African Behavioural Ecology Field Course departs today
The best thing about the forest is that it is bursting with life—even at night. Argumentative insects, singing cicadas and the calls of large mammals resonate in the night. I loved to fall asleep to the cacophony back home in India. Now I live at the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus and the nights here are so different. All I ever hear is the wind rushing through the trees and the occasional flush of my neighbour’s toilet. I’ve been waiting for this field trip for months now, and today we’re off to be serenaded by the sounds of Kenya’s forests. Even the buzz of mosquitoes sounds like a treat.
Kenya lies to the East of Africa and is a country with a rich history. It is thought to be the birthplace of humankind and the human fossils that were found here might help piece together how we humans evolved. I’ve been reading a book by Richard Leakey, one of the archaeologists. Wildlife Wars describes his early career as an archaeologist and work in conservation, reforming the Kenya Wildlife Service. It is a must-read for anyone going on the Kenyan Field Trip.
Picture herds of thousands of African Elephants, as far as the eye can see, all the way from Tsavo national park to the Indian Ocean! That was what Leaky’s friend Iain Douglas-Hamilton saw when he flew over Tsavo in 1969. This was a common sight back then, but when Leaky flew over the same area two decades later, the herds had shrunk into little grey islands of just two hundred. But thanks to Kenya’s conservation efforts the African elephant population has been steadily increasing.
I hope to see some spectacular sights too. The first stop on our trip is Lake Naivasha—once home to the Born Free writer Joy Adamson—and Hell’s Gate Gorge. After that we will make our way to Lake Nakuru. It was once overflowing with Flamingoes, but the rising water levels has driven off the horde, a few remain. The Aberdare National Park is our next stop. This picturesque moorland is home to many rare and endemic species of plant and animal. The last places on our trip that lie along the banks of the Ewaso Ng’iro river—the Samburu National Reserve and Buffalo Springs National Reserve. Samburu was once home to Elsa, the lion cub from Born Free. It was also home to a rather strange lioness named Kamuniak that adopted five newborn antelopes. I can’t wait to find out more about Kamuniak, I’ll keep you all posted!
Equipped with field guides, a sketchbook and binoculars—that we were told are “not optional if you want to get the most from your experience” —I’m excited to visit Kenya. Oh (not so) quiet jungle where the lions sleep tonight, here we come!
Annie Megan Santamaria