Friday, September 14, 2012

A safari to Tanzania

What do you Know of the ugly, spotted hyena?
In the traditional African society, the Hyena has been branded ‘the coward one’.
This has been due to the way of feeding of the hyena. Known as a scavenger, the hyena is actually a great hunter and scavenging only makes 5%- 10% of their meals.

They rarely leave any evidence especially because they devour everything. For example they can make a kill in the night and the only sign will be light blood stains.
In the recent years the complexity of the hyenas has been revealed. Lots of time has been dedicated to studying them. This article is about hyenas and their survival tactics in the savannahs of Tanzania. They range throughout sub-Saharan Africa in savannah, arid areas, and open woodlands. So far they aren’t present at the coast.

There exist three species of hyenas in Africa. Two species are found in Kenya.
The most common being the spotted hyena, crocuta crocuta.
They live in groups called clans and the clan is under the leadership of the oldest female, the alpha female. Interestingly, the females are dominant over the males and are heavier than them. The females genitalia are very masculinized which contributes to their being aggressive. Such sex dimorphism is not common with other wildlife. This is due to the presence of higher level of testosterone in the female’s body than that of the males.

When on an African safari, a distinguishing feature you will see with the hyenas is the ‘haunch-back’ and short hind legs. They hold their head low when they walk. Usually the head has a rounded skull and long ears. They have extremely strong jaws and a complex acidic digestion system. This is one of the factors that give them a step ahead for survival. They are capable of ingesting bones, horns, hooves and the tough animal skins.
Only the hair is not digested and this usually comes out in the form of bolus or locally referred to ‘hyena hair ball’. All this bone matter that they eat is what makes the hyena feces chalk-white.
They hunt in packs in a way that could be termed as ruthless as they do not have a killing bite. They lack in hunting technique and most cases they run down their victim to exhaustion. Usually they attack their prey and tear chunks before their victim dies.

It is interesting to know that lions steal lots of their kills. It is true that hyenas do the final cleaning by chewing the bones and the skins left by others. In some cases the hyenas have succeeded to steal from the lions but in most of occurrences the reverse is more common.
The reproduction and life cycle is not seasonal. The females do not however mate with their members of the clan. They can take any other wandering male for mating and discard him. Four months is the gestation period and usually give birth to up to four cubs. These are usually black in color with some others having small taint of black. A weird thing that happens with the cubs is competition over who nurses first.
This in most cases result in fighting for dominance. The looser usually starves to death and this is only with the female cubs. Hyenas, unlike other wildlife take very long to wean their cubs. It may take between 14-18 months. The female can lactate up to 12 months with milk that is very high in protein percentage.( 14%). The cubs start following the mother to the point of kill when they reach 1 year.

They do not bring back food to the den. They eat to their fill on the spot.
The female cubs stay in the clan of their birth but males are kicked out when they reach around 2 years. Apart from playing with the cubs the male has no role in upbringing of the cubs.
One clan can have between 20-100 members, all on the matriarchal system. All the members are related. Each clan digs its own den which comprises of deep and long tunnels to accommodate the clan. They mark their territory through anal sac secretions. This is a paste that they use to define their boundary and is deposited at the edge of their territory. That is their home-territory that they protect and intruders are not welcome. They have a greeting system of sniffing each others genitalia and also as a way of identification or recognition within members of the same clan.

To the untrained eye, it is difficult to differentiate between males and females. This is because of the physical resemblance of the female’s genitalia to that of the male. But in any case they are female organs. The females are not hermaphrodite as some have claimed at first sight.
Hyenas have ‘toilets’ whereby all the members go to deposit their dung. This adds to the boundary markings of their territory.
They communicate in a number of ways: When about to attack the tail is held high, when it is held forward over the back, it is a sign of excitement. And when frightened they hold the tail tucked between the legs. When there is presence of food, this is the time you hear the famous ‘hyena laughter’ especially in the night. This laughter
is a call to other clan members and can be heard up to 3 kilometers away.
It is important to note that though hyenas portray cowardly behavior, they can be extremely dangerous. They should be left alone, least intimidated and their respect awarded to them.

Peter Philip,

 safaris in kenya desk

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wilds’ of Africa – the remote of a Kenya tour

Many people have described Africa, and others have had dreams that eventually would gladly lift the face of this great continent. Words such as Mysterious, Origin of man, the black continent, wild africa … have been used by scholars and personalities to describe Africa. However, there is nothing that describes Africa better than its diversity and authenticity. … Africa is inexhaustible!
From the northern wondrous pyramids of Egypt to the South African Cape Town, and from the historical monuments of east African coasts of Lamu and Mombasa to the ancient docks of the slave trade triangle in West African coast. All this in simple term translate; “Africa is diverse”.

Some of the most amazing characteristics of Africa are the wildlife thrilled savannahs, picturesque sceneries, Mountains, Beautiful Eastern beaches, Lovely people with incredibly diverse culture not to mention the good equatorial climate ideal for relaxing and adventures where summers and winters have no meaning.
The end of 2008 found the African safari desk crew in the interiors the country that many say ‘best describes Africa’ – Northern Kenya is a vast wild wilderness in its own complex. If you have been to Kenya before and you would like to set a foot back but off the beaten tracks, then northern Kenya would be an ideal place for you. The area is characterized by vast desert with temperatures rising to a height of 40 degrees Celsius and above. You will need to be ready for such high temperatures and off course be a ‘tomboy’ and young at heart to beat the cold nights.

Northern Kenya is home to one of the most famous but least visited national parks on a Kenya tour list. One of this Kenya’s remote national parks is Marsabit. It lies about 560 km from Nairobi, and its best described as ‘Kenya’s most quiet and remote national park’. It has the scenic and serene Lake Paradise on top of Mt. Marsabit, elephants, Greater Kudu, mountain lions, buffalos and other wildlife. The extensive forest supports animals that would not normally be found in arid northern Kenya. There are elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards, cheetahs, buffaloes, wart hogs, Grevy’s Zebra, reticulated giraffes, hyenas and antelopes to mention but a few.

Abundant rare birds are also found within Marsabit National Park. Many water birds hang out at Lake Paradise and a variety of raptors can be seen on the shaggy cliffs and in the treetops. Marsabit National Park was home to Ahmed, an elephant that I earlier told you was given 24-hour protection by a presidential order. Ahmed boasted some of the biggest tusks ever recorded and died at age 55.

Another one of this amazing parks which our crew had a chance visiting is the Sibiloi National Park. It was gazetted in 1973. Sibiloi boasts an international significance as the ‘cradle of mankind’. The park teems with fossils, zebras, gazelles and impala. It is near Lake Turkana with its world famous population of crocodiles. The park covers 1570 Km2 of wilderness with scenic landscapes on the shores of Lake Turkana. Sibiloi was partially established through the initiative of the National Museums of Kenya to protect unique prehistoric and archeological sites, some of which are linked to the origin of man. The fossils include a crocodile Euthecodon brumpti, giant tortoise Petusios broadleyi, elephant Elephas recki and the petrified forest. The terrains consist of lake shore, dry semi desert bush and near desert country. The park is waterless apart from the alkaline waters of the lake.

Of the three great parks in this secluded part of Kenya is Malka Mari National Park which was gazetted in 1989 because of its high wildlife concentration. It is located along the Daua River on the Kenya-Ethiopia border in the extreme north east of Kenya on the Mandera plateau. It has a hot and dry climate. The area is largely semi arid bush land and scrubby grassland with riparian woodland and palms along the Daua River. The area is also considered a site for plant endemism. Its main attractions are; Malka Mari fort, hills and valleys. Unfortunately, it has not been developed

The areas in northern Kenya are accessible by air and road although at some points riding on camel form the other only alternative from walking giving you no other better option. The entire escapade is fun for the adventurous hearted and gives inimitable experiences far off the beaten tracks.

Adventure Travel Crew

PKP. safaris in kenya desk
Natural Track Safaris

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

African Giraffes – an element of conservation concern.

Africa’s rich diversity has continued to dwindle in the recent decades due to cocktail of factors. Even the once widely spread species are now entering the long list of conservation concerns. One of these species is the African giraffes. Although to many, these colorful animals seem not to be in any need of focused conservation, statistics and conservation research has shown that giraffes are facing increasing pressures that have adversely affected their numbers and distribution in Kenya and entire Africa.
There are currently a total of nine sub-species of giraffes naturally occurring in Africa with Kenya being the only country in Africa to have three of this sub-species. Other countries have either one or two sub-species making Kenya a preferred epicenter for giraffe speciation.
Over the past decade, giraffe numbers in Africa have suffered at least a 30 per cent drop in population as a direct result of habitat encroachment, habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, severe poaching, increasing human populations and human-wildlife conflicts and now, the effects of climate change.

Taking examples from least endangered, The Masai giraffe (Giraffa Camelopardalis tippelskirchi) widely occurs in southern Kenya namely; the Tsavo’s, Amboseli and the Masai Mara ecosystems and also throughout Tanzania. The Masai giraffes have relatively stable populations compared to the other sub-species in Kenya, although, reports that their numbers have also suffered in recent years have been highlighted. Currently, their surveys and recent estimates are being compiled and hopefully some more positive news will prevail.

Reticulated giraffe (Giraffa Camelopardalis reticulata) the most beautiful of all the giraffe sub-species are widely found in northern Kenya and in Somalia. Their data and compilations on statistics and range are considered limited and incomplete, with as few as 3,000 – 5,000 individuals remaining in the wild.  This estimate represents a small fraction of the 28,000 reported to have existed only a decade ago. This is a clear suggestion that the sub-species have recently suffered a major and rapid decline giving rise to concern about its long-term persistence.

Rothschild’s giraffe (Giraffa Camelopardalis rothschildi) is rated second most endangered giraffe sub-species in Africa with less than 670 individuals remaining in the wild. Once wide-ranging across western Kenya, Uganda, and southern Sudan, it has now been almost totally eliminated from most of its former range and now only survives in a few small, isolated populations in Kenya and Uganda. These remaining populations are isolated from one another and are not interbreeding.
Kenya is home to about 60 per cent of the global population of wild Rothschild’s giraffe with Ruma National Park in Nyanza Province having the single largest meta-population (130 individuals) in the country. Lake Nakuru National Park has 65 individuals, Soysambu Conservancy 63, Kigio Wildlife Conservancy 32, and Giraffe Manor-Karen, Mount Elgon National Park, Murgor Farm in Iten, Mwea National Reserve, Sergoit-Kruger Farm in Iten, Kitale Area Farm and Nasalot Game Reserve, all with populations of less 20 individuals.

There is therefore a great urgency in stipulating conservation strategies to cap further dwindling of these wonderful African creatures.

PKP. safaris in kenya desk
                                                                   Let’s Conserve Them!