Rutgers - Science Summer Abroad 2010
Nine Science Undergraduate Students Around the World

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Nairobi National Park: Post by Kai

Due to Kai's limited internet access in Africa, he has asked me to post the below blog.

As I sit down to write about the last few days here in Kenya I am nothing short of satisfied. I am continuing to form bonds with the people around me, and the academic experience here is excellent. Yesterday consisted of a ten hour trip into the Nairobi National Park, during which we were blessed with an incredible lion sighting. It began with us spotting a female lion up ahead of us. As we slowly got closer we noticed she had two tiny cubs walking in between her legs. They were approximately a foot tall, and the unbelievably adorable. Once she noticed us, the female walked a ways away and looked to her right, where a male lion came shortly out of a bush. We snapped some photos and then the family moved on.

Later in the day, while we were driving past a small herd of gazelles, we noticed that they were all looking very attentively in one direction. We decided to look the same way, to see if we could spot anything. After some intense viewing through our binoculars we spotted what we believed to be a cheetah on the hunt, based on its head and small amount of the back that we could see. It was hiding in the cover of a small bush, and was incredibly well hidden considering the size of the bush. It did not attempt to attack the gazelle herd. We assumed that this was because it was aware of the fact that they had spotted it.

During our trip we completed a transect count of the large mammals within the park. We were split into three land cruisers, using spotters/counters, note takers, and mammal identifiers. With the data collected we are assessing the habitat preferences of various mammals within the park, and numerical proportions of the various populations.

Also while at the park, we had the pleasure of a guest lecture from the park warden from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), who spoke to us about the opportunities and challenges facing the Nairobi National Park. He spoke a great deal about the people of Kenya wanting to settle around Nairobi, specifically in the dispersal area that is essential to the continued migration of wildlife in the NNP. He pointed a finger of blame at people settling and fencing off all their land, making wildlife migration even harder. I asked him about initiatives by KWS to compensate people for lost wildlife, and he claimed that they are making an effort to compensate people at the full market value of their lost livestock. This is not what I have heard from local community members, and I believe that if people trusted KWS more, and were given an interest in protecting wildlife, that the fate of NNP would be in far less danger than it is now.

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