Monday, May 23, 2016

A Chyulu Monday morning...

Misty morning, low clouds, I have to fly to my "neighbor", Richard Bonham, a 3 hours drive or 10 minutes flight away...
Hornbills are up, the Guinea fowls are quite noisy already, even if it is not even 7 am...
Richard and I have a meeting to talk about how to better deliver our conservation programs in the Tsavo Amboseli ecosystem.
Not the best weather to fly in...
Few impalas run away from the path which takes me from home to the workshop. 5 minutes drive among jumping elands and some curious hartebeests and I am in my 206. A hartebeest is not too happy to give way on the runway, I am definitively disturbing his Monday morning breakfast...

Engine checks, short roll and I am in the air, just below the misty clouds. Few raindrops help cleaning my windshield. I am flying few feet off the top of the trees, when I see a tower of giraffes and climb a bit. Acacias are covered in a blanket of white flowers, zebras are marching to the waterhole...
10 minutes of beautiful scenic flying and I land at Richard's "airstrip", a short up-climbing clearing on a gently sloped foothill of the Chyulu.
LLJ: L(orenzo) L(ucrezia) J(acopo), my giraffed Cessna 206
We have a lovely breakfast and we enjoy catching up on a ton of things we are both doing. We share our disappointments about how a lot of people do not get what we do, how they do not understand how hard is for the Maasai to coexist with wildlife and how our efforts are indeed so productive...
We talk about the increased number of giraffes, zebras, wildebeests, buffaloes, lions... We are not self-celebrating, we are simply sharing facts and thoughts. We are both worried about a less positive animal increase: Maasai livestock...
It is so refreshing to hear Richard telling me that he saw Joyce Poole few days ago and that she was amazed by how much wildlife she saw in Amboseli, compared to 20 years ago, when she was based there studying elephants. She and her researchers were getting excited when they were seeing a giraffe there, now they are super common. 20 years of combined antipoaching and community involvement, between Richard and I, are paying off...
We go through some camera traps images, two males lions came from the Maasai Group Ranch I work with, into the one Richard is operating.
We know in both Group Ranches lions number are significantly up. Something to happily celebrate.

Time to go back home, a quick roll downhill the "airstrip", with senses alerted about hartebeests crossing it, and I am flying over the plains. Pass few baobabs, few herds of wildebeest, dazzles of zebras... I fly to Soitpus (the bluish rock, in Maa) to check on Rueppel's griffons nesting... and I land at my home's airstrip. A greased landing makes my already good mood even better...

I tie down the aircraft and drive home. At the salt lick I meet a well known friend. He is walking on the road, I switch the Land Rover off and he stares at me. There is something about leopard's eyes which is hard to describe... and their powerful posture.... We gaze at each other for at least a minute, he then gently walks off the road and disappears in the high grass. I see him three more times, while he keeps walking away, only twice looking back at me, appearing totally undisturbed and peaceful...
My spotty friend...
Time to be in the office... I get back in the Land Rover and just before arriving at the lodge a rock python crosses the road, just after few young elands jumped off to show their agility.

Not a bad way to start the week... this Monday morning reminded me of how lucky I am to call the Chyulu Hills home, the Maasai landlords my friends, and to be dedicating my life to protect this special African paradise...

 Luca Belpietro

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