To finish off our last few days in the field, we did some exciting things. We went lion tracking and tried to find the lions that had GPS collars. Well, we didn’t find any lions that day, but we did see a cheetah with her cubs. She even started to stalk a gazelle, but gave up after a short run. The cubs were pretty cute, they were playing and rolling around, but they did follow their mom and practiced their stalking too!
We found the lions the next day hanging out in the field watching some zebras. They were pretty lazy though, so they must not have been hungry.
We also went to visit the cattle boma with Jennifer, a PhD student who is reseraching how cattle grazing and wildlife interact in one combined area, like Ol Pejeta. The boma is a a circular movable structure that the herders put the cattle into at night so the lions can’t hunt them. Apparently, lions think cattle are delicious. After the boma has been in one place for a while, the manure piles up, so they move it. After a few months though, the former boma location is a hot spot for grass grazing!
On our way home from the boma, we saw a great surprise- a pack of wild dogs that had just returned to Ol Pejeta about a year ago. They were very cool, and clever. Their pack of 8 split off into 5 and 3 to round up and corner a gazelle. They didn’t get that one, but a tour group we met along the way had been following them and said they saw the pack kill and eat a gazelle a bit earlier.
We visited the Morani rhino sanctuary, which houses the northern white rhinos, even more endangered than the black rhino. There are only 7 left in the world, and 5 of them live at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy. They are extra secure in their own enclosure surrounded by guards and electric fencing. They also cut off their horns to deter poachers. We met “Baraka” the blind rhino and fed him some grass. They are huge, beautiful, and very interesting creatures. Hopefully, they will be able to breed and increase the number and genetic pool of the rare rhinos so their populations can recover.
In addition to all those exciting things, we continued our field data, measuring ant acacia tree interactions and what animals were browsing on the acacia seedlings.
Each night while we ate dinner Catherine (room keeper) would sneak into our rooms, let the netting down and place hot water bottles in our bed. Sometimes, she would put more than two! Anna liked to steal Torrey’s bottle, but always gave it back.
These students just finished their state exams. They were shy and reserved at first, perhaps a bit scared? But, after they warmed up they were a great bunch of students.