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"We are dedicated to providing exclusive , bespoke, upmarket,

tailor-made, luxury safaris and exotic holidays for the discerning client looking for the ultimate, authentic, classical Kenya safari, away from the mass tourism sector".

Bush Telegraph Newsletter July 2014  

 


     

 

 

STEFANO BECOMES A KNIGHT

OR BETTER, A CAVALIERE!

           

We are pleased to announce that Stefano Cheli received

the "Cavaliere dell'Ordine della Stella d'Italia" - The Italian equivalent of a UK Knighthood!

 

On 2 June 2014, Ambassador Mauro Massoni, the Italian Ambassador to Kenya, awarded the honour to Stefano at a ceremony on the lovely grounds of the Italian Embassy in Nairobi. Granted by the President of the Republic, the award represents the second highest civilian honour of the State, and is given to those who have achieved special merit in the "promotion of national prestige abroad".

 

In Stefano Cheli's case, the award commends his lifelong commitment towards conservation in Kenya and his outstanding achievements as a front-runner in Sustainable Tourism, together with his wife Liz, who together founded Cheli & Peacock Safaris in 1985!

 

Stefano comments: "I am honoured to receive such recognition from the Italian Government, and I would like to add that without the great team work within Cheli & Peacock, we would not have achieved what we have been able to achieve since 1985. We started this adventure almost 30 years ago because we wanted to show people what an authentic safari is all about - and this remains our mantra!"

 

Stefano served on the Kenya Association of Tour Operators Executive Committee for over 15 years and successfully lobbied the tourism community to place a moratorium on development in the Mara in 1998. He worked on the founding of the Kenya Tourism Federation in 1998. He was the driving force behind the formation of Mara North Conservancy and helped found the Ecotourism Society of Kenya to put in place Africa's first tourism eco-certification scheme. In 2013, Stefano Cheli joined the Board of Trustees of the Northern Rangelands Trust, is on the board of the African Conservation Centre and he remains the Chairman and Director of the Mara North Conservancy.

 

We at Cheli & Peacock and Kenya Safaris congratulate Stefano!

    

 

 

Game report Masai Mara June 2014

 

 

Weather and grasslands

 

 

The Mara received very little rain during April this year and May rainfall patterns were not much different to last year. Only pockets of rain and these showers were localised within the Masai Mara environs. April we received 29.5 mm (April 2013- 267mm and 2012-337mm) and May was 102.9 mm (May 2013-57.5mm). These months are supposed to be the rainy season when we should get high monthly rainfall. Often there were overcast mornings ending in hot and humid days, although the last few days of May morning temperatures had dropped pleasantly. On the 31st in the evening we received a deluge of 44 mm more than we have received in six weeks. Early morning temperatures average at 15C and midday 31C.

 

Photo courtesy of Pauline and John Stevens

 

The marsh water levels have receded drastically with the centre channel holding surface water while water flow below the culvert has dried up, with only pockets of shallow water in certain deep channels. The Mara River since March has receded considerably with little sediment coming down.

 

The Warbugia ugandenis trees drooped very little fruit this year and probably due to poor rainfall. Grass levels became very short and were shortened even more when the resident Zebra in early May and Gnus in the later weeks of May moved in.

 

General game

 

An estimated 1,000 gnus in three herds crossed the sand river in the latter weeks of May, since heavy down pours of rain near the border on the sand river on the 27th many of them had crossed back again. Large herds of resident common Zebra are within the Trans Mara and in the Musiara areas of Topi plains, Rhino ridge and towards the double crossing.

 

Game viewing has still been very rewarding despite the dry and dusty conditions. Elephant in family units and with young calves have been moving back and forth between the Trans Mara and the Musiara marsh. There is one specific family unit of six family members with two very young calves and a large matriarch they are always appear to be making their way from the riverine woodlands to the Marsh at midday then often at night they visit the camps. Midday seemed like good times to see them moving towards and being in the Marsh. Two large bull elephant have been seen within the Marsh and riverine woodlands of which one of them is in musth.

 

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

 

Resident zebra had moved into the Musiara and Bila Shaka grasslands since the early week of May they had come down from the north east Masai conservation areas. Large numbers accelerated in mid-month with many of them crossing the Mara River at the Kichwa Tembo rocky crossing on the Mara River. Latterly crossings were seen again at Paradise at the main crossing points, on the 24th an estimated 200 zebra crossed with two being taken by crocodile, since the water level is low these zebra must have been caught in deeper pools. Good numbers of resident wildebeest have been in the Musiara and Bila Shaka area since mid-May and have been moving back and forth between the North Masai conservation areas and the Musiara Marsh. On the 28th we received 24mm of rain and this pattern moved all the Gnus and Zebra south to the Eastern Rhino ridge flank and to the Southern grasslands of Topi plains. On the 31st we had an even heavier deluge of 44mm, within 24 hours the resident wildebeest and zebra were seen trickling back into the Bila Shaka and Musiara grasslands.

 

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

 

The large Cape Buffalo herd is within the Bila Shaka, and Eastern Marsh areas where the individual males in small bachelor groups are in the west grassland plains or close by to the camps. The Marsh pride have taken three cow buffalo and one calf that were caught in the west Marsh and Bila Shaka.

 

A small breeding herd of eland approximately 54 animals and Defassa Waterbuck are permanent residents within the Marsh there are also good numbers of Impala and Olive baboons, with the dry time progressing the feeding habits of the Olive Baboons start earlier in the morning and they will travel further out of their normal feeding areas while foraging. Two Impala ewes have given birth within the Marsh this May, there are a few young fawns within these breeding herds. There are many Topi within the Marsh grasslands latterly many of them were seen going back and forth between Bila Shaka and the Marsh.

 

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

 

Bat eared foxes are being seen on Rhino Ridge and also on the south bank of the Bila Shaka. Black Baked Jackals are more commonly being seen on the short grass plains, now with everywhere else competing these small omnivorous canids are being seen readily.

 

Two male Black Rhino are being seen in the Paradise area, towards the crossing points at Paradise there are good numbers of Thomson Gazelles and Grants Gazelles, Impala and scattered herds of Topi and Cokes Hartebeest. Large Nile crocodiles like dormantly on the beaches of the Mara river with some large individuals all patiently waiting for the 'Gnu' movement to increase in volume.

 

There are Hippos in pods all along the river bends particularly where there are deeper stretches of water, many Hippo will come out earlier and will also be seen coming back to water later in the day, this is an indication of poor grass levels so their foraging habits alter and they go out further and for longer searching for food.

 

Masai Giraffe are spread out across the Musiara and Masai conservation areas, small breeding and bachelor herds of Giraffe will be seen within the riverine woodlands between the camps. Large solitary males who often darken in age will wander great distances looking for oestrus females, while other younger males can recognize these large dominant males and will give them a wide birth if not then it's a confrontation challenge while sparring with their long necks known as 'necking'. It is interesting to note that the skin underneath the darkened areas may serve as windows for thermoregulation, being sites for complex blood vessel systems and with large sweat glands. Similar to that of the stripped Equids each individual giraffe has a unique coat pattern. The skin of a giraffe is mostly gray.

 

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

 

On the 31st two side striped jackals a dog and bitch were seen again on the east fan of Rhino ridge and still they were both quite shy. There are not many of these species in this area of Musiara so this was a treat to see them. The Side-striped Jackal's skull is similar to that of the Black-backed Jackal's, but is flatter, with a longer and narrower rostrum or upper and lower jaw. The sagittal crest which is a ridge of bone running lengthwise along the midline of the top of the skull (which in turn supports the temporal muscles for chewing) and zygomatic arches or cheek bone are also slimmer in build. With this the dentition of the side striped jackal is perhaps more suited to an omnivorous diet. Also noted are the carnassials of side striped jackals which are smaller than those of the more carnivorous black-backed jackal.

 

Photo courtesy of John Lyall

 

On the 1st June in the early evening a martial eagle was seen taking a Grant's gazelle fawn. While the Martial eagle was holding the fawn down the mother and a few other close by females literally ran toward the eagle which firstly tried to take off and perhaps found that the gazelle a little heavy, it dropped that idea and kept holding the gazelle, the mother gazelle made a more concerted effort where by the Martial eagle let go and flew off and the fawn was rejoined with its mother.

 

 

Photo courtesy of John Lyall

 

Cats

 

Sienna the lioness a core member of the marsh pride was hooked by a bull cape buffalo in the early hours of the 5th April below the marsh culvert. She was treated and stitched that late morning by the Kenya Wildlife service's vet and with the help of the David Sheldrick wildlife trust who promptly organised for the aircraft to be dispatched at 1.30pm that day.

 

She was darted and re-stitched again on the 14th of April, on the 30th of April she was darted again, inoculated with an antibiotic and the wound was cleaned and treated. There have been other subsequent check-ups in May. She is looking much better although she does lick her wound clean which gives a raw looking appearance.

 

Marsh pride of 27 lion altogether, 8 sub adult comprising six lionesses and two males Red and Tatu, they are all of varying age groups with five at 18 months and three of them at 21 months of age, Bibi, Siena, charm and the four musketeers.

 

Siena has her three cub's two females and a male who are five months old now are all being seen mainly in the Bila Shaka and north Marsh regions, since the 26th May they are now in the Bila Shaka and airstrip grasslands. They have been feeding off the resident Zebra and Gnus, two Buffalo cows have also been taken and one calf that was on the east marsh verges. All whilst the treatment of Sienna was taking part these cubs did suffer a little but the powers of healing in large cats is astounding.

 

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

 

Scar and Morani seemed to be about most of the time while Sikio and Hunter moved between the paradise areas and Bila Shaka.

 

Photo courtesy of Rex Jackson

 

Of the five breakaways Lippy has been nursing and looking after four cubs of which three are 8 months old cubs and one cub is 4 months old that was the offspring of Jicho. Musiara, Sila and Kini are all part of the marsh breakaways and with Siena and her pride of cubs and sub-adults being in the Marsh area the breakaways moved to the east side of the Marsh and also hunted in the north Masai conservation area. In April 15th a day after when Sienna was being treated and stitched again she introduced her cubs to the breakaways and this all went down very well, sadly this short introduction was clearly short lived and within 24 hours they had all moved apart almost to opposite ends of the Marsh.

 

Lippy and Kini with the four cubs were seen on the 29th near Lake Nakuru which has given them space again since the core pride left the marsh environs for the Bila Shaka area a few days ago.

 

In the late hours of the 31st or early hours of the 1st June a male lion was seen on the early morning game drive at 7.00am, it showed that he had a torn scrotum, we all are suggesting that he had a fracas with Jicho and the other two lionesses who were also at the scene on the remains of a dead Wildebeest. Jicho is limping when she was seen walking off towards the Bila Shaka. Kini and Lippy were also there and with four cubs of which the youngest cub is that of Jicho, if this is the case then altruistic behaviour was not shown and this lion was not accepted by the pride females. Our guides called in the injury to Park Rangers and The David Sheldrick Wildlife Foundation, who together with Kenya Wildlife Services mobilised their Sky Vets who flew to the Mara, we collected them on arrival and took them to the male who they promptly treated for his wounds.

 

The Ridge/Topi plains pride of 4 breeding females and to include Madomo and 3 sub adults who are 17 months old were seen again in the evening of the 31st near Kries lugga, the sub-adult male is favouring his left front leg and limping he is also looking thin for a lion at this time of year. In the early months of May they on the top east flank of Rhino ridge, they were hunting warthog and each time the pigs went to ground. These sub-adults were born in June 2012 in this depression the guides call Kries lugga.

 

The paradise females who are three lionesses and their four cubs, two of which are 15 months old and the two are 20 months old. This pride in early April was being seen in the Paradise area of the Mara River near the main crossing points, recently more so in the latter weeks of May where they have been feeding off the resident Zebra that have crossed here and also the many Warthog who at this time of the year will help supplement the resident lion's diet. Two of the marsh musketeers namely Sikio and Hunter have been down here many times on the latter half of this month, even Scar was being seen near the Paradise area although much of his time is in the Marsh environs.

 

Moja the now 3 and a half year old male a BBC film star was seen on the 31st May under the Fig tree where this lion cub and along with his mother Nyota were being filmed during the big cat live of March/April 2011. He is a nice looking male and unscathed he stays very much on the Rhino ridge top plains.

 

 

 

 

Photo courtesy of Vicky Lyall

 

Leopard

 

Romi the mother of the 19 month old male cub is still being seen near the BBC camp site and towards the Little Governors crossing. The male cub was last seen near the BBC camp site on the 30th at 6.00pm. In mid-April near IL Moran camp whereby he had an Impala up a Warbugia tree earlier in the morning and then Romi was seen on the remains that evening. Romi has been seen latterly this month as well. The male cub was seen twice in May and a fleeting glimpse in April.

 

Photo courtesy of Will Fortescue

 

Another male has been seen near the paradise crossing points in early May, it was at that this time in May that there were four leopard sightings in one day and this was when guests were taking game drives into the trans Mara conservancy.

 

The large older male is often seen near the double crossing, in the late morning of the 28th he was seen downstream of the Ngiatiak river.

 

Cheetah

 

A female cheetah in May was being seen near Topi plains and also near the double crossing. In early May three cheetah a female and two sub-adults were seen near the lookout hill area of the Trans Mara. A young male estimated at three years old was seen near the northern area of the Masai conservation area.

 

 

Photo courtesy of Simone Blomeley

 

Walking in the Mara North Conservancy.

 

There have been no walks for the months of April and May. Many Zebra and Wildebeest were through here is April and end of this month they moved west into the Mara reserve. Elephant herds go back and forth from the reserve and conservation areas for the Acacia woodlands that they prefer when grass levels are short.

 

 

 

Wildebeest Migration Update

 

10 June, 2014

Can you hear the sound of a million galloping hooves? The first herds of the wildebeest migration have arrived in the Masai Mara. Yesterday large numbers of Wildebeest were seen crossing the Talek River and were coming from the Burangat side for the Mara and were then moving towards to the Double crossing area. The Talek River is quite low at the moment and we even had a report of a lioness taking down a wildebeest as it crossed the Talek River. There are also many resident Wildebeest within the Musiara, Bila Shaka and the Mara north conservancies in Masai land. Photos are courtesy of Governors Il Moran Camp Guest Andy Wigg.

 

 

 

 

 

Tripadvisor Certificates of Excellence

 

 

 

We are delighted to announce that Governors Camp, Little Governors Camp, Governors Il Moran Camp, Governors Balloon Safaris and Sabyinyo Silverback have all been awarded Trip Advisor Certificates of Excellence.

 

 

 

Kenya travel security update

 

Following recent developments in Kenya here is an update on the present situation for those interested in travelling to the country. The British government has changed its travel advice for Kenya and for the present time is recommending avoiding non- essential travel to Mombasa Island and an area between Mtwapa, north of Mombasa and Tiwi, south of Mombasa.

 

Many people think "Mombasa" refers to all the beach resorts on Kenya's coast but this is incorrect. To clarify Mombasa is actually an island and is the commercial centre, port and city. It is not a beach resort. The British Foreign & Commonwealth Office advisory covers the area from Mtwapa to Tiwi and this includes certain areas where a number of the leading beach resorts are located. The main Mombasa Airport (Moi International) is not affected and flights continue to operate there as normal.

 

As a result of the British government advice against non-essential travel to Mombasa and its environs, the large British tour operators using charter flights to Mombasa have had to stop operating holidays to the affected beach resorts listed in the new travel advisory and consequently have had to cancel all their charter flights between now and October as the bulk of their passenger bookings were to those resorts. Their last flight was last week and all their customers on holiday in Kenya and booked on their charter flights were obliged to come back on that flight and to curtail their holidays regardless of whether or not they were staying in the areas affected by the non-essential travel advice. However all other international airlines continue operating their scheduled flights as normal to Nairobi and Mombasa.

 

The present British Foreign and Commonwealth Office advice against non-essential travel can be summarised to say avoid all non-essential travel to areas within 60km of the Kenya-Somali border, Kiwayu and coastal areas north of Pate Island, Garissa District, the Eastleigh area of Nairobi, low income areas of Nairobi, including all township or slum areas, Mombasa island and within 5km of the coast from Mtwapa creek in the north down to and including Tiwi in the south.

 

The change to the British Travel Advisory on Kenya comes about following recent incidents of small home-made explosive devices being set off in Mombasa and Nairobi by the Al Shabaab terrorist organisation resulting in a number of deaths and injuries.

 

These attacks have taken place at remote towns near the border with Somalia or in the slums of Mombasa and Nairobi at public bus terminals, at bars or eating-places in low income housing areas, on public buses heading out of Nairobi coming from one of the big bus terminals, and with the latest in a crowded market place near the Eastleigh area of Nairobi. They have all been relatively small-scale apart from eight months ago when there was an attack by a number of terrorists at a crowded shopping mall in Nairobi which received wide international media coverage.

 

During the last three years Kenyan troops have been actively pursuing al-Shabaab in southeastern Somalia and have driven them out of their strongholds all along the Somali border with Kenya, including the port of Kismayu. As a result, al-Shabaab has been weakened in Somalia and the security situation in the border area with Kenya has stabilised and improved with incidents of Somali piracy in the last twelve months having virtually ended. In response to the Kenyan intervention, al-Shabaab and its sympathizers have conducted retaliatory attacks against civilian and government targets in Kenya and have issued threats with the aim of trying to put pressure on Kenya to abandon its campaign against al-Shabaab in Somalia and to hand the area back to the terrorists. President Uhuru Kenyatta has confirmed that the Kenya government will not weaken in its resolve to stand up against terrorists and has expressed disappointment that the terrorist threats have caused the travel plans of some British citizens to parts of the Kenyan coast to be disrupted.

The tourism stakeholders in Kenya have expressed their deepest sympathies to their fellow Kenyans who have been caught up in the recent incidents and have reiterated that the safety and security of international visitors will continue to be the highest priority with very careful attention being given to see that they are well looked after while in Kenya and that they are taken only to places considered safe and where security is not considered to be at risk.

 

The safari areas and other tourist resorts are unaffected by these incidents and life is actually continuing very much as normal in Kenya apart from enhanced security being in place in all the areas frequented by tourists. The latest returning tourists all confirm that they have been having a very enjoyable time and that they experienced nothing but a friendly welcome from Kenyans and the general approach seems to be that terrorist threats should not be allowed to disrupt the lives of people in the free world.

 

These incidents have been tragic for those Kenyans who were killed or suffered injuries and for their families and friends but no foreign tourist visitors were affected and these incidents happened mainly in areas where tourists normally do not venture. They tend to be places where there is a less effective security presence unlike the airports or international hotels where enhanced security has been in place

for some time. Such incidents have never affected Kenya's well-known wildlife parks and game reserves.

Guests are recommended not to wander off on their own trips in Nairobi or go into the back streets on foot so that they do not inadvertently head into an area which would not be considered entirely safe. Just as in parts of Europe or North America, where there may be areas of a city that are not considered ideal for visitors, the Kenyan tour operators know which places to avoid in Nairobi.

President Kenyatta has urged international visitors not to be deterred from coming on holiday to Kenya and not to allow terrorists to achieve their aim of damaging the country's economy by frightening people so that they fear to travel.

 

Another tourism stakeholder, Asilia Africa, has made the following statement, " It is important to stress that the vast majority of tourism areas are unaffected by the travel advisory and more importantly are far removed from threat of attack, not least due to the inaccessibility of them. We stand by our industry partners and the Kenyan government in our belief that Kenya remains a safe safari destination and together we will continue to work to restore the required confidence to ensure this destination and its people do not suffer more than they already have."

 

 

The lion and the honey badger

 

Written by: Don Scott, owner of Tanda Tula

 

So the reputation of the tenacious honey badger is legendary in the bush and many stories have been told of this creature's incredible ability to take on adversaries far superior in size and power. I have a number of stories which will attest to this perception and this story, which happened a number of years ago, is one of my favourites.

 

Mid-summer in the Timbavati is a 'hot' time of year, and the evening of our story was no different. We had just sat down to dinner with a full camp of guests and the pervasive heat had us rolling up all of the blinds in the dining area and praying for a breath of wind. Little did we know, so concerned we were about filling our tummies and wiping the sweat from our brows, that some activity was developing within a few paces of the dining area that would have our adrenalin pumping only a few minutes later, and would leave one hard-of-hearing guest wondering what on earth he had missed.

 

It all began with some strange scratching noises coming from the communal guest bathrooms just behind the dining area. Dave, our assistant manager at the time, got up when he thought he heard some purrs and squeaks coming from the same place, and not wanting to alarm anyone, he discreetly exited and went to investigate. On his return, with a wavering voice, he whispered in my ear that he thought he had seen a lioness's tail sticking out the guest loo door. Of course, I told him he was imagining it and that he needed to calm down and stop seeing things that weren't there! Hearing some further noises, I went to have a look for myself.

 

I returned to tell David in my own wavering voice that there was definitely a lioness in the guest loo and that we had to take some emergency precautions to ensure we didn't panic our guests, but also did not have the lioness coming to join us for dinner! 

 

To make matters worse, from the noises we could hear, it now became clear that a honey badger was sharing the small space of the guest loo with the lioness whose tail we had seen, and this was without doubt a recipe for a major wildlife battle in our midst. So a process began that saw us quietly rolling down the blinds of the dining area, putting some chair barriers around the dining area, while having whispered discussions of getting a firearm handy in case the whole situation went south.

 

Now, closing off the area with roll down blinds in the heat of summer was not a good idea, and it wasn't 30 seconds before we were both being loudly chastised for this thoughtless and inexplicable act, with accusations of "too much wine" and something about "typical men" being uttered.

 

Luckily for Dave and I, the noises from the guest loo revealed themselves just in time, and it now became obvious that we had animal visitors who were definitely too close for comfort and that our actions were explainable. Of course, the first things guests ask when they hear unfamiliar animal noises at night is: "what is it making that strange noise?" - and this evening was no different. Trying to maintain some semblance of calm in a dining room full of international travellers, we did what anyone else would have done in our situation..... we lied! "It's just a honey badger in the toilet" we said, foolishly thinking that this explanation would satisfy our curious eco-tourists and send them back to their delicious desserts. We couldn't have been more wrong!

The entire congregation of guests, except for the fellow with the hearing aid who seemed not to have noticed the commotion that was going on around him, rose and hurried out of the dining room towards the guest toilet in the hope of getting a peek of one of these elusive little night creatures. Clearly they were also uninitiated in the dangers of a close encounter with a honey badger, but who were we to throw a bucket of water on their enthusiasm? We tried in vain to prevent anyone from exiting the dining area, almost being trampled in the process.

As the first guests were clear of the dining area, the lioness chose this very moment to begin a series of earth shattering growls and snarls that left no-one in any doubt that Dave and I had slightly underplayed the full picture of the situation. They all turned around again and scrambled to re-enter the dining area through the same single door opening that they had used to exit. Needless to say, this attempt to defy the laws of physics and to force sixteen people through a space meant only for one, was as comical as it was desperate, leaving Dave and I struggling to not only get everyone back to safety, but not to die of nervous laughter in the process!

Thankfully we quickly had everyone back inside, albeit under the dining tables with only their bottoms sticking out. The next step was to post a guard at the entrance to the dining area, rifle in hand, in case the honey badger attempted to seek refuge under the dining tables with our guests! Being the brave chap that I am, I volunteered to make the ultimate sacrifice..... and posted Dave to guard the door with strict instructions to tell us exactly "what was going on out there".

I have seen a lot of things in the bush, but what we saw next was truly incredible and not something I would have thought possible. Out of the guest loo came the honey badger, clawing his way slowly forward one sturdy front leg at a time. Initially it wasn't clear as to what was causing him to claw his way so slowly forwards and then we saw that the lioness had latched herself onto the little fellow's bottom and was holding on for dear life with her jaws and teeth. The honey badger seemed completely unhurt, whilst the lioness was shredded from head to chest. In fact the little tough guy of the bush almost seemed annoyed at having this lioness attached to him like a trailer.

 

As our flashlights shone on the lioness, she looked across at us, momentarily losing grip on the honey badger, which shot out like a bar of soap on a wet floor, and ran off into the darkness. The lioness was left panting and defeated, staring at Dave with a mixture of confusion and resignation, before she too skulked off into the darkness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elephant calf devoted to dying mother

 

Written by: Saba Douglas-Hamilton

 

A female elephant is sick - Cherie. She has a five month old calf. She keeps stretching out her back legs or leaning uncomfortably forward, as if trying to ease pain in her stomach. Apparently she's been like this for weeks. Her calf tries to suckle but she brushes it off the nipple with her leg. At this age he relies almost entirely on her milk. I notice the deep indentations of her temples, and the sharp pinch around her cheekbones. There are signs of dehydration, this is serious.

 

 

We wait and watch for days, finding her mostly alone with her calf, now unable to keep up with the herd. She takes to resting on raised edges of roads or sloping river banks which make it easier to get to her feet. I sense her determination to live for the calf. But she's dying, and without milk the calf starts losing condition.

 

We call the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) vet, but he feels that Cherie is too far gone to survive being tranquilised. He asks us to keep on monitoring her. Night falls and Cherie finally collapses. The calf nudges her emaciated body with its head, encouraging her to rise then lays its trunk softly across her hip and leans in close for comfort. They stay like that for a long time. It's so quiet. So dignified. There is clearly so much love. For the first time in my life I pray that an elephant will die. It's a deeply private moment. But she is hardier than I imagined. The night passes, and another long day goes by. I've barely slept a wink. Somehow she just keeps on getting up and walking away.

 

 

In these terrible days of poaching, it is most unusual to be watching a natural death and I am deeply aware of the privilege. I just wish I could ease her pain. The poor vet is faced with a hard moral choice. She has lost her milk and the calf is rapidly deteriorating, so does he save the mother or the calf? Convinced that there's no hope for Cherie, he requests permission to euthanise her before the calf becomes too weak to survive. But the go-ahead must come from way up the KWS ladder, so we have no choice but to wait.

 

Gazing up at the star-scape later in the evening I wonder if she has noticed the intense beauty of the night. Perhaps it will be her last in this shimmering, moon-lit landscape.

 

The calf eats leaves and grasses nearby, but I notice he has trouble controlling his little trunk and much of the food drops to the ground. He must be so hungry. She rests a long, long time, then suddenly gets up and stands ghost-like on the edge of the riverbank. Gathering her courage she launches into a long-legged stride, disappearing into a thicket with the calf. I lose them completely in the darkness. Depressed, tired, and dreading every possible outcome of the morrow, I drive back home. If she dies tonight, I think, we will make every effort to rescue the calf and give it a second chance at life. That, my beautiful Cherie, I promise.

 

We find Cherie back with her family the next morning, eating the branches of a commiphora. The Samburu tell me they use its roots as medicine for stomach ailments. It seems to be the one thing she likes, but she eats it only at night. She certainly seems a little stronger. The vet feels there is no way he can now justify putting her down, not when she clearly has such a will to live. Against all odds, she just might pull through. But the calf is suffering. Surrounded by family it feels secure, and is comforted by the presence of its mother. It's making a valiant effort to eat and drink, but I fear that without milk it will die. There is nothing the vet can do.

 

She rests for most of the day, and the Save the Elephants field team take it in turns to keep watch. The calf is listless, depressed. He eats continuously, shoving leaves and soft grasses into his mouth to sate the gnawing hunger. At dusk, Cherie walks slowly across the river then collapses into an erosion gully. David Daballen, head of field operations, steps gently out of his car to touch her eyes. She's dead. At last. The calf flings his little trunk across her body then steps his front legs up onto her stomach. He rocks to and fro. David decides to keep guard overnight and try to capture the calf the following morning. But as the night deepens, a pride of lions start to roar nearby, shattering the tranquillity. They circle closer. David knows the team must act now or it will be too late.

 

Three times they capture the calf and three times he breaks free. He's bigger than expected, strong as an ox and ferocious with grief. Vast black storm clouds block out the moon and suddenly the heavens open. Hit by the deluge, the team race between Salvadora trees in a last heroic effort to catch the calf, slipping in the mud, and acutely aware of lions around the next corner. Panting with effort, wet to the bone, and shivering with exhaustion, the team give up. The calf spins around and runs off into the night.

 

 

Early the next morning David finds him again, close to his family and two large musth bulls. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust vet and rescue aircraft are scrambled to action in Nairobi. The calf's family are showing a keen interest in him, touching his back, smelling him, and catching up on the dramas of the night. David waits for a gap then eases his vehicle between them, isolating the calf from the other elephants. This time round, with enough people on hand, the capture is successful. Within a few hours, the calf is secure in the aeroplane heading towards Nairobi, sedated and on a drip. When he arrives at the orphanage he guzzles down four bottles of milk within minutes. This is a baby that wants to live. "Sokotei", I think, the local name for Salvadora, in honour of his courageous escape from his would-be rescuers as the wild storm sent his mothers soul back up into the universe.

 

Yes, that's the right name.

 

 

 

             

 

 

Our news this month has been dominated by the death of one of our 9-1 rangers in an ambush by cattle- rustlers, and we set out the full story below. This loss drives home the persistent conflicts faced by communities and conservancies in the north, but it is worth reflecting that through the extraordinary dedication of men like Lardagos these conflicts have been enormously reduced over recent years. Cattle-rustling is a tit-for-tat affair, a relatively easy way of stealing, and in some parts still a strong cultural tradition, but it used to involve hundred of people and thousands of cattle in very regular incidences. Now it has reduced to small bands of hardened thieves and morans from the warrior age- groups. This is due to the work of community rangers, the 9-1 mobile teams, and the strong sense of new direction and purpose from communities living in conservancies to weed out this practice. Lardagos will not be forgotten, and his colleagues continue to put themselves in the front line to protect their communities and wildlife. We still have work to do, but the long-term trends are without question toward improving security in the north.

 

 

 

 

Mike Harrison CEO

Northern Rangelands Trust

 

NRT Mourns A True Conservation Hero

 

 

 

    

Ltadamwa Lardagos, a brave ranger from our specialised '9-1' security team, tragically lost his life earlier this month in an exchange of fire with cattle raiders in Sera Conservancy

 

A brave ranger from NRT's specialised 9-1 security team lost his life in an exchange of fire with heavily armed cattle raiders on Sunday 11th May. Ltadamwa Lardagos, 36, had been part of the 9-1 team since it was established back in 2009. An experienced, talented and dedicated ranger, he will be sorely missed by his team-mates, his family, and his friends.

 

Lardagos lost his life recovering livestock that had been stolen from the Meru area, on the slopes of Mt. Kenya. He had been involved in many similar incidents over the years, resulting in the successful recovery of hundreds of heads of cattle. This fateful incident was described as 'extremely unlucky' as his team walked into a carefully prepared ambush. Lardagos was killed instantly.

 

The armed gang, who had stolen large numbers of cattle, had been on the move for several days, and had already encountered an NRT vehicle, although by accident. After the theft, the gang had rapidly headed north, through Nakuprat-Gotu Community Conservancy, where in panic they shot at an NRT vehicle heading back from a community board meeting. The vehicle contained Gabriel Nyausi, NRT's community development officer, as well as several board members of Nakuprat-Gotu. The driver, "Ndege", has received training in driving in hostile situations, and managed to manoeuvre the vehicle through the spray of bullets, driving all passengers to safety and escaping with just a graze on his head from a speeding bullet.

 

As the thieves headed into Sera Community Conservancy with the stolen livestock, the Kenya Police called in the help of NRT's specialised 9-1 security team. 9-1 immediately sprang to action, picking up the trail of the gang near the village of Kom. It was here that they encountered an ambush, and exchanged heavy gunfire. During the exchange, Ltadamwa Lardagos was hit by one of the cattle raiders' bullets and tragically lost his life.

 

The gang made their escape, but did not count on the strength of the community spirit and their unwavering support for the 9-1 team. As the rest of Lardagos' team followed up with the bandits, people from nearby villages came forward, eager to gave information on the movements of the gang. It was this information from the community and the fast action of the 9-1 team, that lead to the arrest of his killer the same evening. NRT also wishes to thank Tropic Air for their rapid assistance, as they flew in a team of tracker dogs and their handlers from Ol Pejeta Conservancy to help find the culprit. As the case now rests with the Kenya Police, it will be this community involvement that will help to catch the other individuals involved in this incident.

 

Lardagos died fighting to protect his community, his rangelands, and for peace in northern Kenya. He was given a police burial in his home conservancy of Melako on Thursday 15th May, where he was described by an officer as "a good fighter and soldier, and loyal to the team." The service was attended by his family, NRT staff, his fellow rangers, and representatives from three county governments, the Kenya Police and the Kenya Wildlife Service. He leaves behind a wife, Mbeneiyo, and two young children, Stephano and Nambiyie. Although nothing will ever bring him back, his family will be left with financial support equivalent to eight years of his salary. The US ambassador Robert Godec, who visited this area just last month to open the new Nasuulu Headquarters, tweeted his support, saying "Ltadamwa Lardagos, we mourn his death & celebrate his courage & all who make great sacrifices to protect Kenya's wildlife".

 

NRT has set up a fund to support Lardagos' children through school, and we would welcome any donation great or small. To donate in USD, please see our Crowdrise site.

 

 

Lordargos was laid to rest at a ceremony in Laisamis, Melako, attended by NRT colleagues, friends and family

 

Inside NRT - Tourism in NRT Community Conservancies

 

Following a series of security incidents attributed to violent extremists, several countries including Britain, have reissued their travel advisory on certain areas of Kenya. NRT extend their deepest sympathies to fellow Kenyans who have been caught up in the recent incidents, but wish to quote President Uhuru Kenyatta when he said that "terrorism is not an evil born in Kenya".

 

While vigilance and caution are absolutely appropriate, the majority of Kenya remains a safe, friendly, and beautiful place. Nowhere more so than the north.

 

Northern Kenya is one of Africa's last true wilderness destinations. In this area wildlife roams free across a vast and diverse landscape characterized by acacia grasslands, dry savannah and thick forests along the slopes of stunning mountains. The diversity of fauna and flora make northern Kenya a truly unique wildlife experience. The local pastoral communities that inhabit the region have a rich history and are collectively striving to conserve the area's wildlife and its habitat. Visiting northern Kenya is like nothing else, and there is no better place to experience the real Africa.

 

Wildlife-based tourism is a major source of revenue for communities and conservancies. Support from NRT helps conservancies to develop long-term agreements with tourism investors and promote tourism in northern Kenya. Conservancy and bed-night fees generated over 50 million Kenyan shillings (US$568,850) in 2013. This was used to pay for rangers' salaries, educational bursaries and other ventures identified as a priority by local communities.

 

Eco-tourism is a major source of income for communities and conservancies

 

Currently, there are seven (7) NRT conservancies that host at least one tourist lodge, and several that receive support from lodges in neighbouring conservancies. Set in some of Africa's most stunning wilderness, most are luxury eco-tourism ventures aimed at the high end market. All lodges are involved with the communities that live and work in their host conservancy.

 

The year Saruni Lodge opened (2009), revenue to Kalama Conservancy totalled Ksh 5.9m ($70,000), and in the same year Namunyak Conservancy received Ksh 7.6m ($90,000) from Sarara Lodge. In 2014 Saruni's contribution increased to Ksh 7.5m ($88,000) and Sarara's to an exceptional Ksh 17.8m ($209,000). Overall the top six ventures, including these two and Sasaab, Tassia, Ngare Ndare and Il Ngwesi, contributed Ksh 51.5m ($606,000) in direct cash income to conservancies (excluding jobs, grants and other benefits), which is split 40% for operations and salaries, and 60% to the community fund for education, healthcare and other livelihood priorities

 

Il Ngwesi, Kitich, Sasaab, Ol Lentille, Ol Gaboli, Koija Star Beds and Tassia all have direct links with the community, with the latter employing 90% of its staff from the conservancy. As well as safaris, many of them offer guests cultural visits to local villages, where they can experience a traditional way of life and buy locally made goods.

 

NRT is now finalising a tourism growth and development plan for the north, including more diverse tourism products in more conservancies, new visitor circuits, investment opportunities for tourism operators, better marketing and destination branding for the north, and more sensitisation amongst communities on attracting investors. We hope to develop more capacity in 2014 to roll this out across NRT, and help to stem the tide that is currently turning against tourism in Kenya. Tourism remains one of the most significant economic developments in this region, bringing jobs and direct cash incomes to conservancy communities where there are few alternatives