South Africa Safari – Day 6 Mala Mala

When we went to bed the previous evening it was unclear if the weather was going to cooperate with us for our game drive in the morning. When we woke up, as we feared, it was still raining, although it had slowed to a drizzle.  We got together at 5:30 am as usual but decided against going out. The forecast was for clearing skies and we decided to wait it out.

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We had a hearty breakfast and the rain did indeed clear. We were out by shortly after 9 am. That’s not to say that the weather was perfect. Even the animals seemed to be complaining. We came across a number of birds desperately trying to dry out. A lilac breasted roller was fluffed up like a cotton ball. An entire tree was filled with white backed vultures with wings extended trying to dry out. An a yellow horn bill was looking very bedraggled – like Richard Lewis after a hard night on the town. We were also fortunate to see a Brown Hooded Kingfisher and a Warburg’s Eagle.

Just to round out the day’s birding we also came across a red-billed oxpecker taking a bath in a mud puddle, a helmeted guinea fowl and a beautiful Greater Blue-eared Starling. Although not a member of the avian kingdom we did come across another of Africa’s smaller mammals – the dwarf mongoose.

One  of the most fascinating creatures in all of Africa has to be the giraffe. It is almost without comparison throughout the rest of the world. One would think that that long neck and spindly legs would make it unstable and ready prey to lions and other carnivores. Yet we watched a few giraffes take off at a full “gallop” and they are both fast and graceful. Last weekend I was watching a National Geography special on TV and saw a giraffe kick an attacking lion with it’s hind legs about 15 feet into the air. Male giraffes will battle for supremacy by “necking” or swinging their heads and necks at each other. On this particular morning we got to watch a couple of males “necking”.

The sun was out fully now and we could appreciate the beauty of the landscape. In addition, the animals were starting to move about.

It was now about 11:30 and we came across a pride of lions doing what they do best – nothing. They were obviously well fed and resting in the mid-day sun. Not much to do but watch and enjoy their beauty.

After watching the lions lounge about for a while we decided it was time to head back to camp. Our ranger and driver Ross was flying down the trail when JoAnn called out “Leopard”. Sure enough, right by the road was a leopard resting under a tree. Of course we had to stop for photos. Shortly after we stopped, the leopard decided he didn’t want company and took off. By then a second land rover had joined us and we followed this fellow for quite a while. He made us work for our photographs but in the end it was worth it.

After tracking the leopard we broke for lunch but resumed our drive at the usual time of 3:30 pm. We saw a number of animals that afternoon but one of the coolest was a mother white rhino and her young calf. It’s hard to describe the calf as “cute” but no other word fits.

We stayed out until sundown as usual. On our way back to the camp in the dark we had two very rare sightings. The first was a large spotted Genet. Although not endangered they are not often sighted because they are nocturnal. The second sighting was extremely rare – an endangered white-tailed mongoose. We were thrilled to have captured photos of both!

South Africa Safari – Where in the World is Londolozi?

I thought I’d take a short break today from all the animal photographs and answer a question or two that I’ve received regarding our trip to South Africa. Several people have asked where is Londolozi, Mala Mala, etc. So I’ve prepared a few maps to give you a quick idea where we went.

Londolozi, Mala Mala and Kings camp are in the northeastern part of South Africa, just to the west of Kruger National Park. Londolozi and Mala Mala are part of the Sabi Sands Game Reserve while Kings Camp is in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve.

Capture3We arrived in South Africa via Johannesburg and flew in a small commuter plane up to Londolozi. At the end of our trip we visited Cape Town for a few days.

This next map is a closer look at the 3 camps.

Capture4This third map shows the relationship between Londolozi, Mala Mala and Kruger National Park.

CaptureLondolozi and Mala Mala are private reserves located within the Sabi Sands Game Reserve. Londolozi occupies about 37,000 acres. Mala Mala is slightly larger at 39,500 acres. Londolozi and Mala Mala are exclusive privately owned reserves. Kings Camp shares the Timbavati Private Game Reserve with several other camps.

There are no fences separating any of the reserves or Kruger National park. Thus the animals are free to migrate from area to area as they wish. With 544,000 acres, Kruger National Park provides an immense amount of biodiversity that is shared among all the wildlife reserves.

The landscape of Sabi Sands is classic Lowveld bush savanna. The elevation is approximately 1000 ft. The land is flat with dense bush and thickets covering much of the area. (Lots of places for the animals to hide)

The following is a video that I shot by clamping my point and shoot camera to a seat rail on the land rover as we drove around. The video, while not terribly exciting, gives a good idea for what much of the landscape looked like.

I hope you enjoyed this brief informational interlude. If you’d like more information, Londolozi has a FREE book titled “Londolozi, Eco-Guide” available for downloading from iTunes. Now, back to the animals.

Day 4 and 5 – Final Days at Londolozi

On our 4th day at Londolozi we were well acquainted with the process and were out for our morning drive before 6 am. It turns out that this would be lazy cat day. After quickly stopping to take a few shots of some Nyala we continued on. Shortly thereafter, Like and Richard thought they saw some tracks in the road and jumped out for a closer look.

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And off we went. While the tracks did not pan out we did hear about another leopard over by one of the watering holes. We got there about 6:30. It was a single female leopard but she really didn’t seem interested in doing anything except sitting in the grass. She changed location once or twice but that was about it. She was a beautiful animal, however.

We stayed with her for about an hour and 15 minutes and then went in search of other game. We soon came across a couple of rhinos lounging in a watering hole with a beautiful Egyptian goose posed right in front of them. Of course, before we could even raise our cameras the goose was gone! In addition to the rhinos there was a bush buck posing nearby.

For our afternoon drive Richard was determined to improve on the morning’s results. Once again he and Like were out of the land rover and tracking on foot. Richard was looking very macho toting his rifle.

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We did quickly come across some warthogs, impala and kudu. In addition, Cathy got a great shot of a small tree squirrel. We then spotted a small herd of zebras, with one young colt.There is something about zebras that is fascinating, and the colts are very adorable.

About 30 minutes after leaving the zebras we found a pride of lions.  However, since this was lazy cat day they seemed much more intent upon sleeping than anything else. Yawning seemed to be the major activity. Nonetheless, it was interesting to watch them interact and then as the sun approached sunset, they began to move (a little).

Overnight, we had some rain and the weather was looking none too good for the last of our morning game drives. But we headed out anyway. I was not concerned about getting cold and wet but that our cameras would get damaged. We managed to see some giraffes and Nyala but the weather continued to worsen. Of course no one wanted to be the one who suggested going back so I filled that roll. Surprise, surprise, surprise! The others readily agreed.

Getting back early had it’s benefits. Instead of our morning box breakfast we got to enjoy breakfast in the camp. And they served up a beautiful spread.

This was our last morning at Londolozi. It was time to move on to our next camp, MalaMala. MalaMala is just to the east, between Londolozi and Kruger National Park.

It took about 40 minutes to drive to MalaMala. The weather was not cooperating either. Rain continued to come and go. We were warmly greeted when we arrived at MalaMala despite the cold weather. We checked in and moved into our new accommodations. However, due to the inclement weather, we elected not to have any game drives that afternoon. Actually, Tom and Ray went out, but of course they’re nuts…

MalaMala Main Camp

Our Room

Looking forward to tomorrow!

South Africa Safari – Day 3

Day 3 rolled around and it was another great day in the bush. Within the first hour we had already seen and photographed impala, a crocodile, a malachite kingfisher, an Egyptian goose, a fish eagle, a lilac breasted roller and a spotted hyena. Not bad for the first hour.

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Then Richard got a call on the radio that one of the other rangers had spotted a female leopard with 2 cubs. The opportunity to see leopards was one of the primary reasons that we had come to South Africa, so we were very excited.

When we arrived at the location we found out that the cubs were hiding and that mom was out hunting. This was disappointing because the rules in the preserve state that if cubs are unattended you can only stay for 10 minutes. To hang around longer than that might draw attention to the cubs and put them at risk from other predators. However, just at that moment we saw some movement and up popped one little head. The cubs were moving. For the next 5 minutes or so we got to watch as they climbed around on the rocks and through the heavy brush. These two were just beautiful. However, we had to leave.

For the next couple of hours we continued our explorations. Shortly after leaving the cubs we came across some steenbok, the smallest antelope in South Africa. They are also very skittish and take off quickly when approached. White-backed vultures, impala and warthogs rounded out the first part of the morning.

Each morning we would finds a nice shady spot, that appeared to be devoid of man-eating carnivores, and pull over for some coffee and a bush breakfast. This gave us a chance to stretch our legs and have a bite to eat. Our boxed breakfast usually consisted of a croissant, yogurt, juice, a few other items and coffee. It was always tasty and enough to stave off starvation until we returned for lunch.

Bush breakfast with Tom, Richard, Like and Cathy

Bush breakfast with Tom, Richard, Like and Cathy

We heard of the radio that the mother leopard had returned to her cubs so we headed back to where we had left them earlier. We arrived to find that mom was back and she had brought a kill back with her for the cubs to eat. Only mom and one cub were visible and they were both under some bushes and hard to see. We were also the 3rd vehicle on site and really could not get a very good angle to see them. We found the best spot that we could, parked and observed. Even though we weren’t in a great spot for photography we were able to watch the mother and cub interact. After a while the other cub came out of hiding and began to nurse.

Eventually mom decided to move over to a large rock and rest. She was posed perfectly for a photograph but once again we were at a bad angle. Richard put the land rover into gear and crashed through the under brush and over some sizable trees to get us to where we could have a good view.

And there she was in all her splendor. We had the opportunity to photograph her unimpeded by branches and bushes. Eventually she left. It was time to go hunting again.

The other two land rovers left first and then Richard started ours. Problem! In driving over the trees to get us into position they had wedged at an angle under the vehicle making it impossible to back up. Unfortunately in front of the land rover was a sand filled wash. If we went forward we would almost certainly get stuck in the wash, but backing up was impossible.

Richard put the land rover into its lowest gear and struggled forward. After much lurching and bouncing about we freed ourselves from the trees and dropped into the wash…where we promptly became stuck in the sand. Richard and Like tried for about 10 minutes to get us out with no success. Richard asked us to get out of the vehicle and walked us through the brush to the nearby trail that served as a road and told us to wait there for them. He then went back and he and Like pulled out a Come-Along hand winch to try and pull the land rover from the wash. I thought about asking him to leave his rifle with us but he was already gone.

So Tom, Cathy and I are left standing in the middle of the road all by ourselves wondering if momma leopard is going to return at any minutes. I was also thinking “why don’t they just call one of the other land rovers back to pull us out of the wash.” I figured that it had something to do with male bravado and a code of independence in the bush. However, having tourists eaten by leopards couldn’t be good for business.

Finally we heard the land rover start up and saw Richard come bouncing through the brush and out onto the road. On the drive back to camp I asked Richard why he didn’t call for help to get out of the wash. His reply was along the lines of what I expected. Apparently there are no consequences to getting stuck at Londolozi, as long as you can free yourself. However, if you have to call for help the leather ammo pouch that each ranger carries on his belt is replaced by a pink ammo pouch for a month!

Our afternoon game drive could be named the day of elephants. They were everywhere that we went. We did see some other animals such as nyala, cape buffalo, a maribou stork, giraffes and wildebeest, but largely the afternoon was devoted to observing elephants.

We saw several herds of elephants that afternoon. There were large bull elephants and young ones too. The young ones were cute. One was so young that he had not yet figured out how to control his trunk.

We stayed out past sunset on this day. It was already dark as we were heading back to camp when Richard stopped the land rover and turned the key off. We looked ahead of us and about 30 yards away was another herd of elephants, walking down the road directly toward us. Richard whispered to remain silent and to not move. The elephants continued to come directly toward us, lead by a large bull. As the elephants approached the land rover they split into two columns, one on each side of us. As each one passed, it turned its head slightly to look at us, and continued on. What was amazing was that this all took place in almost complete silence. All we heard was the slight rustle of grass from the elephants walking by. These huge animals passing silently by us in the dark,only a few feet away was one of the most spiritual moments of the trip.

sunset, elephant, LondoloziThe evening meal at camp was always an elaborate affair with gourmet food and wine. Every two or three days we would have a bush dinner to create a special atmosphere. These were indeed special (although sometimes a bit cold) and memorable.

Dinner at Londolozi Game Reserve, South Africa.

South Africa Safari – Day 2

Cathy photographing Londolozi lion pride.

Cathy photographing Londolozi lion pride.

5:00 in the morning comes early in the bush. It seems that my head had just hit the pillow when the alarm rang. Time to get up, brush our teeth, grab our gear and head out. We met on the deck at the camp for a quick cup of coffee and a biscuit. No one wanted to drink too much since we would be out in the Land Rovers for 3 to 4 hours driving on bumpy trails. And you never know what might be behind the bush you choose!

It was a beautiful morning although the sun was not yet up. We had been driving for about 20 minutes when Richard stopped the Land Rover and shut it off. On the trail, about 30 yards in front of us was a pride of lions consisting of 4 adult females and 9 cubs! And they were headed directly for us. The sound of shutters clicking was like the sound of machine gun fire as we all started taking pictures. The little ones were just so damned cute. They veered off the path as they got near to us and headed down to the river. Richard repositioned the land rover and we got some fantastic shots of the lions drinking from a water hole. They then moved to the dry river bed for a morning of playing, grooming, nursing and sleeping. We spent about an hour and 15 minutes observing and photographing these guys.

Click any photo to enlarge

Once the cubs settled down for a nap we took off. As we drove around we spotted various animals including some Impala and a Warburg eagle.

We stopped in one area and Richard was describing leadwood trees to us. Leadwood is very dense, termite resistant and doesn’t float on water. The tree itself may live for 1000 years. However, as Richard was explaining all of this Like held up his hand. He had heard a bird give an alert call and then he said he heard a leopard in the distance. While the rest of us piled into the land rover and headed off in one direction, Like grabbed a hand-held radio and took off on foot. Within minutes Richard got a call from Like that he had spotted the leopard (no pun intended). Richard turned the land rover around, left the trail and started crashing through the underbrush, following Like’s radioed directions.

Like

Our tracker – Like

Talk about great tracking. Using his hearing and tracking abilities Like had guided us directly to our first leopard. It was a beautiful female. However, she was restless and didn’t stay in one place for very long. We tracked her for a while and they lost her in the brush. However, we located her again a short while later by the river bed. Watching this magnificent animal was a thrill and we spent almost 2 hours with her.

As would be the pattern, we had lunch back at camp every day at about 1:30. No sandwiches here. Every day was as elaborately prepared lunch. We were usually accompanied by a number of vervet monkeys that were always looking for an opportune moment to swoop in and make off with some goodies.

Having seen a leopard in the morning we went looking for a cheetah on our afternoon drive. We took off at about 3:45 and after driving around for about 30 minutes we located our prey. It did not require expert tracking, though. This cheetah looked like it had just finished eating a cape buffalo by itself. I don’t think that this animal had any intention of moving in the next 18 hours. So much for getting to see a cheetah stalk and bring down an antelope.

Hope you’re enjoying our story and photos. Come back tomorrow for day 3.

Day 2 animals:
Lions, impala, leopards, vervet monkeys, cheetah, Warburg’s eagle, little bee eater, chacma baboon.

Are We All Poachers?

First of all, to those of you that follow this blog I apologize for my absence the past couple of months. I’ve been busy with a myriad of tasks but hope to settle back into a routine now.

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What does the future hold for this young rhino?
Copyright Cathy Pemberton 2012

Are we all poachers?  This of course is, and was meant to be a provocative question. As many of you know I am extremely concerned about the rampant poaching that is occurring in Africa. Elephants are being slaughtered by the thousands for their ivory tusks[1]. Reports are now coming in about the killing of rhinos. Powdered rhino horn is a valued “male enhancement” and medicinal product in much of Asia. Just 2 weeks ago the western black rhino, a subspecies of the African rhinoceros last spotted in 2006, was declared extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.[2]  Those of us in the western world that would never consider purchasing artworks carved from ivory or consume powdered rhino horn to improve our sexual prowess are rightly offended by the killing of endangered species and the destruction of habitats that is occurring today in Africa.

However, reality is seldom so neat and clean. Saturday’s issue of the San Francisco Chronicle contained a front page article by Meredith May titled “PAWS helps aging elephants.” [3] This article describes the work of Pat Derby (dec. Feb. 15, 2013) and Ed Stewart in operating the Performing Animal Welfare Society. Today PAWS operates three animal sanctuaries in Galt, Rancho Seco and San Andreas, California. Pat and Ed were originally animal trainers and created PAWS as a rescue sanctuary for abused performing animals.

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Mercury – Sign of the Cat

I first met Pat in the mid 1980s shortly after she opened the first sanctuary in Galt, just outside of Sacramento. As a trainer she had worked on television shows such as Daktari, Gunsmoke, Lassie, Gentle Ben and Flipper. She also trained Chauncey and Christopher, the cougars that starred in the Lincoln Mercury “Sign of the Cat” car commercials. The facility in Galt was small, only a few hundred acres, but it was clear that Pat was passionate about correcting the abuses of animals that she had seen and giving them a place to peacefully live out their lives. She campaigned relentlessly until the time of her death to eliminate the abuses of performing animals that were (are?) rampant in the industry. Does public demand for animal entertainment represent a form of “poaching”?

Jack Hanna

Jack Hanna

The article in the Chronicle got me thinking about the role of zoos in the world today. Most people will attend a zoo and find it to be a very enjoyable experience. And there is no question that seeing an elephant up close is infinitely more impressive than seeing one on television. In fact, zoos today pride themselves on their scientific breeding programs, their educational programs and their wildlife conservation efforts. We even have celebrity zookeepers such as Jack Hanna, Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, with their own TV shows proclaiming the value of zoos in promoting environmental awareness and conservation.

Paul Chinn - SF Chronicle

Paul Chinn – SF Chronicle

Yet I’ve always had an uneasy feeling that such proclamations contained a good deal of self-serving  rationalization. Zoos are centers of civic pride in many communities. We remember catch phrases such as “the world famous San Diego Zoo”. Are we really maintaining zoos to educate our populace and preserve the species? Or are the educational programs simply there to justify what already exists. Zoos have dramatically improved over the years, eliminating the confined metal cages and replacing them with simulated natural environments. Yet these are still woefully short of what wild animals, such as elephants, need and would experience in a natural environment. While there are still some animals captured in the wild and placed in zoos, most of the animals are bred in captivity and transferred between zoos. But as Ed Stewart of PAWS stated “Each time I hear another baby elephant is born in a zoo, I think, “That’s another 50-year jail sentence.'” 3 Some zoos have in fact shut down their elephant programs. The latest to do so is the Toronto Zoo. With a donation of $800,000 from game show host and well know animal rights activist Bob Barker the last 3 elephants will be transferred from Toronto to PAWS Ark 2000 facility in San Andreas. Is it time we shut down all of them?

Hence our ethical dilemma. Is the keeping of wild animals in zoos the ethical equivalent of poaching? In terms of numbers of animals certainly not. And the fact that the zoo animals are alive while the poached animals are dead is an important difference. Even though I can’t help but feel that the promotion of zoos perpetuates the acceptability of captive wild animals, at the end of the day, I must reject my conjecture that we are all poachers for enjoying the captive animals in the zoo. However, we must be cautious. We must continuously examine our actions and motives and make sure they withstand rigorous ethical scrutiny. At the first whiff of rationalization we must sound the alarm and take action. You can start by checking to see if your zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) by clicking here:
http://www.aza.org/current-accreditation-list/

A list of non AZA accredited facilities can be found here:
http://www.zoology.msu.edu/uploads/documents/nonAZAaccredited2012.pdf [4]

If you are interested in supporting conservation and efforts to prevent poaching there are many fine organizations. If you are interested in PAWS their website is: http://www.pawsweb.org/index.html

A few of my other  favorites are:

World Wildlife Fund,
http://worldwildlife.org/

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust,
https://www.facebook.com/thedswt?hc_location=stream


[1] Record poaching drives African elephants into decline
For Release: Jun 21, 2012
Jennafer Bonello
jenna.bonello@wwfus.org

[2] Western black rhino officially extinct
By William Holt | Yahoo! News – Thu, Jun 27, 2013
http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/news/western-black-rhino-officially-extinct-150259423.html

[3] PAWS helps aging elephants, Meredith May, San Francisco Chronicle, July 6, 2013

[4] The presence of a facility on this list does not assure that the facility is inadequate or non-compliant. It is a starting point for investigation.

Tanzania Government Displacing Maasai Off Land

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Henry Miwani – © 2012 Mark Pemberton

One of the great pleasures that Cathy and I had when we visited Kenya in 2012 was our visit with a Maasai Village. Henry Miwani, one of our guides, took us to visit his village. The villagers performed their traditional dances and songs for us and taught us about their traditional way of life. We were then free to wander around, observe and talk to those you spoke English. We got to go into their small huts and learn about how they make their living by herding.

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© 2012 Cathy Pemberton

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© 2012 Cathy Pemberton

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© 2012 Cathy Pemberton

For hundreds of years, the Maasai have roamed across Kenya and Tanzania with their herds of cattle and goats. However, more and more land has been set aside for animal preserves, thus reducing the area available to the Maasai. One of the greatest concerns of conservationists is the reduction of habitat for wild animals due to the encroachment of man. Here is an example of the encroachment of man causing a reduction in habitat for man!

In a coup de gras that has raised the ire of the Maasai and conservationists alike “Tanzania announced last week it plans to evict 30,000 Maasai herders from a hefty swath of their ancestral lands in order to create a game reserve offering exclusive access for a Dubai-based hunting company.” 1

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© 2012 Mark Pemberton

“Maasai activists say the proposal, which reduces their space here by 40 percent, will destroy their traditional cattle-herding livelihood. …The government says the corridor is a necessity for conservation in the northern Loliondo region bordering the Serengeti, and charges that Maasai cattle are overgrazing the land.” 1

Reports from the Christian Science Monitor confirmed the information reported by AP.

“Tourism Minister Khamis Kagasheki said last week the government will not budge from its plans, described as a compromise that would divide current Maasai territory by giving about 40 percent for a wildlife zone and the rest to the Maasai for grazing.

“There is no government in the world that can just let an area so important to conservation to be wasted away by overgrazing,” Mr. Kagasheki said.

Benjamin Gardner, a cultural geographer at the University of Washington who has studied the Maasai since 1992, says he doubts they are harming the environment. “The way the Maasai manage the range actually encourages wildlife,” Mr. Gardner says, citing their aversion to hunting, and prescribed burns that regenerate grass.

But Tanzania is also in need of foreign investment. Livestock rearing, although economically productive for people in Loliondo, is less lucrative for the government than tourism. The OBC hunting firm’s clients include the United Arab Emirates royal family, and pay so well that in the past,  Tanzania’s president Jakaya Kikwete has dispatched troops to keep the hunting grounds free of cattle and locals.” 2

The question is, who will be the better steward for the land, the Maasai or the Ortello Business Corporation? There is little question in my mind.

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Maasai Village – © 2012 Cathy Pemberton

It is very discouraging that in the 21st century, trophy hunting is still occurring. But it is. There are private game preserves throughout Central Africa that cater to private game hunters.  These preserves are highly profitable for the countries in which they reside.

According to the Christian Science Monitor a mass protest rally by the Maasai was planned for this week. In support, about 50 politicians threatened to resign their jobs. Ultimately the politicians reneged on their promises (can you believe that?) and the local police outlawed public gatherings. Soldiers were sent in to disperse the demonstrators.

“Maasai women, dressed in traditional red shukas with shining jewelry, are now resisting on their own. Defying both the ban on gatherings and the patriarchal Maasai culture, by midweek they began holding small sit-ins under wiry acacia trees in villages across Loliondo, where they debated whether they should go to court or march on OBC’s camp.” 2

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Maasai Women – © 2012 Mark Pemberton

I will try to keep track of this issue and let you know of future developments.

Mark

1Groups: Tanzania gov’t kicking Maasai off land
By JASON STRAZIUSO | Associated Press – Fri, Apr 5, 2013
http://news.yahoo.com/groups-tanzania-govt-kicking-maasai-off-land-134348511.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

2Maasai face eviction from ancestral lands to make way for Dubai hunting firm
Yahoo News, By A correspondent | Christian Science Monitor – Fri, Apr 5, 2013
http://news.yahoo.com/maasai-face-eviction-ancestral-lands-way-dubai-hunting-160806860.html

Do Fences Really Make for Good Neighbors?

It is interesting that yesterday I was writing about the inventiveness of  a young Kenyan boy, and how his flashing light invention kept lions away from his families fenced in herd of cattle. Today I read a report published in the New York Times by James Gorman of a study by Dr. Craig Packer and 57 colleagues that concluded the best way to save the lions is to fence them in.

Joao Silva/The New York Times

There is no question that the lion population in Africa has taken quite a big hit. According to Dr. Packer lions in Africa have lost 75 percent of their range in the last 100 years, problems between people and lions have increased, and some populations suffer from genetic isolation. Panthera, a conservationist organization devoted to big cats, estimates that there are 30,000 lions in Africa today, down from 200,000 lions 100 years ago.

After 35 years of field research in the Serengeti plains, Craig Packer, director of the Lion Research Center at the University of Minnesota, has lost all patience with the romance of African wilderness. Fences, he says, are the only way to stop the precipitous and continuing decline in the number of African lions.

“Reality has to intrude,” he said. “Do you want to know the two most hated species in Africa, by a mile? Elephants and lions.” They destroy crops and livestock, he said, and sometimes, in the case of lions, actually eat people.

Dr. Packer’s goal is to save lions. Fencing them in, away from people and livestock, is the best way to do that, he believes, both for conservation and economics. He made that argument in a paper this month in Ecology Letters, along with 57 co-authors, including most of the top lion scientists and conservationists.

To be sure, not eveyone agrees with Dr. Packer that fencing is the best solution. it seems sad that things may come to this. Perhaps we need to get Richard Turere, the 13 year old Kenyan boy that I wrote about yesterday, involved and see If he can come up with a better solution.

The complete NY Times article can be found here.