The skeleton of a dodo (raphus cucullatus) from the 16th century (or possibly earlier) During the month of September in the year 1598 a flotilla of ships belonging to the Dutch East India Company drew close to a mysterious island far out in the Indian Ocean. As far as anyone knows, no human had ever set foot on it, those who came ashore found themselves in a land of reptiles and birds: the only mammals were those that could fly or swim there. Birds were everywhere, one in particular stood out – a large fat creature equipped with an enormous beak; and so, man’s relationship with the dodo began. As we now know the relationship didn’t go well for the dodo. After many months at sea the birds presented a tasty alternative to the sailors usual diet; the birds couldn’t fly, they had no need to, they had no predators, so the catching was comparatively easy. With man came dogs, cats, monkeys, pigs, and rats. All preyed rapaciously on the birds and their eggs. By the year 1680 (or possibly earlier) the dodo was gone. All that was left were one or two poorly stuffed examples, a series of paintings, most of them produced by a dutch artist called Roelandt Savery, and a few written descriptions. So, less than 100 years after its discovery, the dodo passed into history. Over the next two centuries the dodo became something of a footnote in the tale of natural history. Some naturalists even began to deny that it had existed. Then during the 1860’s a great collection of bones arrived in London, all of them from the dodo. These had been found in a marsh on Mauritius by a school master, Charles Clarke. He had sent workers into water at the centre of the marsh, about 3ft deep, where bones had begun to turn up. Feeling with their naked feet they discovered the bones of many dodo’s. From these bones London’s Natural History Museum was able to assemble an almost complete skeleton. A very few reasonably complete skeletons have, over the years been assembled from these bones. From this time onwards the dodo’s rise to become one of the the great icons of extinction was as unstoppable as its demise at the hand of man.
The name of the vulturine guineafowl (Acryllium vulturinum) comes from its bald head and neck, which is similar to a vulture’s. They have a range throughout North East Africa and can be found in the grasslands, savannahs and scrublands of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda.Using their beak and claws to dig and scratch for food, vulturine guineafowl forage for fruit, grubs, insects, roots, seeds, tubers and vegetation. Due to their dry environment, water is not always readily available to them but they can survive for long periods without drinking and are able to obtain all their liquid requirements from their food. Although they can fly well, vulturine guineafowl spend the majority of their time on the ground and prefer to flee from danger on foot rather than fly away. They are able to call to each other over long distances, not only to warn of danger but also to call the flock together to roost. Although they live together in large flocks, vulturine guineafowl can become aggressive and injure each other if food becomes scare or roosting sites become crowded. This is not just limited to adult birds; chicks will also fight each other for food. There is currently very little information on the vulture guinea fowl as a species and researchers are currently observing the birds, their associations, and construction of social networks here at Mpala research centre, northern Kenya.
Charles Darwin and John James Audubon to the likes of Theodore Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway, the most enlightened hunters have long viewed themselves as naturalists and conservationists, committed to sustainability among animal populations and the preservation of wild places where they stalk game. The linkage has become inextricable. Revenues of hundreds of millions in federal excise taxes levied on hunters go directly to wildlife management and related activities each year in the United States alone. And anyone who keeps a freezer full of venison is likely to tell you that the act of killing your own dinner in the wild is more humane than buying the plastic-wrapped meat of industrially raised livestock. But trophy hunting today, especially of the so-called big five in Africa (elephant, lion, leopard, rhino, and Cape buffalo), brings with it a larger set of moral and financial questions – Should we kill animals to save them ?
We will be live capturing baboon to sample the health of the troop and then releasing the animals back into the same area. Baboon seem totally unaffected by the process and often take the opportunity to feast on the millet in the traps and therefore become skilled at releasing the cages prior to the scientists arrival.
Children from the Ol Girgiri school Laikipia, viewing hippo and elephant, at The Mpala Research Centre, Northern Kenya. The research centre hosts children from Twelve schools in Laikipia County who participate in the Northern Kenya Conservation Clubs. The Conservation Clubs aim to connect children to their environment teaching them to understand the relationships between wildlife, their landscape, and their lives. All the children live in pastoral communities with a long tradition of using the environment to sustain themselves and their herds. However, increasing numbers of people and livestock have put pressure on the environment and wildlife. The lessons and projects carried out in the clubs provide students with knowledge about the world around them and the effects of their behaviour on the habitats on which they depend. Mpala is strongly committed to using research to benefit the surrounding communities, the nation of Kenya, and global conservation efforts as a whole. Mpala hosts multiple educational outreach programs in order to tackle issues of human-wildlife conflict and thus ensure that both conservation and human-livelihood goals are met. Furthermore, Kenya actively supports the involvement of Kenyan nationals in this process, and Kenyan scientists are a vital part of the research conducted at Mpala.If wildlife is to survive at all, it’s vital that we allow those who live alongside the wildlife that we prize so dearly, to both share in it’s incredible beauty, and any income and benefits generated from it.