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.
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.
This is what we know..
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.
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.
I am utterly blown away by the beauty of this park, and in awe of the selfless work being done here by African Parks Rangers. The task facing them is enormous, and yet they continue to push pack the ever increasing tide of poaching with great sensitivity and strength.
I lost someone today.
I think we all lost a someone today actually.
I met Clint last year whilst working on a National Geographic story in Utah on mountain lion. He sadly passed away today.
Clint was one of those people who actually made the world a better place. Those who knew him well, those who spent most time with him in the mountains where he was so at home, will miss him more, I’m certain of that, as will the predators he dedicated his life to.
Clint, I hope you too can be wrapped in your favourite jacket and buried in the mountains exactly as you honoured the lives of all the dogs who rode with you. Too soon sir. Way too soon.
Thank you for the rides out.
‘In the quiet of the morning when the sky is clear and white and dawn’s soft hush has slipped across the solitude of night.
When the last pale star has fallen and the East’s a rosy glow, streaked with lavenders and orchids with a touch of indigo.
When the colors all are blending, there is no defining each, and the sun peeps up appearing like some plump and pinkish peach.
There is nothing quite so moving, quite so silent, quite so strange as the Lord’s most recent wonder, the birth of morning on the range.
I can’t quite seem to fathom, I can’t help wondering why, I was placed amongst such beauty, all this solitude and sky.
Now, I see you ride before me, as my feet trod earthly sod, I watch you vanish in the sunrise.
Go with God
More words have been written about the dodo than any other extinct animal. Yet the truth is that almost nothing is known of this strange creature. The bird lived only on the small isolated island of Mauritius way out in the Indian Ocean. The first mention of it comes in a book published in 1599. Around 60 years later the species was extinct. What survives from this brief period of interaction with human beings is very little. Some 15 written accounts (most of which are disappointing) a similar number of paintings, a large pile of bones, and a stuffed head and foot.
At the edge of the Kalahari Desert in Namibia, in a community-run wildlife reserve called Nyae Nyae, where roughly 2800 San people live today in unyielding conditions, villagers shovel dirt over the skull of a bull elephant hunted earlier in the day. It will be dug up about a week later when the muscles around the tusks have receded.
The hunter will take the tusks home, while the meat, and a portion of the fee will go directly to community members, and to fund for conservation projects to protect the area’s wildlife. There is a trophy hunt limit of five elephants a year in Nyae Nyae representing real money, and a vital source of protein to the San.
Seen from the air Africa can appear as an illusion, rich velds and dramatic rifts, wide deserts and thundering rivers, these seemingly vast stretches of unfettered, unpopulated wild ostensibly forgotten by time and people. At a glance, it could be a repository for all our ideas about wilderness at its wildest. And yet today no patch here goes unclaimed, whether it’s marked, monetized, or fought over. The animals that roam the land have become commodified, part of a new consumerism, marketed and sold, their brands pitted against each other, their continued existence now a question of human demand, whim, and calculation. Wild game is the continent’s version of crude oil—and it too will run out someday. Revenues of hundreds of millions in federal excise taxes levied on hunters go directly to wildlife management and related activities each year in the U.S. 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. This hugely complex relationship that exists between man and animal, the hunter and the hunted, has always been one of the most difficult to navigate; we need to create a space for much needed dialogue, we can not, and should not simply turn away. This story is out in Octobers issue of National Geographic.
King cheetah are infrequently seen in the wild. The last recorded sighting of a king cheetah in the wild was in 1986 in the Kruger National Park. They occur naturally in a localised area that covers adjoining portions of Botswana, Zimbabwe, and South Africa (northern and eastern regions of the Limpopo Province). During the 1980s, a number of litters born in captivity contained king cheetah cubs, and since then it has become customary for some of the breeding facilities to focus on sustaining blood lines with the intention of breeding king cheetahs at will. The gene appears to be carried at a low frequency in the wild, and its occurrence is localised. Here in South Africa the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre has a genetic pool of king cheetah genes that can make it possible to breed king cheetah as colour variant, without the intention of breeding the king cheetah for commercial purposes.
Foto Festival Naarden (FFN) is a biennial exhibition of documentary photography held around the historic city of Naarden, Holland. This year I’ve been asked to show the series ‘safari club’ in the old slaughter house of the old city quarter. Consisting of hand photographic c-type prints, mounted on aluminium, and unframed, the exhibition runs from 20.05.17 to 18.06.17. I’ll be giving a series of talks and a gallery tour on the 21.05.17