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October Wildlife Report Masai Mara

2 November, 2015

Weather and grasslands:

The first two weeks of the month were very pleasant with cool early mornings of 18C° warming up later in the day to a balmy 32C°. We had some strong winds during the month and the rain began to arrive towards the end of the month, with the plains greening up after a surprisingly small shower. When the rain arrived the Musiara Marsh started to fill up and flow south and under the culvert, the first time water has flowed in the marsh for three months.

Photo courtesy of Hemin Patel

Last of the Gnu 'news'- A few of the resident wildebeest, topi and zebra had crossed into the Trans Mara earlier on in the month. Early in the month there was a good crossing with wildebeest, zebra and topi all crosseing at once with topi leading the way. An estimated 2,000 animals crossed here and it was fast and dense with the Topi crossing in larger numbers.

On the 9th there was a large crossing at the Cul de Sac and again at the main crossing. An estimated 2,000 animals crossed. Later in the morning at the main crossing there were five Thompson Gazelles and one Cokes Hartebeest that crossed, two of the Thompson were taken by crocodile and the third one made it over but the fourth one was taken by Sujha the male leopard as he crossed over to the bank on the west side. On the 14th there was a reasonable crossing of wildebeest and one topi at the Cul de Sac crossing point, an estimated three hundred crossed going south west. None were taken by crocodile although crocodile missed two opportunities and perhaps as the water levels were low the wildebeest moved too quickly and being in smaller numbers was a great help for them. 

On the plains

Game viewing has been rewarding this month despite the movements of wildebeest and zebra to the crossing points or north east. Grasses have been short and dry, wildebeest struggle to eat short coarse grass with their wide and soft mouth parts but zebra are more equipped for this habitat. The Cape buffalo herds have moved out of the Bila Shaka and Musiara grasslands for these areas were getting very dry, they moved onto Rhino Ridge and into the south east areas of Paradise Plains, until lately there were three herds to be seen. Elephant were being seen in small breeding herds in the longer grass areas of the Trans Mara. Eland have been seen grazing within the west marsh grasslands which has been a lovely surprise.

Photo courtesy of Hemin Patel

Impala, a few black faced vervet monkeys and Olive Baboon are all resident between the camps and in particular within the west marsh tree line, many of these baboon troops are large with males that come and go, they tend to spend more time during the day further out in the grasslands foraging, returning to the safety of the trees later in the afternoon. The larger dominant male baboons will often be seen chasing, killing and then eating young impala and gazelle fawns. Impala ewes also have young fawns and these little fawns will often be seen in crèches particularly in the early morning warmth from the sun.

We have had more sightings of the elusive Oribi on Rhino Ridge and Topi Plains sometimes for a few days in a row.

Within the breeding herds of Thompson Gazelle females there are many young fawns, with a relatively short gestation period of 5-51/2 months female Thomies can have up to two fawns in a year. Topi and Cokes Hartebeest also have young calves with them, cheetah hunt them remorselessly. Warthog sows will be seen with three to four piglets who are now two months old; these sows would have given birth last month and toward the end of August, unfortunately warthog piglets fall prey to many carnivores with lion and cheetah preying heavily on them, change of weather conditions can also cause a high mortality rate for warthogs piglets have no subcutaneous fat and poor thermal regulation.

Giraffe are seen throughout the Musiara environs, as the days got drier more of these giraffe were seen in breeding herds far into the acacia woodlands of the conservancies in the north east. There were a few older males have come in from the conservancies which is quite some distance away.

There are plenty of Spotted Hyenas around, living in large groups known as clans they have become extremely successful in hunting both wildebeest and sleeping topi, the spotted hyena has a large heart, which gives them tremendous stamina enabling them to run their prey down effortlessly like wolves and wildogs, they will equally rob lionesses of kills.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

Black backed Jackals are abundant on the short grass plains; there are many Thompson Gazelle fawns here which the jackals feed upon. Bat Eared Foxes are also commonly seen in the early morning and early evenings on Paradise Plains, Topi Plains and Rhino Ridge.

Ostriches are displaying and mating this month, this is a great feathery display by the male of which some males give a better display than others. The females also display and will hold their wings drooped to the ground while walking. Male ostriches undergo a colour change at breeding season, when their skin turns bright red, which signals to the hens that he's ready to mate. The male then attracts as many hens as possible by dancing, fluffing his feathers, flapping his wings and swinging his head around and around while getting down

on his knees. Often the females will play hard to get and just walk away but the male doesn't give up and continues until the females succumb to him.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

Excellent sightings of Serval cats, with a male being seen often in the southern Paradise Plains grasslands; he is becoming increasingly more habituated to vehicles allowing photographers to snap up good pictures. Savannah Ground Hornbills are also being seen and heard! With many pastoralist tribes here in Kenya saying that the sound of the Ground Hornbill boom is an indication of rain and it is a good guide line to follow.

Photo courtesy of Hemin Patel

Larger Cats


The marsh pride of which there are ten lion; Sienna the main lioness is looking much better although her wounds are slowly drying up and healing; the right side is almost gone, the left side flank wound is taking its time. Siena has three cubs one male and two females (22 months old), they have been residing in the south west and east marsh and as far as the southern end of Bila Shaka. The other adult lioness of this pride is Charm with two cub's one female and one male (15 months old); she has also been in the same areas as Siena and they spend time together. The two sub adult males Red (son of Sienna) and Tatu (son of Charm) are often being seen split away or with Tatu spending more time with the two main lionesses. These two sub adult males should within lion pride behaviour patterns be leaving the pride, as of yet there has been no pride males that have interacted in order for this transaction to take place. The oldest lioness is 16 year old Bibi and she is often with the five breakaway lioness that are being seen hunting and residing in the north east of Bila Shaka and Rhino Ridge. The Marsh Pride has been feeding off the resident warthog, wildebeest and impala of which two impala have been taken and eaten at night. Red the sub adult male is often seen in the north marsh or the Bila Shaka for he is showing interest in the five sub adult lionesses, unfortunately this can often be the case when there is no take over from other pride males.
Photo courtesy of Hemin Patel

The 1st breakaways of the madomo pride who has split up with one pride that has three lionesses, one sub adult male Pengu and two cubs have been seen on the west fan of Rhino Ridge and on Paradise Plains, they have been feeding off the resident wildebeest and zebra that have been passing through here. On the 19th Pengu and two lionesses with both cubs were with Sikio one of the musketeers and were feeding off the remains of a stallion zebra that was killed by Pengu. The other half of the Madomo pride, lionesses Madomo, her sister and sub adult daughter, had been seen with three cubs that are approximately two months old in the south fan of Rhino Ridge. Madomo was very shy in bringing the cubs out, remembering no doubt that male lion Bahati killed her four cubs in January of this year in Bila Shaka. These cubs were sired by another outside male lion called Blackie from the Talek river area and were born in the Trans Mara. The two outside males (Blackie and Lipstick) who may well be brothers or cousins are both from the Talek area; they are approximately 7-8 years old. Both these two males have been with the Madomo pride and Blackie is the one male that has stayed around on Rhino Ridge, it was rather unfortunate timing for Blackie he was set upon by three of the Musketeers Sikio, Hunter and Morani on the 16th who gave him a good hiding, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and Kenya wildlife service's vetinarian treated Blackie in the afternoon of the 17th for superficial scratches and bite wounds in the rear of his anatomy, Blackie has subsequently recovered well. 

Photo courtesy of Hemin Patel

The all male lion coalition the 'Musketeers' have been in and out of the Paradise and Rhino Ridge plains, Scar still goes back and forth from the Trans Mara and seems to cross the river frequently, he was seen in the last week of the month in the Paradise area. Sikio, Hunter and Morani have stayed for most of this month in the Paradise area. There still is the Paradise Pride and also the Rekero pride that has been monopolised by the two males Blackie and Lipstick, there could well be friction soon in this area.


Romi the female leopard of the Lake Nakuru and woodlands has two cubs that are three months old; she is being seen daily near the north end of the masai conservancy and not far from the Mara River, she was seen in the evening of the 29th with an Impala ewe that she had killed and quickly taken up a warburgia tree, there are many Spotted Hyena in this area and they would cause her and her cubs concern. In the evening of the 31st Romi had brought her two cubs down to the rocky croton hill north of the marsh.

Photo courtesy of Hemin Patel

The male leopard 'Shujaa' of the main crossing at Paradise is a leopard that hunts the river banks, particularly during the migration months when he is extremely active on both sides of the river. He is being seen daily
There is a large male leopard that is seen further down the Talek River within the riverine woodlands; in the early weeks of the month when camps were busy and with much traffic about reports of seeing this leopard were frequent. The female leopard with the two cubs that are six months old are in the same area with a male that is being and these Leopards are still being seen as far as KO3, which is the old camps site on the Olare Orok River. 

Photo courtesy of Hemin Patel

There is a female leopard called 'Bahati' who is being seen on the Talek River in a area called base, she has two cubs that are approximately two-three months old, she has been eating warthog and impala recently. This female has been sighted on a daily basis, Bahati has a relatively short and squat body shape, and with this she is easily recognisable.
Photo courtesy of Dave Richards

Siri and has a 16-month-old male cub who spends more time on his own; he is very able to make kills on his own despite being a little on the young side to be alone. This sub adult male is also killing and hunting yearling wildebeest and impala on a regular basis. We suspect that Siri has cubs, as she is showing signs of lactating, she still patrols the Serena pump house area and also will pass through the main crossing area and as afar as the cul de sac in the same home range as her son Shujaa who is a regular visitor to the croton thickets near the main crossing areas.


Malaika the female with her three cubs (16 months old) have been seen frequently on Rhino Ridge. She is actively hunting and feeding off Thompson Gazelles and warthog piglets on the short grass plains. On the 19th at 10.00am on the short grass plains of Rhino ridge she was seen hunting and successfully taking down warthog piglets, she worked it well for the piglets stayed close to their maternal mothers as the cheetah family made a pass through the various sounders that were on these short grass plains. Some minutes later as the warthogs started to graze on their knees Malaika rushed in quickly startling the warthog and scattering them in different directions, she quickly separated a piglet and dispatched it.

Photo courtesy of Hemin Patel

The female Cheetah Nora is with her two cubs (4 months old), these three cheetah travel across much of the short grass plains of Masai land. She has been seen frequently in the Ngiatiak and Talek areas she has been very active hunting young Thomson Gazelle fawns and Cape Scrub Hares.
A young male cheetah that is approximately three years old who has a relatively small head can often be seen on Rhino Ridge, Paradise Plains and or Topi Plains, he is a determined hunter; taking young Thompson Gazelle fawns and scrub hares. He was seen hunting a young Grants Gazelle near the double crossing area on the 17th only to be distracted by the presence of Spotted Hyena.

Walking Safaris in North/East Masai land

We have done a few guided walks this month in the early weeks of the month the weather was cool and clear. The open grasslands are very dry and short, the lack of rain has made an impact on the open plains. Many of the resident wildebeest had moved out and down towards the reserve by the 24th of October and small herds only were left. Warthog, topi with a few young calves and impala were the common resident species that would be seen on the open plains and wooded areas. 

Photo courtesy of Patrick Reynolds

In the riverine woodlands giraffe would come and go, the common trees that were being broswed on were the Gardenia Ternifolia and Teclea. The areas we walk are large open plains that host many grassland species of herbivores, the Thomson Gazelles are in good numbers with many young fawns, unfortunately there are also many Black Backed Jackals and hyena who take liberty of these young fawns. Grants Gazelles are also plentiful and they also have young fawns. Hyenas have taken two Grant fawns in the last week. Lion numbers depend on movements of the larger species with Cape Buffalo having moved out of the short grass areas and down to the main Mara river, the resident lion pride of 13 lion have temporarily moved out of these plains and riverine woodlands. Visiting the area on the 15th we saw in the early morning a glimpse of a Leopard between the gully that splits the two grassland plains, interesting thing is we have seen many signs of old skeletal carcasses and scat so it is always a question of time to see what has been in residence.

There is a resident breeding herd of approximately 45 Eland at the north end of the first glade; they were spending much time browsing in the croton thickest and riverine woodlands. The Eland is a very adaptable animal and will browse and graze on wherever is viable. At the onset of the rains many termites' species were building and repairing mounds, this in turn brings on the ponerine ants that feed exclusively on the many species of termites, in fact the ant is the major threat to all

Orphaned baby giraffe in Nairobi

Meet Kiko, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust's orphaned reticulated giraffe. We called him Kiko after an area in Meru National Park where he was rescued. 

David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Rescued by Kenyan Wildlife Services and the the Meru Mobile Veterinary Unit on the outskirts of Meru National Park on the 19th of September, he is a newest arrival at the centre.

David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

Two days after his rescue, he went out into Nairobi National Park with his keeper, and has been feeding very well. As a new born giraffe, he currently calls the elephant stockades home - he is too tiny to sleep in giraffe stockade, which is currently home to ostriches, Pea and Pod. As the tallest mammal in the world, we suspect Kiko will soon dwarf his human carers, but for his keepers, feeding Kiko is a very different experience to bottle feeding orphaned elephants and soon they'll use a special mobile feeding ladder to ensure he gets the nourishment he needs.

David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

There are an estimated 8,000 reticulated giraffe left in their native ranges of Ethiopia, Somalia and northern Kenya. The reticulated giraffe is relatively poorly studied and it is feared that its population is in rapid decline due to human-wildlife conflicts and poaching.

David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

In the wild, baby giraffes endure a particularly rude welcome into the world by falling more than 5 feet (1.5 meters) to the ground at birth. These infants can stand in half an hour and run with their mothers an incredible ten hours after birth. Alone, young giraffes are very vulnerable and cannot protect themselves from predators, though when older they can deliver a strong kick to any predator. As one of Africa's more unusual mammals, all giraffes have been severely affected by illegal hunting, land fragmentation, competition for resources and ever present human-wildlife conflicts which has led to their 30% decrease in numbers over the past decade.

For more on the conservation status of giraffes in Africa, read:
A Journey with Giraffe 

Bandit, the dog that protects rhinos and elephants

Written by: Donna Pleasants

When we talk about conservation and the survival of a species, it is generally with the aim of preservation for future generations. However, if the poaching epidemic continues at its current rate we will almost certainly see the demise of the African elephant and black rhino within ten years - our own generation.
Man has systematically brought these species to the brink of extinction and, with this in mind, it may be time to let man pass the anti-poaching baton to dogs. A Bandit a day keeps the poachers away!

Born in September 2013, Bandit was one of eleven puppies donated to a small UK based non-profit organisation called Animals Saving Animals, with the sole purpose of being trained as an anti-poaching dog to serve in conservation efforts. Very quickly after their arrival, training began along with the decision process of which puppies would take on which role(s) - tracker, searcher or apprehender. 

Bandit was very special. He immediately showed a willingness to please but always had a respectful look in his eye that said: "We're going to work together as a team". He was classified as 'Infantry Patrol', which means that he is trained to patrol with his handler and indicate the presence of a poacher. In favorable conditions, he can detect a poacher from up to one kilometre away. His role is to then silently chase and apprehend the guilty party by biting any part of the body and maintaining his grip. 

In addition, Bandit can also pinpoint and lead his handler towards gunfire, which is extremely difficult for humans to locate in the African bush when only a few shots are fired. 

In October 2014 Bandit and his siblings passed their training and it was decided that Bandit and his sister, Chocolate, a classified tracker and apprehender, would be donated to Mkomazi National Park in Tanzania under the direction of Mr Tony Fitzjohn OBE.

On arrival at Mkomazi, Bandit was teamed with his new handler - a softly spoken but strong ranger called Penyelli. The pair's knowledge grew quickly and now, six months on, they are an effective part of the park's anti-poaching team. The bond between bandit and Penyelli is unbreakable and there is nothing more satisfying than witnessing man and dog working together to achieve an objective. 

What about the price tag?

With the price of a fully trained dog costing upwards of £10,000, without factoring in handler training, equipment and housing, many conservancies and parks are unable to afford these vital and effective canine tools. Yet Animals Saving Animals has come up with an answer. As the brainchild of former British military man, Daryll Pleasants, Animals Saving Animals is raising funds in order to provide both dogs and services free of charge. Their aim is to provide the areas most affected by poaching with highly trained malinois, equipment, handler training and first aid training.

R.I.P. Anti-poaching dog bid a brave farewell

Written by: Donna Pleasants, White Paw

It is with great sadness that wed report about the death of Bandit - the star anti-poaching dog at Mkomazi National Park in Tanzania that was featured in the above article. 

Whilst on a tracking exercise, Bandit was bitten by a snake and was unable to recover from his injury. Thoughts go out to everyone at Mkomazi and especially to his handler, Penyelli, whose bond with Bandit was unbreakable. 

During his time in training at both Ol Pejeta Conservancy and Mkomazi, Bandit showed great bravery in protecting wildlife against poachers and was, without a doubt, the best working dog we have ever trained. I cannot express how much he will be missed and how unfortunate this incident is. This comes as a devastating blow for all involved. 

Whilst we cannot replace a dog such as Bandit, we must carry his legacy forward by training more anti-poaching dogs to follow in his footsteps; to help keep his incredible contribution to conservation alive. 

Elewana to open a new luxury tented camp in the Loisaba Conservancy Elewena has been chosen by Loisaba Conservancy with support from The Nature Conservancy (TNC), to partner with it in the development and management of its primary tourism assets, a relationship that starts with the opening of a new luxury tented camp on the site of the former Loisaba Lodge. Opening in March 2016, the new Loisaba Tented Camp will fall under the Elewana Collection and will comprise four stylish and extremely spacious double rooms, one deluxe tented suite and two family tents, each made up of two double en-suite tents with shared verandas. An exclusive family residence will offer three en-suite rooms, a shared private lounge, dinning tent and private pool. 

In addition to its bar and restaurant facilities, the property will boast a second infinity swimming pool with spectacular views across the Laikipia Plains to Mount Kenya; The camp will deliver first class hospitality, exceptional guiding and an array of activity options. Not least of all, the property will reflect Elewana and TNC's commitment to the environment by limiting its ecological footprint wherever possible. 

Newly refurbished Loisaba Star Beds also join the Elewana Collection

The Elewana Collection is also now managing the famous Loisaba Star Beds. June 2015 saw the completion of an extensive refurbishment of the Kiboko Star Beds.

The upgraded Star Beds now consist of four accommodation platforms (previously there were three), including one family skybed, all with running water and 24/7 electricity and a new dining area with a stunning stargazing platform. 

New Trust marks a conservation landmark to preserve one of Kenya's most important elephant corridors

The new Loisaba Conservancy is the result of substantial support by The Nature Conservancy and the consequential transition in the ownership of the 56,000-acre wildlife conservancy and wilderness to the Loisaba Community Trust. TNC's move to help secure the land ensures that the conservancy delivers vital benefits and support for neighbouring communities, the wildlife, and all Kenyans for the foreseeable future. It also ensures that Loisaba's role as a critical sanctuary and corridor for elephants and other wildlife long into the future, as well as providing refuge for one of Kenya's most stable lion populations and an abundance of other wildlife including Grevy zebra, wild dogs, leopard and cheetah. 

Loisaba represents the single largest conservation investment in East Africa in 2014/15 and was born from a partnership between The Nature Conservancy, Space for Giants and The Northern Rangelands Trust. In recognition that responsible tourism is vital to long-term conservation, a third of the investment will contribute to tourism infrastructure.

Commenting on the partnership, Karim Wissanji, Elewana's CEO, said "The partnership with The Nature Conservancy highlights Elewana's passion and commitment to conservation, one that reflects in its support (financial and otherwise) for this exciting new project; a project that sits at the very heart of TNC's community, wildlife and land conservation philosophies and their important collaboration with tourism."

Matthew Brown, Africa Conservation Director, The Nature Conservancy remarks "Tourism support helps make Loisaba a self-sustaining engine for peace, community development, and wildlife conservation. This is an innovative example of how Africa can both preserve its heritage and create economic opportunities for its people. We are excited to be working with Elena

The Loisaba Conservancy provides a critical and secure 56,000 acre sanctuary for over 700 elephants (resident and non-resident) that have been individually identified (and named) by Daniel Lentipo, the conservancy's resident researcher provided by Space for Giants work that is critically important to the survival of Africa's elephant population.
GPS tracking data has proven that Loisaba is a key corridor, enabling elephants to migrate from Laikipia (dry season range) to Samburu (wet season range), helping to maintain one of the longest elephant migrations recorded in Africa.