Exploring the African Savannah!

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The Turkana Basin Institute’s Origins Field School started off this week with the students exploring the African Savannah and meeting some of the amazing creatures that call this ecosystem home. We were very lucky to spend three days at Mpala Ranch in Laikipia where we had some incredible sightings of wildlife, while learning about the ecology of the African Savannah.

Our adventure began before breakfast on Saturday morning when a pack of African Wild Dogs chased down an Impala in front of the camp.

African Wild Dogs!

African Wild Dogs!

They were soon joined by a pack of hyenas hoping to partake of the breakfast they hadn’t worked so hard to procure, but the wild dogs were having none of it!

African Wild Dogs confronting the Spotted Hyenas!

African Wild Dogs confronting the Spotted Hyenas!

After breakfast we set off on a drive to look at the animals and learn about their ecology and behaviour.

One of the first sightings we had was of the Grevy’s Zebra, which are an endangered species, found in Northern Kenya, and distinct from the Common or Plains Zebra.

Grevy's Zebra

Grevy’s Zebra

There were several foals present, which was a good sign for this rare and beautiful animal:

Grevy's Zebra foal and mum

Grevy’s Zebra foal and mum

All around us we saw amazing animals and birds, which were singing with joy as the bush was alive after the rains.

Cinnammon-chested Bee-Eater

Cinnamon chested Bee-Eater

 

Egyptian Geese

Egyptian Geese

 

Greater Kudu calf and mother

Greater Kudu calf and mother

 

There was great excitement among the students as we spotted some elephants:

Is that an Elephant?

Is that an Elephant?

We were able to watch them feeding and learn about the behaviour, family life and ecology of these incredible creatures:

Elephants watching us!

Elephants watching us!

In Kenya, elephants have the right of way and you have to wait if they’re on the road!

Elephants have the right of way!

Elephants have the right of way!

A view more portraits of the elephants:

Elephant-sepia-Mpala-LR1

 

Sepia-elephant-Mpala-LR2

 

We also saw lots of Reticulated Giraffes wandering about elegantly through the bush:

Reticulated Giraffes

Reticulated Giraffes

In the evening, we had a talk from the ‘Living With Lions’ project by Steven Ekwanga and Mark Apao, who explained to the students the challenges of conserving lions in an area where people are mainly dependent on livestock through reducing conflict by providing better ‘bomas’ (livestock enclosures) and increasing community awareness.

Steven Ekwanga talks to the students about lion conservation

Steven Ekwanga talks to the students about lion conservation

 

The next day we went off to climb Mukenya, which is a hill with rocky outcrops and the highest point on Mpala Ranch. It was a fairly steep, hot climb, but the deliciously cool air and stunning views from the summit made it worth it.

TBI Fall 2014 students on the summit of Mukenya

TBI Fall 2014 students on the summit of Mukenya

There were some beautiful large old fig trees growing among the rocks at the summit:

Among the figs on the summit of Mukenya

Among the figs on the summit of Mukenya

Many different insects were congregating at the top of the hill, including this remarkable bee-fly (looks like a bee, but it’s actually a fly).

The enigmatic Bee-Fly

The enigmatic Bee-Fly

 

On the way back to camp we spotted a Leopard Tortoise lumbering through the grass, who obligingly stopped for us to get a closer look:

How does a Leopard Tortoise feel?

How does a Leopard Tortoise feel?

The day ended with an incredible sighting of the pack of African Wild Dogs as we headed back to camp… will be posting those photos shortly, so please check back soon!

 

By | 2017-01-04T18:04:53+00:00 September 11th, 2014|Field School|Comments Off on Exploring the African Savannah!

About the Author:

Hello! I'm Dino Martins, an entomologist interested in how insects keep the planet running, the biology of vectors and more broadly in the evolution of life and our role in a sustainable world. I teach for the Turkana Basin Field School and serve as the Academic Field Director and am a Research Assistant Professor at Stony Brook University.