migration, with up to half a million wildebeest roaming the plains at times and crossing the Mara river as they head back to Tanzania; two great reasons to be there at this time of year.
 
On this unique journey, we want to retain the intimacy of a small group of friends travelling together, with a shared passion for wildlife and photography. Clive Thomas, the enthusiastic and energetic head of the extremely experienced and up-market Prestige Promotions, will be one of your hosts and he has hand picked Little Governor's Camp - which we consider to be one of the region's top camps. The location is second to none as you will know from watching 'Big Cat Diary'. 
 
We are once again booking Little Governor's exclusively for six nights, during which we will create for you a wonderful 'house party' atmosphere with our fellow hosts, speakers and guides, making this a unique safari experience. In addition to Angie and me, hosts include acclaimed wildlife filmmaker and cameraman Warren Samuels and one of Africa's foremost Birding Experts Dave Richards. 
 
During the trip, each of you will have the opportunity for one-to-one coaching to help you improve your slide and digital camera skills. Angie's role will be to give digital training back at camp - capturing the image is just the first step in digital photography. We are there to ensure that this really will be a safari of a lifetime. 
 
In addition to all the daytime activities, you'll be entertained in words and pictures by our hosts and speakers each evening before dinner. I can promise you that this one-off trip will be the journey of a lifetime." 
 
For more information or to book your place on 2014 Celebration of Wildlife and Tribal life safari contact Mike McInnes at mike@safarikenya.eu