Thursday, November 20, 2014

Two Collared Lions Mating Near Campi Ya Kanzi

Recent lion sightings near Campi ya Kanzi have given our safari guests an intimate look at collared lions Namunyak and Lorpolosie as they attempt to start a family.  The pair are in full-fledged mating mode as the short rains of November summon lush, green growth in the Chyulus.  Both Namunyak and Lorpolosie wear unobtrusive tracking collars that allow the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust to monitor their movements.  They have been spotted together on several occasions in the same area, sometimes in the company of two additional adult females.  Head guide Stefano Ricci snapped some stellar photographs of the lions as they enjoyed a leisurely morning in the sun.

Lorpolosie is a magnificent male lion who covers a vast territory between the Chyulu Hills
and Amboseli National Park.  It is a rare treat to see him so close to Campi ya Kanzi.

Lorpolosie was collared by MWCT one year ago in November 2013.  After two weeks, however,
the collar stopped working properly and could no longer be tracked by satellite.

Today, the MWCT conservation team successfully replaced Lorpolosie's collar with a new one.
Collars help researchers to gather important information that aids lion conservation efforts.
Collars do not harm lions or interfere with their daily activities.

Lorpolosie has an impressive two-tone mane that is gold on top and dark brown on the bottom.
This is a distinguishing trait that has become relatively uncommon among lions.

Watch out for those teeth!

Namunyak (right) is a four-year-old female who was collared in December 2013.
Her name means "blessing" or "lucky one" in Maa, the language of the Maasai.

Namunyak and Lorpolosie have been spending time with two other adult females.

Namunyak is a regular resident of the area surrounding Campi ya Kanzi.
Our guests frequently have the opportunity to see her in the wild.

Namunyak's female companions, like this beauty, may also be looking to mate soon.

Namunyak and Lopolosie have been inseparable for the last few days.
Lions have a very intense mating ritual in which they copulate 20-40 times per day
for a period of several days, sometimes even forgoing food.

If Namunyak gets pregnant, she will give birth in 3-4 months.
Cross your fingers for cubs!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Butterflies in the Chyulu Hills

Campi ya Kanzi is an excellent place to see big game like lions and elephants, but there are also an extraordinary number of small creatures here that receive less attention.  The Chyulu Hills are teeming with little life forms, like insects, birds, and lizards.  If you know how to look for them, you'll open your eyes to a completely new type of safari and the list of creatures you see will grow exponentially.

Did you know the Chyulu Hills are home to over 200 species of butterflies?  By comparison, Great Britain has only 58 species.  The Chyulus have at least as many butterflies as the entire country of Italy, boasting extraordinary diversity in a relatively small range.

A beautiful citrus swallowtail (Papilio demodocus) pays a visit to our water hole.

A male yellow pansy butterfly (Junonia hierta) also spends time at our water hole.

Last week, Campi ya Kanzi invited butterfly experts Luca Borghesio and Lawrence Wagura to visit the Chyulu Hills to teach our guides about butterflies.  Luca and Lawrence last visited in 2011, and we were thrilled to have them back again.  They accompanied our guides on scenic hikes and game drives to find butterflies in action.

Luca Borghesio searches for butterflies and plant specimens in the Chulu Hills.

Lawrence Wagura helps Pashiet to identify a butterfly in the cloud forest.

Luca Borghesio points out some identifying features of a butterfly while using a field guide.

After observing butterflies in the wilderness, our guides had the opportunity to examine specimens under a microscope.  Butterflies have compound eyes, antennae, and a long proboscis that is used to drink nectar.  These features are much easier to study when magnified.

Parashi examines a butterfly under the microscope while Luca Belpietro and Pashiet look on.

Our safari guides compared and identified butterfly specimens
while also learning how butterflies differ from moths and other insects.

Thank you, Luca and Lawrence, for teaching us so much about butterflies!  The guides of Campi ya Kanzi have a new appreciation for the delicate, colorful creatures that flutter through the Chyulus.

The guides gathered for a meeting in Tembo House to take a closer look at butterflies.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

What do a Maasai girl and Elephants have in common?

Naserian Lerindo is a young Maasai girl living in the foothills of Kilimanjaro, where many elephants roam.  Once undisturbed, the majestic animals today see their survival threatened by human beings.

So do Naserian and the elephants she shares her land with have something in common?

They actually do.  And, with no dramatization, it is something very meaningful: life!

How?  It is quite simple.

Last March, Luigina and Elio Bernini visited Campi ya Kanzi.  Luigina is a self-made woman, running a high-tech composite materials company.  She is very sensitive to the need for equal opportunities for women.

While on safari with us, she asked what normal life is like for a Maasai girl.  Once we explained it, she was very determined to support our education program.  She offered a scholarship to the best-performing girl in the Maasai reservation that we partner with.

Her name is Naserian ("the one who helps," in Maa) Lerindo.  It was March, and the school year had already started.  Earlier in the year, her dad, willing to see his smart daughter going to high school, sold 40 of the 50 goats he owned.  When we approached him and said we had a donor offering a merit scholarship, he could not believe it.

Naserian was accepted to Naisula, a very good private school in the outskirts of Nairobi.  The school is providing the trust that we support, Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust (MWCT), with huge discounts to send our best students there.

Naserian's father is now the strongest paladin of MWCT.  He has organized several community meetings, explaining how his girl has been sent to school by elephants.  Yes, that what Naserian's father thinks and says: his daughter is in school thanks to elephants and other wildlife, therefore the Maasai ought to protect them.

Human-Wildlife Conflict is a major issue in a wilderness ecosystem like ours.  We were very saddened earlier in September to hear that a Maasai lost his life to an elephant.  The unlucky man had a little bit too much beer and, while wondering at night near the spring, he got killed by an elephant.  We were of course dismayed by the loss of a human life and at the same time very worried about the retaliation we were expecting.

Naserian's dad took care of it: he went all over the reservation saying, "My daughter is in school today thanks to elephants. We need to protect them. It is not the elephant's fault if you wonder out at night and have too much pombe (alcohol).  Drink it in your boma (home) and leave the elephants alone."

This is a good story for Africa and for the elephants.  While in the rest of the continent these magnificent mammals are slaughtered for their ivory, here they are protected, as they send girls to school...

Thank you, Luigina: you have sent Naserian to school, and, without knowing, you are saving elephants too.