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Bush Telegraph Newsletter

July 2014 - Part 2  

 


 

JONATHAN SCOTT: WHY YOU MUST VISIT KENYA NOW

  

Concerned that negative press is taking its toll on Kenya's tourism, BBC wildlife presenter Jonathan Scott explains how your visit is vital in saving the country's endangered wildlife 


Jonathan and Angie Scott are award-winning authors and internationally-renowned wildlife photographers who live in Kenya, Africa. They divide their time between their beautiful home in a leafy suburb of Nairobi - with giraffes as their neighbours - and a cottage at Governor's Camp overlooking the animal-speckled plains of the Maasai Mara, possibly Africa's finest wildlife area.

Here, he explains how your visit can contribute not only to the country's fragile economy but to the very survival of its endangered wildlife... 


I love Kenya and have lived here for nearly 40 years. Kenyans have got to be the friendliest and most welcoming people on earth. If I had only one day left in my life, I know where I'd spend it - in the Maasai Mara with my wife Angie. There is nowhere else like it.

 

Without tourism we will not be able to protect the best of our wildlife areas. There are a lot of people in Kenya desperate for land to settle on. For the moment, the government has been able to protect amazing wildlife places like Tsavo, the Maasai Mara, Samburu and Amboseli, because people can see the financial benefits. But as the human population continues to expand there will always be pressure on the land. Tourism in Kenya is right up there among the big four moneymakers for the country: tea, coffee, cut flowers and tourism. We are always lobbying to try to ensure that more of the money from tourism reaches the pockets of the local communities - that is the best way to protect wild places. 

  

If we turn our back on wildlife-based tourism, we are making it easier for poachers. The benefit of tourists visiting Kenya is that it is much harder for the poachers to move in and do their business without anyone knowing about it. There are more eyes and ears and telephoto lenses on the ground - and the money from visitors' park fees helps to pay the costs of protecting our wildlife. But it is a constant battle and we have to be vigilant. Even the Mara has felt the impact of serious poaching.

You only have to look at what happened in the past to see how important tourism is to conservation.

When Tanzania closed its border with Kenya from 1977 to 1983, the number ofvisitors to the Serengeti dropped from 70,000 a year to about 10,000. The loss in revenue caused a 60% decline in anti-poaching patrols; there just wasn't enough money to ensure that the rangers had the equipment they needed, or the vehicles and fuel to administer the anti-poaching effort. The result? The rhinos disappeared from the Serengeti, the elephants were hammered, and meat poaching skyrocketed.

 

So if the world is serious about helping us to prevent poaching of rhinos and elephants, well, believe me, we need those tourist dollars.

 

Read the travel advisories carefully. Don't interpret a warning against visiting Mombasa as a warning against visiting the whole country - or against visiting the Kenya coast. I'm not saying ignore travel advisories - the security experts know more about the situation than we do. But read, listen and then make up your own mind as to where to go 

  

If you are worried, talk to your tour operator. Most are reputable companies and members of KATO, the Kenya Association of Tour Operators. They pay their dues and are regulated by the industry. Believe me; they're not going to put you into places that are dangerous. They are going to do everything they can to try and ensure your safety.

 

When you come to Nairobi, stay at one of the lovely places on its outskirts. There are a number that come to mind, like Machushla House, Giraffe Manor, Ngong House, House of Wayne. They're all nice, tranquil places to stay, away from the traffic and congestion of central Nairobi. You can also go to the giraffe sanctuary and have a giraffe wrap its 18-inch tongue around your face. Or go and see the elephant orphans we featured on Elephant Diaries having fun in their mud wallow.

 

If I was a first-time visitor to Kenya, the Maasai Mara would be first on my list - but I would visit it last on my safari making it the highlight. First I'd head north to Samburu or Buffalo Springs to see Grévy'szebras, reticulated giraffes, the long- necked gerenuk antelope and all those dry country birds you won't see in the Mara. I would also look at taking in Lake Nakuru or Lake Bogoria. Nakuru's got lions and plenty of rhinos, and the yellow fever trees along the lake are wonderful for leopards and for birds too. But right now if you want to see flamingos, you might be better off heading to Lake Bogoria -home of the magnificent greater kudu.

 

Finally, I see this moment in time as an opportunity. Anyone who comes to visit Kenya now will not be complaining about the amount of vehicles at the river crossings in the Mara during this year's migration! You'll be getting an even better quality safari experience if there are fewer people. So is this time to come and visit us? Yes it is!

 

Jonathan Scott has presented a number of popular TV series for the BBC, Animal Planet, and Discovery Channel including Big Cat Diary, Elephant Diaries, Dawn to Dusk, Flamingo Watch and Africa Watch.

  

 

 

New cubs for Marsh Pride of Lions

 

20 June, 2014

 

Exciting news to report, there are new cubs for the Marsh Pride of lions. We have known for some time that lioness Musiara was pregnant and then she began to isolate herself from the pride, all normal behaviour for an expectant lioness. Yesterday she killed a zebra together with lioness Sila, she then left the kill and went to fetch her cubs, on the way back to the kill she jumped over a pool of water in the marsh and the cubs had to jump in and swim across. They made it all back safe and mum Musiara led them to the kill, where the cubs licked the meat, they are too young yet to feed on it. The cubs are around a month old and there are two of them. 


 

Photo and update courtesy of Moses Manduku, Governors Camp Head Guide.

 

 

 

Zebras cross Mara River at Governors Camp

 

19 June, 2014

 

A small crossing of zebras in front of the bar area at Governors Camp yesterday afternoon. Guests were sitting on the deck when about 15 zebra made their way across the treacherous Mara river to join the rest of their herd on the other side. I am happy to announce zero fatalities although it was quite a struggle for some of the individuals to make it up the steep bank on the other side of the river. Their normal way out was blocked by a sizable crocodile which none of them wanted to bypass. With a bit of encouragement from the rest of the herd, they all made it to safety. Photos courtesy of Nelis Wolmarans Governors Camp Manager. 

 

 

 

 

The United Nations Environmental Assembly that took place during the last week of June between the 23rd and the 27th, has now come to an end. The result:

  

Kenya received a huge endorsement from the head of the United Nations Environment Program.  UNEP director Achim Steiner also declared Kenya a safe destination, saying his organisation was satisfied with the steps the government had taken to tackle insecurity. 
 

 

The assembly saw more than 1,200 delegates and 90 ministers from 162 member states with the arrival of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who also attended these events in Nairobi.
 
As Kenyans, we are very proud to have been hosts of this forum as it marks our commitment to the global environmental policy, and that it underlines Kenya as a safe tourist destination.

 

  

In the last few weeks, the Kenya Tourism Board launched a global on-line marketing campaign to reassure tourists that Kenya is safe and continues to be one of the world's favourite destinations. The campaign is running under the hashtag headline #WhyILoveKenya and is increasing its speed on a weekly basis as more and more people are telling the world why they love Kenya and what is so unique about it.

  

Even the wildebeests have decided they want to start their annual migration early this year as they have already moved into the Maasai Mara! 

  

  

  

Another Iconic Kenya Elephant Slaughtered

 

  • Satao had roamed Kenya's Tsavo East National Park for at least 45 years

  • He was killed by poachers with a single poisoned arrow, the park said  

  • The elephant was admired by thousands of visitors to the park every year 

Ivory poachers have killed one of Africa's most iconic and well-loved tusker elephants.
Satao, whose tusks were so long they trailed the ground, was discovered with his
face hacked off at Kenya's Tsavo East National Park.

The behemoth animal had roamed the park for at least 45 years. It is believed he was killed with a single poisoned arrow. 


 

 

 

The Tsavo Trust had been monitoring the elephant's movements using aerial reconnaissance for the last 18 months, and thanks to his enormous tucks the beast was 'easily identifiable' from the air.  But the technology was not enough to save the iconic beast from the hands of the poachers.
A spokesman said: 'With great sadness, we report the death of Satao, one of
Tsavo's most iconic and well-loved tuskers.

 

'This magnificent elephant was widely known in Tsavo East National Park, where he was observed with awe by many thousands of Tsavo's visitors over the years.  'No longer will Tsavo and Kenya benefit from his mighty presence.' 

 

 

 

Satao, whose tusks were so long they trailed the ground, was discovered with his face hacked off at Kenya's Tsavo East National Park 
They added: 'The arrow had entered his left flank and he stood no chance of survival. We spotted his carcass on 2nd June but to avoid any potential false alarms, we first took pains to verify the carcass really was his.

 

'Today it is with enormous regret that we confirm there is no doubt that Satao is dead, killed by an ivory poacher's poisoned arrow to feed the seemingly insatiable demand for ivory in far off countries.
'A great life lost so that someone far away can have a trinket on their mantelpiece.'

 

It comes after authorities announced that one of Africa's oldest national parks is under attack 'from all fronts,' after 68 elephants have been slaughtered in two months by poachers, some of whom shot them from helicopters. 


 

The Tsavo Trust had been monitoring the elephant's movements using aerial reconnaissance. But the technology was not enough to save the iconic beast from the hands of the poachers.

  

Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo is under constant assault by renegade Congolese soldiers, gunmen from South Sudan and others. International wildlife regulators say 20,000 elephants were killed in Africa alone in 2013.

The Johannesburg-based African Parks group, which manages Garamba, said since mid-April, the 5,000-square kilometer (1,900-square mile) park has faced an onslaught from several bands of poachers who have already killed 4 percent of its elephants.

About 28 percent of Africa's elephants are in eastern Africa, but most of them - close to 55 percent - are in southern Africa. Some populations of elephants continue to face an immediate threat of local extinction. 





 

The Great Migration is back in Town: 
Time to Head for the Masai Mara: Part 1 of 2

 

 

Jonathan Scott June 4th, 2014

 

  

I have travelled the world with my wife Angela in an attempt to capture the visual splendor of our wild places, marveled at the sight of tens of thousands of king penguins pressed shoulder to shoulder among the guano spattered tussock grass at St Andrew's Bay in South Georgia; crouched along the edge of a sparkling summer torrent in Alaska's Katmai National to witness the giant coastal brown bears feasting on the profligacy of the salmon run. Both are epic and unmissable in their own way. But even when I was a child growing up on a farm in Berkshire I always knew that the greatest wildlife show on earth was to be found in East Africa the venue for an annual event starring 1.5 million wildebeest, 200,000 zebras and hundreds of thousands of gazelles. This last great migration roams the length and breadth of the Mara-Serengeti in its never ending search for grass and water, a journey fueled and patterned by the miracle of rainfall. Thank the Lord there are still no fences separating Kenya and Tanzania to stifle the passage of all these wild animals; no Customs or Immigration to slow their movements: not even the mighty Mara River can thwart their urge to keep moving for long.

 


 

After nearly forty years on safari in what I consider to be the finest wildlife sanctuary in the world I still feel an exquisite sense of anticipation and excitement at this time of the year when the Mara welcomes back the throng of grunting braying wildebeest and zebras to its rolling grassy plains. Though Angie and I have a beautiful home on the outskirts of Nairobi with an Out of Africa view of the Ngong Hills, our stone cottage at Governor's Camp in the Mara overlooking Marsh Pride territory is where our hearts beat strongest. I first set eyes on the Masai's spotted land in 1975 on an overland journey in a Bedford truck from London to Johannesburg. I had studied zoology at Queens University in Belfast and was determined to find a way of working with wildlife. That journey through Africa stole my heart. I sold my onward boat ticket from Cape Town to Sydney and after two years working with wildlife in Botswana returned overland to Kenya. For the next five years I lived unpaid at Mara River Camp honing my skills as a wildlife artist and photographer before crossing the river to base myself at Kichwa Tembo in the Mara Triangle. 


In 1982 my book The Marsh Lions was published (co-authored with the award winning journalist Brian Jackman) marking a turning point in my search to transform my childhood passion into a career. Everything - yet nothing - changed when I met Angie, the girl with the long blonde hair; the love of my life who was born in Africa and shared my obsession with wild places and photography. Angie and I were married in 1992 atop the Siria Escarpment that towers 300 meters above the plains at the western edge of the Reserve. We have never looked back.

Time in the Mara is measured by the arrival and departure of the migration and each year in early June the first wildebeest make their way across the Sand River close to the border with Tanzania and the Serengeti National Park where the great herds spend the rainy season on the park's abundant short grass plains, the birthplace of the migration. From now until November the Mara plays host to up to 600,000 wildebeest depending on how wet or dry it is. The herds make repeated sweeps across the grasslands mowing down the red oat grass that has grown tall during the long rains that begin in late March and continue until June. At home in Nairobi we listen for word from the 'bush telegraph' - the network of tour drivers and safari guides who anxiously enquire about the whereabouts of the wildebeest and pass on their findings to us. Pilots ferrying visitors to the Mara's camps and lodges are besieged with questions from land-based residents as to the movements of the herds.

 

But this year the rains have been sparse and the wheat farmers who lease huge tracts of Masailand to the east of the Reserve face huge loses. The farmers are not the only people concerned about unpredictable times. Tea and Coffee prices have been disappointing, while Kenya's lucrative Tourism Industry has been blighted by terrorism and Travel Advisories, taxes and insecurity. Britain, the US, Australia and France have warned about security concerns at locations along the Kenya coast and in parts of Nairobi.

 

Time for this Brit to pack his bags and head home? You must be joking!

 

 

 

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. 


 


 

 

 

AFRICA ELEPHANTS 'FACE SURVIVAL THREAT' FROM POACHING 

 

 

 

The survival of Africa's elephants is under threat, with estimates suggesting more than 20,000 were killed in 2013, a report says.

 

The office of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) said poaching levels were far above the elephant birth rate.

 

However, the report said poaching numbers had dropped slightly compared to the previous two years.

 

Transnational organised crime appeared to be involved in the trade, it added.

 

Cites, which is based in Geneva, is responsible for regulating the international trade in more than 35,000 species of plants and animals. 

 

 

 

There are a number of interesting signals in these latest figures, perhaps indicating that the tougher line being taken by Cites is bearing fruit.

 

For the first time, more large-scale consignments of ivory have been seized in Africa rather than in Asia.

 

This is down to better policing in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda and perhaps a slight downturn in demand from the key markets such as China, which carried out the first public destruction of ivory earlier this year.

 

There is also the rise in demand in China for legal mammoth ivory that is mainly exported from Russia, which may also indicate a growing awareness of the connection to elephants and a willingness to look at alternatives.

 

While these may be positive indicators, the report highlights continuing bad news.

 

The slaughter of elephants is rising in countries like the Central African Republic, where local populations remain on the verge of extinction.

 

 

Large seizures

 

"Africa's elephants continue to face an immediate threat to their survival from high levels of poaching for their ivory," said Cites Secretary-General John E Scanlon.

 

The report also documented an increase in the number of large seizures of ivory - of shipments over 500kg (1,100 pounds), in 2013. 

 

 

 

For the first time, there were more such seizures in Africa than Asia, with Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda accounting for 80% of the seizures, the report said.

 

"Large-scale ivory seizures are indicative of transnational organised crime being involved in the illicit ivory trade," a Cites press release said.

 

While elephant conservationists do believe that increased ivory confiscation is a sign that law enforcement is improving, they also point out that demand for ivory remains very high, says the BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Geneva.

 

Conservationists say that even in some of the monitored elephant populations, poaching is actually increasing, our correspondent adds.

The Cites poaching estimates were based on data from 51 sites across Africa, which accounted for 30-40% of the continent's elephant population.

 

Figures from those sites were extended to estimate the total numbers killed in Africa. 

 

 

 

BEHIND THE SCENES WITH VIRGINIA MCKENNA 

 
Dear friends and partners,

We have decided to introduce a series of interviews to our blog with personalities that are of interest to you and passionate about wildlife and safari. Over the next few months we will be talking to designers, producers and wildlife experts.

 

Our first interview is with actress, author and wildlife campaigner Virginia McKenna OBE. We are privileged to count Virginia and Will among our friends; they share our passion and dedication for the wilderness of Kenya. Virginia's personal experiences of working with Joy and GeorgeAdamson in the sixties, to create a film that transformed the general public's understanding of wild animals, as not "wild beasts" but as creatures that we can empathise with - are priceless. She has always been a loyal supporter of Elsa's Kopje and Joy's Camp, and her kindness and generosity has gained her firm friendships with all those in the Elsa's and Joy's community!

 

Very best wishes - Liz & Stefano

 

 

 

 

 

This year Born Free is celebrating it's 30th anniversary. What are your proudest achievements? 

 

I don't think I ever think of things in that way. Projects we do, rescues we undertake that succeed are rejoiced in. What I personally feel is gratitude. That we have been able to give animals a better life. Rescuing some from existences of loneliness and often shocking conditions is always a cause for rejoicing. And, also, the fact that 'wild animals in captivity' is now an issue is immensely heartening. Not that many years ago it was just taken for granted!

  

 

What would you advise guests to ask when booking a safari to ensure that they are helping with conservation efforts?

 

It is always a good idea to check that the travel company is as 'green' as possible. That their 'footprint' is a gentle one, that perhaps they support a local school or community.

 

 

How has Kenya changed since you were filming Born Free and what are your fondest memories of the country and its people? 

 
Of course many things have changed since we filmed there in 1964. More people, tarmac instead of dirt roads in many areas, more fences, more buildings. But some things remain the same. The warmth and hospitable welcome of the people, the ever-changing cloud patterns, the breath-taking beauty of the hills and mountains, the cool mystery of forests, the glimpses of animals and birds, the calm brought to you by sitting quietly by a river or watching a sunset.

 

 

What is your favourite memory from filming the film Born Free?

  

If I am honest my most treasured memories of that time are walking with a lion (sometimes two) with my husband Bill and George Adamson on the plains near Naro Moru in the early morning. About two hours of sharing that clear cool light, watching the lions run and chase, and sometimes ambush us - and then at lunchtime, sharing a picnic out on the plains with whichever lion we would film with that afternoon. 

 

These were the personal moments that no one can ever spoil - as they were deeply important in creating enduring trust between us and the animals.

 

 

What are your packing recommendations when travelling on safari?

 

A bottle of water, a hat, a bird book, a note book, a camera (but don't be a prisoner of it!). These items, of course, are for driving in the park. But in the suitcase I suggest cotton clothes (no synthetics) socks - especially for the evening as the mosquitos love ankles. And, if you are visiting a school - the children love biro pens, maybe a blow-up football. Above all, go with an open mind, forget the BIG FIVE!

 

 

What are you most looking forward to seeing on the Born Free 30th anniversary trips in October?

 

What I look forward to most is travelling to a country I love very much with some people I have travelled with before, and are now friends; and the opportunity to make new friends. To be far from the hustle of life and be in the bush, glimpsing the animals, seeing old friends who work at the camps we are staying in. Perhaps most of all, driving to the grave of Elsa the lioness in Meru National Park and sitting quietly nearby, sharing memories of how the Born Free' story began; we sit and have a bush breakfast prepared by the wonderful team at Elsa's Kopje. The place which, apart from my own home, means more to me than anywhere in the world.

 



How has the world of animal conservation changed in the last 30 years, are we facing different threats to wildlife? 

 

We are, indeed, facing many new and increasing threats to wildlife since I first went to Kenya in 1964. The current and most striking are the poaching of elephants and rhino, the killing of lions and vultures, the kidnapping of primates and baby cheetah, the trapping of birds. The horrors of the illegal ivory and rhino horn trade are well-known, but appear to be flourishing in spite of strenuous attempts to catch the poachers, protect the animals, educate the misguided thousands who crave the ivory trinket or the powdered rhino horn's so-called 'cure'. The poisoning of lions is increasing as their own wild environment diminishes. As our human population burgeons, the wild becomes more grazing land for cattle and goats. The survival conflict needs urgent attention but it is complicated, and yet another challenge facing governments - who often have their own priorities.

 

But many countries rely on wildlife viewing to attract visitors. Will they continue to come if the animals have gone?

 

 

What other events are taking place to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Born Free?

 

These are some of the events still to come to mark Born Free's 30th Anniversary - We are currently running a Children's Poetry Competition. There is a celebrity Art Exhibition in early November. A Christmas Tea with music at Goodwood House, a Golf Event and dinner in Surrey and my son Will Travers is leading a Kilimanjaro climb in October.

 

 

How can people get more involved in the Born Free charity?

 

We hope people will want to know more about what we do - you can go online at www.bornfree.org.uk and read about our involvement in fighting the illegal wildlife trade, keeping primates as pets, rescuing animals, keeping up the pressure to ban wild animals in circuses, trophy hunting and dolphins in 'entertainment', and helping schools in Africa that are near the wildlife projects we support. We value every member and are grateful for their support however small or great.

 

There are still a few limited spaces on the Born Free anniversarytour with Virginia McKenna travelling from the 22 to 31 October where Virginia will host the group at Elsa's Kopje. The fully hosted group is now sold out.

 

 

 

 

Itinerary: 22nd - 31st October 2014

 

22 October 2014 - Charter to Meru, Elsa's Kopje x 3 night
25 October 2014 - Drive from Meru - Shaba,
Joy's Camp x 3 nights
28 October 2014 - Charter to Amboseli,
Tortilis Camp x 3 nights 31 October 2014 - Charter to Nairobi, Dayroom & dinner at The Boma Hotel

Cost is US$6,345 (approx. 3,810) per person and includes full board at all three camps, charter and scheduled flights within Kenya, airport and airstrip transfers, conservation and park fees, game drives in 44 vehicles and membership to the flying doctors society. Excludes international flights and drinks; based on two people sharing. Single supplement is US$665 (approx. 400).

 

Please contact Mike McInnes (mike@safarikenya.eu) at Kenya Safaris. 

 




Celebrating the life of 'Mama' Delia Craig 


 

Delia Craig, fondly known and remembered as Mama by the Lewa fraternity, quietly passed away in her home last week on Thursday. She had just celebrated her 90th birthday a few days before. 

 

Mama inherited Lewa Downs, the land that Lewa sits on from her father, Alexander Douglas. Along with her husband the late Mzee David Craig, they promised Alexander that there would always be room for wildlife on Lewa, a promise which they saw fulfilled when they established the Ngare Sergoi Rhino Sanctuary with the late Anna Merz in 1983. Ngare Sergoi was later reinvented as theLewa Wildlife Conservancy in 1995.

Of all the people who have shaped Lewa into the world-class conservation initiative it is today Mama reserves a special place. She was bold, vivacious and loved the wildlife as much as the land it inhabited.

 

Mama's life story was immortalized in a biography by Natasha Breed, titled From Oxcart to Email.

 

"Everyone called her Mama because she was not just our mother, but mother to the entire of Lewa." Ian Craig, Lewa's co-founder and renown conservationist.

 

Rest in Peace Mama, you will forever be missed.