Monday, September 1, 2008

BONES continues

The time at Ol Pejeta has been great! Fire and I have been walking around in the field, finding lots of bones for our study. Here's a zebra skull sitting under an acacia tree.

Our armed guard Robert is very interested in what we are doing. We've talked with him about how bones can help us understand the modern ecosystem, and he's taught us about some traditional uses of the plants by local people, including one that's use to treat venereal disease, and another to increase sperm production. Hm, maybe we could patent the extractions and get rich! No need to apply for grant proposals! :)

Did I mention that the scenery here is great? Here's a shot of Mount Kenya, with some Acacia woodland in the foreground.

We have been seeing lots of animals on our transects.

This giraffe tried to hide behind an acacia tree when it realized we were nearby, but we could still see it.

There's lots of different kinds of antelopes here, including waterbuck,


and bushbuck.

Many of the birds are very colorful; this is a lilac-breasted roller, one of the birds which likes to hang out by the research center and drink from the bowl of water that gets set out for the birds every day.

Thursday was the day of the cheetah; we saw three cheetah resting under a tree as we drove to our first transect,

and one later in the afternoon after we dropped Robert off at the end of the day. This was one of my best cheetah sightings ever; we watched it walk along the edge of the Acacia woodland for about 5 minutes before it got too dark to see it anymore.

Thursday was also almost the day of the leopard too (wow, two big cats in one day, that would have been awesome!). The conservancy was releasing a leopard that had been caught on a nearby ranch. Unfortunately, even though we were invited to watch the release, we weren't contacted in time. Oh well.

Friday was the day of the jackal - we saw these three jackals right before we were starting one of our transects. If you look closely, the one on the right is yawning in disinterest!

On Saturday, we had to stop one of our transects because there were elephants nearby.

This baby elephant was so cute!

But not all of the animals we see here are wild; the conservancy keeps cattle as well.

The work has been intense. We walk straight line transects (east-west or north-south, uding a GPS), looking for bones, and making sure we avoid dangerous animals. All day. In the hot sun, the driving wind, and the bushy terrain. I'm getting a lot of sun, some ant bites, and my legs are aching from all the walking, but I feel great being outside and getting back into shape a little! I've pulled two ticks off of Fire's legs, but none on me so far. Just some itchy ant bites. Last night I was so tired from 5 straight days of walking several kilometers a day, all day, in the bush (while being on the lookout for elephants, buffalo, lions...) - plus it was especially hot out - that I went to bed at 9:30 and slept straight through until nearly 7am, when breakfast is served! The weather has cooperated, thankfully, and the only other brief rain shower was this afternoon.

At night, we spend our time doing data entry or listening to talks the conservancy staff do for the Earthwatch group; Friday night's was by the manager of the chimpanzee reserve here. There's a small reserve for rescued/orphaned chimps inside the conservancy, and the conservancy is dedicated not only to making the lives of these chimps better, but educating people on the problems that lead to abandoned and orphaned chimps in the first place, like illegal logging and the bushmeat trade. Even though chimps are not native to Kenya, I think it's a great effort.

Two nights ago I sat out by the fire - there's usually a fire at night for anyone who wants to sit by to keep warm while looking at the amazing night sky - talking with Geoff and Nathan. It was lovely to just sit, talk about conservation, and look at the Milky Way. Geoff, the Earthwatch leader, gave a talk last night on human-wildlife conflict in Kenya, which is a very interesting subject with lots of economic and emotional arguments. But as much as I am enjoying it here, I am also looking forward to getting home. I miss my fiance Peter! I think of him every time I look down at my engagement ring; I bet he'd be really enjoying himself if he was out here with me. Maybe next year! I am looking forward to having our parents meet for the first time soon after I get home, simply being able to see Peter and spend more time together, and starting to plan our wedding. How exciting!!

I can't believe I leave Kenya in two days. Hope everyone is having a good holiday weekend...!!!