Amboseli Awash!

Thu, 2010-01-07 17:56 by hcroze
Kili and Cynthia's tent Elephant Research Camp and new lake Great Egret, Crested Cranes Crested Crane, Saddle-billed Stork Dragonfly hawking Dung beetles in camp Dung beetles on the road Black is the new Pink Slug Tick tastes my finger

When the drought breaks in Africa, it doesn't mess around: we've had 69mm (just under 3 inches) since the New Year.

The first image is looking south to Kili with Cynthia's tent to the right seen from my tent yesterday afternoon. The second image is the Elephant Research Camp from the air this morning. looking NNW. Note the all the pools surrounding the camp and the huge lake that's formed where there was a dust bowl three weeks ago.
Three inches may sound pitiful for those getting inundated with rain and snow in other parts of the world, but in Amboseli, that represents almost 20% of the average annual rainfall. In one week!
The terribly distributed rainfall is one of our ecosystem's curses: too much, too quick, so there is huge runoff with not always enough soaking into the soil.
But, on the bright side, the glut of water brings about transformations that are magical. Where we have been inhaling alkaline dust for months and months, we are now slithering in the mud from tent to tent (Cristina and I flew a tent-maker down to finish up some of the refurbishment work that started last year).
And, although the elephants and wildebeeste are still not back, other creatures are beginning to celebrate the return of the rains.
Some are beautiful, others, not so.
On the beautiful side, we have the Great Egret and the Crowned Cranes (first bird image) and the Saddle-billed Stork who have homed into the temporary pools to feast on the myriad of little frogs that have emerged from who knows where (aestivation?). Dragonflies are cruising for less agile insects right in front of our tent.
And dung beetles! None of us could recall ever having seen dung beetles in Amboseli. The green ones were in camp, shifting a ball of vervet monkey feces. The bronzy ones were struggling to cross the rocky road to Tortilis camp in the western part of the park.
On the less glorious end, we bumped into a rather handsome black slug that I've never seen before, and have watched uneasily as the ticks have started to scuttle up the walls of our tents, entranced, no doubt, by the wafts of our body odour.
There are, in fact, about 50-60 elephants in the park, and -- good news -- flying out we saw perhaps a hundred or so wildebeest and zebra some 20 miles to the north.
The ecosystem seems to be shrugging its shoulders and coming back to life. Let's hope we can now hold off the poachers!

Rain, rain and hopefully more rain

Sun, 2010-01-24 18:39 by Jharg

Hi, I'm Jill and new to your website after finding it following our holiday to Amboseli last August staying at OL Tukai lodge. This was our 4th time to Kenya and secont to this amazing lodge. We had a fabulous time but each time we went out on a game drive I ended up so upset at the sight of all the dead animals due to drought. It was devestating to see. Now I'm so glad there has been rain there and I am hoping this will bring abouth the return of the zebra and wildebeestes. The last time we were there, a few years ago now, it was so wet and rained at few time seven in August, it was such a contrast to see the same terrain so arid last year. We will be retuning next year and Amboseli will be out first stop and I am hoping and praying it will be like the first time we were there. On a lighter note I am so happy to hear that you have seen Ely and he is doing well, lets hope he stays within Amboseli so visitors have a chance to spot him on game drives.
I was sad to hear, however, that Echo has died, I only new about this when I read the blogs on your website. Can anyone tell me if this has been shown on the TV because I watch ALL programmes about Elephants when I can on TV and if it has I've obviously missed it, not that I would relish to see the death of a great matriach in Echo, she was amazing. Keep up the excellent work you all do for the Elephants in Amboseli

Speak soon


Not filmed

Sun, 2010-01-24 20:21 by Hans

To my knowledge her death was not filmed, and it may be better that way.

I personally think we should award the intelligent, self-aware elephants some of the same dignity we claim for ourselves. I, for one, would not want my death to be filmed and shown on TV.

Agree, Hans, but...

Fri, 2010-01-29 13:00 by hcroze

... sadly, her death was filmed, many times over. If you search on YouTube for 'echo elephant' you will find lots: all pretty grim. Having named her at the start of the project and having been there at her very end, I can confirm the film snippets are not at all a fitting memorial. But there they are: such is the nature of our information age. I've put up some of the local news coverage elsewhere on our site, here, which show the high regard in which Kenyans held Echo.

Oh, I see

Fri, 2010-01-29 20:58 by Hans

I only thought of professional filming of the kind that would be shown on TV.

All our collective memories..

Fri, 2010-01-29 16:24 by Anna Martinsson

This is the enigma and part of the double edged sword, that is our digital information age, (be it that the positive impacts far outweighs the negative aspects) ! I have never searched for this footage on You Tube and never will, the footage posted here on this website was telling enough and as you point out shows the regard she was and always will be held at.

With Echo I think most of us will remember her remarkable life (that she in so many ways shared with us) from our own personally memories, be it from our own sightings from Amboseli over the years, the BBC Natural world trilogy, the latest Martyn Colbeck Animal Planet series or the books that have been documented around her and her family She was a true icon and she was the catalyst for so many of us to begin to understand what ATFE research team been un-covering and understood for far longer, the fascinating unravelling of the insight to the wonder that the elephants truly are.

Take Ely's return, he will never know what a "new" icon he is and the part he played in showing us the compassion and unconditional love possible of elephants, played out by Echo and Enid in his very early days. What made me smile the other day was seeing Cynthia's latest picture of him, especially the one of him looking casual, I have a photo of Echo taken not that long ago, herself relaxing her back left hind leg in exactly the same way, and for me that is one memory, a small footnote in time that I personally will cherish….and what I think a rather more fitting tribute, be it what it is; only a insignificantly little piece of so many collective memories we all have...

Collective Memories

Fri, 2010-01-29 17:35 by cmoss

Anna, This was a lovely posting. Thank you so much.

Dung Beatles

Fri, 2010-01-15 20:55 by Donna

Thank you, Harvey, for the new pix of the pretty clean-up guys. What a great niche they fill - cleaning-up and fertilizing.

Rain dance

Fri, 2010-01-08 16:28 by Keith

So the rain has danced back onstage, and the plants n animals (beasts, birds, bugs n slugs) have responded to the beat. Fantastic news, great pix.

It's encouraging to hear that you saw a hundred or so wildebeests and zebras in one place north of Amboseli; surely there must be more in other parts of the system, so perhaps the die-off was not so COMPLETELY catastrophic as had been feared. What will happen with the third trophic level -- the predators, still remains to be seen. Will they die off now, as they run out of the weak or already dead prey to gorge on? Will they turn their full attention onto livestock, and/or be culled to protect human property and livelihoods? And what about the poachers? Still a few worries left, and no time to relax.

Well, maybe there is a bit of time to dance, and to draw breath after it had been held in for so long. Time to enjoy the fact that nature still works, despite all the pressure we humans are putting on it. And time to think about how we can encourage it to continue working in its own way, protect its ability to respond to challenges.


Fri, 2010-01-08 07:48 by Alison1962

Thankyou Harvey, your pictures are fantastic, its lovely to see things looking so good. Alison x

Rain, wonderful rain

Thu, 2010-01-07 22:34 by Donna

Thank you, Harvey, for the great pix and the news. I can hardly wait till Amboseli is also awash with elephants. The stork is a lovely fellow. And even the unwelcome tick is quite handsome. At least he is big enough to see, unlike the deer ticks we have here in Pennsylvania who carry lime disease.


Amboseli Awash

Thu, 2010-01-07 19:44 by cmoss

Great photos; great blog. Thanks, Harvey.

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