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.
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!
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.
There were several foals present, which was a good sign for this rare and beautiful animal:
All around us we saw amazing animals and birds, which were singing with joy as the bush was alive after the rains.
There was great excitement among the students as we spotted some elephants:
We were able to watch them feeding and learn about the behaviour, family life and ecology of these incredible creatures:
In Kenya, elephants have the right of way and you have to wait if they’re on the road!
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.
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.
There were some beautiful large old fig trees growing among the rocks at the summit:
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).
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:
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!