120. From Lion Dog African Safaris Newsletter

The following is taken from Lion Dog African Safaris Weekly Newsletter, #18 / 2020.

Archaeology Shows How
Ancient African Societies Managed Pandemics

Every so often, a pandemic emerges that dramatically alters human society.

Source: NewBigFive.com


The Black Death (1347 – 1351) was one.
The Spanish flu of 1918 was another.
Now there’s COVID-19.

Archaeologists have long studied diseases in past populations. To do so, they study settlement layout, burials, funerary remains, and human skeletons. The insights from these studies expose some of the strategies that societies adopted to deal with pandemics. These included burning settlements as a disinfectant and shifting settlements to new locations. Social distancing was practised by dispersing settlements.

Findings unearthed in southern Zimbabwe show that it was taboo to touch or interfere with remains of the dead, lest diseases be transmitted in this way. Social distancing and isolation formed a critical part of managing pandemics in ancient African societies.
In what is Zimbabwe today, the Shona people in the 17th and 18th centuries isolated those suffering from infectious diseases – such as leprosy – in temporary residential structures. In some cases, corpses were burnt to avoid spreading the contagion.


There were multiple long-term implications of pandemics in these communities. Perhaps the most important was that people organised themselves in ways that made it easier to live with diseases, managing them and at the same time sticking to the basics such as good hygiene, sanitation and environmental control. Life did not stop because of pandemics: populations made decisions and choices to live with them.

Some of these lessons may be applied to COVID-19, guiding decisions and choices to buffer the vulnerable from the pandemic while allowing economic activity and other aspects of life to continue. As evidence from the past shows, social behaviour is the first line of defence against pandemics: it’s essential this be considered when planning for the latest post-pandemic future.

119. What Else Can Mother Nature Throw Its Way?

As if locust infestations and coronavirus weren’t enough,
Kenya is now experiencing floods and landslides.

Source: .aljazeera.com

Torrential rains have triggered devastating floods and landslides across East Africa in recent weeks, aggravating an already challenging situation as countries in the region battle the coronavirus pandemic.

Source: reliefweb.int






Floods and landslides in Kenya have killed nearly 200 people, displaced 100,000 and strained critical infrastructure, after the River Nzola burst its banks.

Although May usually marks the end of the rainy season, the Kenya Meteorological Department has forecast that heavy rains, which accelerated in mid-April, are expected to continue in the coming weeks.

Source: .aljazeera.com



In western Kenya, residents have had to carry their belongings away from their submerged houses using boats and motorbikes. The government is providing food and water to the displaced people and has also requested the Ministry of Health to provide them with masks as a precautionary measure.

Source: .aljazeera.com




Floods have destroyed 8,000 acres of rice fields. Kenya was already facing a looming rice shortage due to shipping disruptions caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Source: .aljazeera.com

The heavy rains and landslides are threatening water shortages as well. The infrastructure used to deliver water has been washed away and pipelines have been clogged. Residents of several cities, including in the capital Nairobi, are being asked to use their water in a “rational” manner.

Source: .aljazeera.com

113. It’s Mother’s Day

In recognition of Mother’s Day, National Geographic posted twenty-one photos of Beautiful Moments Between Animal Mothers and Their Babies in their Photo Gallery. Included with each photo was a short explanation of some of the more unique and varying mothering methods found in the animal kingdom.

“Every animal can thank a mom for making life possible,” writes the author.
“Some mothers lay eggs, in treetops or on the seafloor, while others labor through long pregnancies and live births. Many moms are on their own, but a fortunate few get help from babysitters or nursemaids. Mother-child bonding runs the gamut of relationship styles.”

Among the twenty-one animals featured in the photo gallery, five live on African soil.

And despite the heart-warming topic, not all the photos conjure up warm and cuddly thoughts.

Source: National Geographic, Photography by Zssd, Miden Picture



Emperor scorpion mothers give birth to an average of nine to 32 fully formed young. Here, an emperor scorpion, one of the world’s largest scorpions, carries her immature offspring on her back.


Source: National Geographic, photography by Nichols, Nat Geo Image Collection



Lion moms may live with their daughters for life. The African lions live in prides dominated by related females, like this cub-wrangling mom in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania.


Source: National Geographic, photography by Frans Lanting, Nat Geo Image Collection



During the early weeks of her cubs’ lives, the mother must move them every few days to avoid predators. If all goes well, cheetah siblings stay with their mom for about a year and a half, learning to hunt.
Some cheetahs are supermoms, not only raising their own young but fostering the cubs of others.


Source: National Geographic, photography by Zssd, Miden Pictures



Hippo calves are often born underwater. It’s up to Mom to push her calf to the surface to take its first breath.

Mothers are fiercely protective of their young, but they also have a softer side, cleaning and doting on their calves. If its baby dies, mothers even display what some scientists interpret as grief.


Source: National Geographic, photography by Madelaine Castles, Nat Geo Image Collection



Giraffe calves stand within 30 minutes of birth. It’s critical that they do so, as newborn calves are a favorite meal of many African predators.
Before they are born, mom has to endure a 15-month pregnancy, which allows for the development of a six-foot-tall baby with strong muscles and nervous system.

104. Matatu: A History of Popular Transportation in Nairobi

Source: Amazon.com

Kenda Mutongi, a professor of history at MIT, writes about the development of the matatu bus business amid the backdrop of a developing country with all the inevitable problems associated with a neophyte nation.

She tells of the ingenuity and tenacity of Nairobi’s mwanainchi (true citizens) despite the racist policies, economic oppression, and political corruption that permeated their world.

Though I lack even the tiniest bit of knowledge concerning urban development, Matatu: A History of Popular Transportation in Nairobi offered me a way to navigate the socioeconomic and political themes that play out in a newly developing, fast growing city.

I’m captivated by today’s matatu culture. Perhaps that’s why Professor Mutongi’s book, which might otherwise have been a long, laborious educational workshop was, for me, a fascinating adventure.
The professor describes how Nairobi’s rapid growth ran in parallel with the evolution of the matatu transport business, as she chronicles both events from the time Britain relinquished colonial control, on into the twenty-first century. The two processes intertwine so completely that her claim that the success of one could not have happened without the success of the other, appears indisputable.

Matatu: A History doesn’t read like a dry, slow-moving textbook, but rather an engrossing tale of exploding urbanization, poverty, racism, bribery and exploitation, along with entrepreneurship, upward mobility, artistic expression, pop culture and a city’s sputtering lurch toward democracy.
It’s all there for the reader to absorb.


Need something lighter?
Try The Matatu by Eric Walters.

Source: Amazon.com, Children’s Africana Book Award

From the Forward by Ruth Kaytha, Director of The Creation of Hope

“Every culture has its own folktales and stories.
Among the Kamba of Kikima, Kenya there is a story told about animals and matatus. Eric Walters and I were driving around when I told him a brief version of the story about the goat, the sheep and the dog. He decided to expand it and create a picturebook.
We believe Kamba stories should be told by members of our tribe. In June of 2009, Eric was made a Kamba elder. It is only fitting that Eric has expanded and retold this Kamba story, as we consider him one of our own.”

99. From Nat’l Geographic Photography Newsletter

The following is taken in part from an article in National Geographic’s Photography Newsletter, April 24, 2020.

The New Big Five


Years ago, colonial game hunters created a list of five of the toughest animals to hunt and kill on foot. Forever after, the list became known as The Big 5.
It’s time to reorient our notions of The Big 5 and highlight the struggles that so many animals must endure to simply survive.

Source: NewBigFive.com

The New Big 5 is an international initiative to create a new list of five endangered wild animals from all over the world. The list will be The New Big 5 of Wildlife Photography.

Source: graeme-green.com


The world’s wildlife is in crisis. The next ten years are critical.
Moved by a sense of urgency and love for his subjects, Graeme Green, a British photographer, journalist and travel writer, created The New Big 5 project.

The project is a celebration of wildlife photography, and it pushes for recording with a camera instead of shooting with a gun.

More than a million species are currently at risk of extinction, from large mammals like elephants and polar bears, to the “unsung heroes” and little-known frogs, cats, birds, lizards and other species, each too valuable to lose.

The New Big 5 of wildlife photography might include koalas and orangutans, or tigers and grizzly bears, or sloths and pangolins or any other animal from any continent on earth whose future existence is in doubt.

Source: NewBigFive.com



With the support of Jane Goodall and 100 of the world’s top photographers, New Big 5 is asking everyone to vote.
Before compiling the list, the creators want YOUR INPUT.

Use the link below to vote for your favorite five animals.

 
Cast your ballot for your favorite five animals.

Source: YouTube

97. Poachers Kill More Rhinos as Coronavirus Halts Tourism

Edited from The New York Times, April 8, 2020
By Annie Roth

Threatened and endangered animals are becoming casualties of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Rhino 911 is a nonprofit organization that provides emergency helicopter transport for rhinoceroses. Since South Africa announced a national lockdown on March 23, Rhino 911 has had to respond to a rhino poaching incident nearly every single day.

A two-month old seated rhino is rescued in a Rhino 911 helicopter on March 8.

In neighboring Botswana, at least six rhinos have been poached since the country closed its borders.

These recent incidents are unusual because they occurred in tourism hot spots that, until now, were considered relatively safe havens for wildlife.
South Africa, Botswana, Tanzania, and Kenya rely on tourism to fund wildlife conservation, but thanks to border closures and crackdowns on international travel, foreigners can’t visit national parks or conservancies.

This shines a light on the fact that Africa’s wild animals are not just protected by rangers, they’re also protected by the presence of tourists.

Poachers have normally avoided places where there are lots of tourists, but
now they are feeling free to move into locations they’ve previously avoided.

Besides empty parks, no tourists means no money. National lockdowns have severely constricted Africa’s $39 billion tourism industry, which funds wildlife conservation all across the continent.

Without revenue from tourism, many parks, private reserves and community conservancies are finding it difficult to pay employees. Paid protection has dwindled.
Rangers and private game guards have found their jobs in jeopardy. Many are being laid off. Those that are still employed are working alone.

If the economic situation doesn’t improve, not only will the poaching of rhinoceros, elephants and other iconic animals escalate, but poaching for the purpose of obtaining bushmeat will increase as well.


In the hopes of alleviating the situation, the Nature Conservancy, a U.S.-based environmental organization, recently began raising money for cash-strapped parks, conservancies and private reserves in Africa that need help paying rangers and guards.

96. Is It Really a Happy Anniversary?

Today marks the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day.

For the occasion, National Geographic created its first-ever “flip” issue – essentially two magazines in one.
With an eye on the today’s world environment, National Geographic examines the trajectory of The Earth’s health 50 years into the future. Half of the magazine’s pages present a hopeful scenario, while half lay out a truly dark destiny.

The editors refer to this issue as “magazines of divergent realities.”

National Geographic magazine cover (back and front), April 2020

One side celebrates the optimistic view of Planet Earth’s future health in which the peoples of the world have harnessed technologies to feed a larger population, provide energy for all, prevent the extinction of plants and animals and start reversing climate change.

Spirit-lifting articles and stunning images tell of the ingenuity and persistence used to find innovative solutions to the planet’s biggest problems.

There are several pages devoted to introducing a generation of conservationists who are set to take up the environmental torch.

Progress seems inevitable.


When the reader turns the magazine over, a Dooms Day view is presented. There are stories of the flooding of Venice and low-lying U.S. coastal cities, massive fires that wipe out entire towns, longer droughts, deadlier heat waves, disappearing species, and scared, strip-mined landscapes.

Source: National Geographic
One of several “super pit cluster” coal mines in Australia. It operates 365 days a year. The owner is considering expansion.
The Golden Crowned Crane is one of the animals we are destine to lose forever.




Humans are changing the planet – and not always for the good.

Questions remain.
How far have we come to date?
How far can we go?
Is it already too late?

So, is it really a happy anniversary?

71. Welcome to Botswana

The following was taken from a Change.org email dated March 25, 2020

– Welcome to Botswana –
Where Rich People Can Kill Elephants

Image Source: Change.org

Kenya has banned the practice of trophy hunting.
Botswana had formally joined in the ban, but has now chosen to reinstate elephant hunting.
Foreign hunters will be allowed to kill 202 of its elephants.


Most of the foreign hunters who go to Africa are from the United States.
The average cost for foreign trophy hunters to purchase hunting rights, travel, hire a professional to accompany them and pay for taxidermy is approximately $71,000.

Elephants help support the health of our planet. They spread the seeds from the plants they have eaten, dispersing plant life to other areas. They dig water holes in dry river beds that other animals use as a water source as well as creating trails that serve as fire breakers. Elephants help the local economies through eco-tourism.  Eco-tourism is a $2 billion-dollar industry, while reintroducing hunting contributes to only 1.9% of tourism.   

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has held Crush Ivory Days in various sites over the years.

In Colorado, U.S. officials destroyed more than 6 tons of confiscated ivory tusks, carvings and jewelry — the bulk of the U.S. “blood ivory” stockpile — and urged other nations to follow suit to fight a $10 billion global trade that slaughters tens of thousands of elephants each year.

There are two bills that have been introduced in U.S. Congress (the CECIL and Protect Acts) that will ban trophy hunting imports from crossing American borders. The fate of these bills is unknown at the time of this posting.

Change.org is asking everyone to consider contacting his/her representative in support of these bills.

69. Tusker Tim

“The world is mourning an icon.”
allAfrica.com


Tim, one of the last surviving super tusters, died in Amboseli National Park early last month.
According to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), he died of natural causes.
There was evidence that his wild animal friends had tried hard to resurrect him.

Famous for his rare majestic tusks, Tim was a very popular sighting for tourists who visited Amboseli National Park. He was considered an ambassador for his species.

Source: Lifegate.com, Tim in a mud-pit in 2018.


The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which helped save Tim from a swamp in 2018, sent out a statement saying, “Kenya lost a giant today. Our hearts are heavy as we remember a magnificent elephant who we grew to know and love.”

“Our hearts are broken,” said Wildlife Direct, a Nairobi-based conservation campaign group. “Tim was one of Africa’s very few Super Tuskers, and an incredible elephant whose presence awed and inspired many. He was one of Kenya’s National Treasures.”

Kimana Gate, Amboseli National Park


Tim was 50 years old. He called the Amboseli ecosystem (which spreads across the Kenya-Tanzania border) his home.
His body was found not far from the Kimana Gate.

Elephant tusks never stop growing, so enormous tusks are usually a sign of an old elephant. Both male and female African elephants grow tusks.
African elephants are referred to as “tuskers” when their tusks grow so long that they reach the ground. Due to poaching, conservationists estimate only a few dozen such animals with tusks that size are now left on the continent.

Tim’s tusks were said to weigh more than 100 lbs each.


Tim’s body was moved to a taxidermist in Nairobi so that it can be preserved for display in the national museum for exhibition and education purposes.

Source: Wild Eye, YouTube (Time: 2:57)

66. Jane Goodall Is Self-Isolating, Too

The following is taken from The New York Times, March 25, 2020

This is part of an edited phone conversation.
The journalist’s questions appear in bold text.

Source: New York Times

Jane Goodall is in isolation these days along with everyone else, since a fund-raising tour was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. She is staying at her family home in England, not in Tanzania, her primary home when not on the road.

Dr. Goodall changed the way the world views chimpanzees with research that began when she first went to Africa 60 years ago this July.

She later became a tireless advocate for chimps in captivity. When she began her work, chimps were routinely used in medical research, a practice Dr. Goodall helped stop in the U.S.

So this pause has let you step back a bit?
It’s catching up, you know. But there are some things that are so unbelievably worrying. In the U.S. you have people who can apply for unemployment or something. But what about in Tanzania, for example? The people running the bars, the restaurants, selling food at the side of the road — all banned now. And they make just enough to keep alive for a week and pay the rent and there’s no social security, nothing for them.

Being isolated has made me think of what it must be like for chimpanzees who were isolated in captivity, who depend on physical closeness and touch.
I think about it all the time. I’ve thought about it ever since I saw secretly filmed footage of these social beings in medical research labs in 5-foot by 5-foot cages. The first time I went into one of those labs. It was horrendous. And solitary confinement. As you say, it’s bad enough for us, but we have all these other ways of distracting. And what about these animals who have nothing?
But you know the other thing is, it has reactivated the discussion about animal trafficking – selling wild animals for food or for medicine. Everybody’s pointing fingers at China, but already the government’s made a total ban on the markets, selling animals for food and on trafficking – importing wild animals. So we just have to hope that because of the magnitude of this pandemic they will keep that ban. At the moment it’s temporary, but let’s hope they enforce it forever.

Animals, although not chimps, will be used in testing treatments and vaccines for Covid-19. What is your stance on animal experimentation?

My stance is that ultimately there will be a time with no animal experimentation. What pleased me about the chimp situation is that I was in it from the ethical point of view, but the fact that the chimps were put in sanctuaries because the research was not useful was a far better outcome than if it had been done on ethical grounds. It’s like fossil fuel. People say we want to stop using fossil fuel now. Well that’s clearly impossible. You can’t just suddenly stop something. And this medical research on animals won’t suddenly stop, although I wish it would. The trouble is that people working on alternatives just don’t get the right support.

One of Project Chimps’ indoor-outdoor enclosures, used as a temporary home to former laboratory chimps until other facilities were renovated.
Source: New York Times

65. Wangari’s Story

“In Unbowed, A Memoir, 2004 Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai recounts her extraordinary journey from her childhood in rural Kenya to the world stage.” 
It was, by no means, an easy journey.

Maathai was an inspirational, hard working woman (driven, actually), who set out to correct the effects brought about by prejudice, inequality and ecological destruction in her native Kenya.

Much of the book covers the conflicts resulting from environmental devastation – how it started and why it continued. Maathai recounts her efforts to fight a corrupt government bent on scaring her country, both through ecological destruction and gender discrimination. She was punished for her actions. Yet, despite her many trials in life, she remained unbowed, believing that what she could not overcome, she could at least get past.


More books! Share one or two of these with a short person you know.
The illustrations alone will make it worth your while.


What does the following art project really have to do with anything I’ll be doing or seeing on safari?
Well, it sort of has to do with Kenya stuff. Sort of.

I stumbled upon this Teachers Pay Teachers art project while searching for material on Wangari Maathai and thought it might be of some use to someone during our Time of Social Distancing.
It’s a wonderful project with excellent instructions. The hardest part is gathering all the materials before you begin.

C12 – Coronavirus Health Alert #9


Health Alert: Survey for Possible Future Flight
Message Health Alert – U.S. Embassy Kampala (March 24, 2020)
Reply-To: Kampala, USCitizens

The Government of Uganda announced the closure of Entebbe International Airport effective at 12:00 a.m. March 23, as well as the closure of all land borders.  No individual will be allowed to enter or depart Uganda by air, land, or water except for specific cargo vehicles which must follow strict Ministry of Health procedures.  

The U.S. Embassy in Kampala has confirmed that the Qatar Airways flight for March 25 was closed for booking due to heavy demand.  Qatar Airways has said they will return phone calls to the individuals who had already reached Qatar Airways and arrange their booking, to the extent that they can find sufficient availability aboard onward flights from Doha to the United States.  

If you want to return to the United States but you were unable to book this or any other flight, please register your interest by completing a survey at: https://forms.gle/ue9E4WGDLVoMvseF9.

C11 – Coronavirus Health Alert #7 and #8

enrolledinkenya@state.gov 
Message for U.S. Citizens: Suspension of International Flights Effective Midnight, March 25th
Reply-To: enrolledinkenya@state.gov


KampalaUSCitizen@state.gov
Message Health Alert – U.S. Embassy Kampala (March 22, 2020)
Reply-To: Kampala, USCitizens

The Government of Uganda has announced . . . No individual will be allowed to enter Uganda by air, land, or water except for specific cargo vehicles which must follow strict Ministry of Health procedures.  Further, the Ugandan Ministry of Health confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in Entebbe, Uganda on March 21, 2020. 

58. Nat’l Geographic Picture of the Day

It was nice to receive something other than a Coronavirus Alert in my inbox this morning.


Why is this rhino hanging upside down?

Source: National Geographic Newsletter, David Chancellor
Subscribe to the newsletter.



David Chancellor found out while photographing a wildlife veterinarian receiving a black rhino from a hovering helicopter in South Africa’s Eastern Cape.

“Rhinos will suffocate if their body weight is supported on their chests, such as in a body harness, and this would also result in undue pressure being placed on their hearts and associated organs,” Chancellor says. “So despite appearances, this is medically preferable—to support them by the legs for short distances.” Obviously, it’s best not to move the rhinos at all, unless their habitat has become unsafe. Sadly, Chancellor says, “to preserve these extraordinary creatures, intervention is often unavoidable.”

C7 – Coronavirus Health Alert #4

enrolledinkenya@state.gov 
Health Aler for U.S. Citizens
Reply-To: enrolledinkenya@state.gov

U.S. EMBASSY NAIROBI, KENYA
Health Alert for U.S. Citizens
March 16, 2020

Location:  Kenya

Event:  The government of Kenya has implemented enhanced screening and quarantine measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.  Travelers should be prepared for travel restrictions to be put into effect with little or no advance notice.

On March 15, the Kenya Ministry of Health announced three confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nairobi.  

On March 15, President Kenyatta released a directive regarding the potential for COVID-19 in Kenya.  The government of Kenya released the following guidance effective March 17 and will remain in effect for the next 30 days:

·       The government of Kenya is suspending travel for all persons coming into Kenya from any country with reported Coronavirus cases.

·
       Only Kenyan citizens, and any foreigners with valid residence permits, will be allowed to enter the country provided they self-quarantine or quarantine in a government-designated facility.

·       All persons who have come into Kenya in the last 14 days must self-quarantine. If any person exhibits symptoms such as cough or fever they should present themselves to the nearest health facility for testing.


A full transcript of the directive is available on the Kenya Ministry of Health website.  

The government has implemented quarantines in Kenya.  Transportation to or from Kenya, and public services including schools and government offices are restricted or closed.  Private companies – including hotels, apartment buildings, or supermarkets – have restricted access. Effective Wednesday, March 18th, personal travel for U.S. government personnel will be limited to a 2-hour driving radius from their residence (Nairobi, Kisumu or Kericho). Personal travel by train or airplane in Kenya will also be restricted until further notice.

Actions to Take

·       Visit the Kenyan Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 website for updated information.

·       Consult the CDC website for the most up-to-date information.

54. Culture Smart! Kenya

If you locate Culture Smart! Kenya in Amazon’s book section, you will read that it “provides a cultural bridge that will carry you beyond the gloss of the hotels and deep into the warp and weft of everyday life; beyond the game parks and into the intricacies of community and wildlife coexistence; beyond the bounds of tourism and into the freedom of cultural understanding and exchange.”

Whoa! Someone really went Hollywood with that review.

In more realistic terms, what this little book actually is, is a simple introduction to Kenya’s history, geography, and culture, with some observations covering shopping, food, and wildlife safaris thrown into the mix. None of the topics is covered in depth, and Kenya’s political landscape, which apparently can’t be counted on to remain stable for long, could use a little updating. It is, however, a nice overview of all things Kenyan, with black and white photos peppered throughout the text.
If, like me, you’ve yet to visit Kenya, but will soon be on your way, this book appears to be a good start.


Warp and Weft? Had to look that up.

weft
[in weaving] the crosswise threads on a loom over and under which other threads (the warp) are passed to make cloth.

C5 – Coronavirus Health Alert #3

enrolledinkenya@state.gov 
Health Alert: U.S. Embassy Nairobi, Kenya March 13, 2020
Reply-To: enrolledinkenya@state.gov

Health Alert – U.S. Embassy Nairobi, Kenya March 13, 2020
Location:  Kenya

Event: On March 13, the Kenyan Ministry of Health announced one confirmed case of COVID-19 in Nairobi. 

The Kenyan Ministry of Health has suspended all public gatherings, meetings and events.  All routine consular appointments at the U.S. Embassy from March 16 to March 27 are canceled.  In the case of a U.S. citizen in need of emergency assistance, please contact the U.S. Embassy using the contact information below before coming.

U.S. government personnel are advised to limit non-essential travel.

43. Giraffes

The conservation of giraffes has been overlooked for decades and as a result giraffes are in the midst of what some call a “silent extinction.”


Unlike the attention lavished on the disappearance of great apes and elephants (There are four times as many African elephants as giraffes.), people have ignored the disappearance of giraffes and assumed they are doing just fine in the wild.

Mercifully, the world is beginning to wake up. Last December, the State of New York became the first in the nation—and the world—to ban the trade in their body parts.

Kenya is the only country in Africa that hosts three different species of giraffe. (See their markings below.)
Of the three, the Reticulated and the Masai are endangered.

Across Africa, the general giraffe population has declined by almost 40 percent over the past three decades.
Estimations as of 2016 indicate that there are approximately 97,500 giraffes in the wild, down from 155,000 in 1985.

While a great deal of this decline is due to disease and both legal and illegal hunting, the loss of large-scale habitat plays a greater role, fragmenting and degrading the giraffe’s preferred habitat.

Kenya is at the forefront of giraffe conservation. Last September, in an effort to better understand their spatial movements and habitat use in the wild, scientist fitted 28 solar powered GPS satellite tracking units to endangered reticulated giraffe in northern Kenya. Tranquilizing a giraffe to hook it up with a GPS tracker is a lot harder than it sounds – and it sounds hard! 

Source: The Giraffe Conservation Foundation (Time: 1:47)

The giraffe is the national animal of Tanzania, and is protected by law.

28. Mary Leakey: Disclosing the Past

The Nairobi National Museum houses a nearly complete skeleton of a Homo erectus male youth who
lived over 1.5 million years ago.
One point five million years ago!
Try wrapping your head around that.

If you want to go waaaay back and try to imagine when people started to be people, consider the world’s oldest cave paintings, created 37,000 years ago.

Now, think about Skeleton Boy who is all stretched out under glass in Nairobi’s museum. He was walking around on his own two leggies a great deal earlier than any of those cave wall artists.

It’s that skeleton, and the fact that we’re on our way to see it, that led me to pick up Mary Leakey’s autobiography.*

Leakey begins Disclosing the Past with an account of her childhood, writing about her love of art and her early fascination with excavated artifacts. “I remember wondering about the ages of the pieces, and the world of their makers.”

Although she didn’t imagine it at the time, it was a foreshadowing of what was to come.

This portion of her life takes up the first 40 pages.

Then she meets Luis.

Leakey writes as you might imagine a scientist would. There are no wasted words. She describes the landscape, but only to inform, not to romanticize. She chronicles the events that led to the discovery of a fossilized skull believed to be 1.8 million years old – proof that our own species had its beginnings in Africa. This was a ground changing discovery made during a time when few people would give credence to such an hypothesis. Her story covers her work with her husband, her family, her crumbling marriage and life after Luis Leakey’s passing.

*
Mary Leakey’s autobiography is printed in 10pt font.
When my eyes left the right side of the page to resume reading on the left side, I had trouble finding the correct line on which to proceed. I rarely read without a bookmark.
After 20 pages or so, I had to stop. It took me forever to finish. If you’re the type that likes to rocket your way to the finish line, buy the best pair of reading glasses you can find..

27. Cameras, Lenses, Bags and Books

The following three images are representative of what I’ve been doing to prepare for our 2020 trip to Africa. If you’re not already aware of my great passion for photography, it will be apparent with the reading of this post.

This is an image of all my gear – everything I own except for the Nikon 500mm f/5.6 lens which is wait-listed. Supposedly it will come in June.  It will be worth the wait, as it will allow me to get up-close-and-personal with the wildlife.  It was my big lens purchase for my new mirrorless full frame Nikon Z6 camera.  I took the Nikon with me to England last year where I got incredible shots.
 I added a Tamron 100-400 mm lens to bridge the gap with my older Nikon 5200.  Yes, I am taking 2 camera bodies.
The green Mindshift bag is a dedicated camera bag with all kinds of organizational nooks and crannies. That, along with my orange REI duffle, should hold all of my cameras, photographic equipment and clothing.


These are just a few of the photography and travel books in my self-imposed curriculum.  They include a catalogue from the Shangri-La of Photography: B and H Photo in NYC. 
For me, B and H is every bit as much of a temptation as a fine ladies boutique.  Their tech assistants can answer any question and give really great recommends.  My slogan?  Never travel without B and H!

This final picture, taken with my Nikon Z6,  is probably over Newfoundland.  I was on a flight to England that left Dulles around 6:30 PM.  It was August and the sun was above the cloud cover so I had amazing views as the sun dipped below the horizon.
One of my photography books actually has a chapter on taking photographs out of airplane windows! Carol, our Tour Agent Extraordinaire,* arranged a window seat for me, so my camera will be ready! 

*Carol Flax
Luxury Travel Advisor
An independent affiliate of McCabe World Travel
Virtuoso Member
carol@mccabeworld.com

17. Kenya and Locusts – Yikes!

Knowing that I’m planning a trip to Kenya, my friend Robin sent me a link to an article in The Guardian (Jan. 25, 2020):
Kenya suffers worst locust infestation in 70 years as millions of insects swarm farmland
The enormity of the infestation, the pitifully few solutions to end the problem quickly, and the damage already done to the lands are of biblical proportions.

Source: New York Post, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Telegraph

East African nations that are already experiencing a dangerous shortage of food are now witnessing large areas of their crops destroyed.
The United Nations has called for international aid to “avert any threats to food security, livelihoods, and malnutrition”.

If reading The Guardian’s description of the effects of the plague didn’t give you the willies, then try watching this video. It’s a segment from BBC’s Planet Earth, posted on YouTube two years ago. The stars of this video are the same nasty buggers that are plaguing Kenya right now.

Source: Associated Press

The Associated Press explains one of the reasons why this is happening
How climate change feeds Africa locust invasion.”

Is anyone surprised?

15. The Elephant Whisperer

On page one of The Elephant Whisperer, the author writes, “. . . to be clear, the title of this book is not about me . . . Rather, it is about the elephants – they whispered to me and taught me how to listen.” I tend to judge a book by its cover, which includes its title. The title is misleading, or at least it misled me. Still, I was entertained and learned a thing or two.

Lawrence Anthony, famed conservationist, writes about his experiences when he accepts seven unpredictably dangerous elephants onto his South African reserve. Had he not accepted the challenge (and he was offered a great deal of money not to), the animals would have been shot.

Yes, of course, the book speaks of elephants – and one receives quite an education. They’re curious yet cautious, warring yet loving, powerful yet gentle, intelligent, clever, and loyal. Elephants unite. Elephants celebrate. Elephants grieve.
It appears that their enormous bulk masks the fact that there’s even more to these creatures than first meets the eye.

In addition, the reader learns about what it takes to care for these animals. The constant struggle against soaring heat and torrential rains, the doctoring, the engineering skills, the equipment, the war against poachers – all are present as Anthony risks physical as well as financial safety to protect the pachyderms.

The book’s Afterword tugs at the heart.

14. Thoughts on Content

This morning I came across a post entitled Your Guide to Starting a Travel Blog in 2020. Blogger Brooke Saward shares tips that have contributed to the 8-year long success of her travel blog.

Many of her tips are aimed at bloggers looking to attract followers. This blog, which is meant to be a digital scrapbook, is to be shared solely with family and a small number of friends. Still, I was keen to read the entire post, as I do want the blog to be entertaining and of genuine interest to those who drop in, and not a familial obligation. Three of Saward’s suggestions hit home. She wrote . . .

Choose a good name for your blog.

“A good guide is to stick to under three words if possible and include a word that explains what your blog is about.”

I agree, but having tied my domain to my blog’s title, it’s a bit late to change now.

Break up your text with images.

This will strike a balance between photographic content and words. “Readers on the web are visual and you need to make it easy for them to maintain their attention.”

Write about the experiences you encounter on your journey.
“People resonate well with personal experiences more than they do a factual explanation of where you went.”
I hope to avoid the Lazy Traveler Blogging Style: Here-I-am-in-front-of-the-Eiffel-Tower, Here-I-am-standing-by-the-tall-obelisk, Here-I-am-entering-the-Lourve.

Clockwise from top: devising a way to remove thermo underwear in public, mingling with the crazies, eating Whatever-It-Is like a native, “coaxing” a train station locker to give up your luggage, having weather issues, arriving just as the museum closes

It’s often humorous situations, unavoidable disappointments, questionable foods, loony personalities, unpredictable weather, and nerve-racking predicaments that I remember with the greatest clarity. When I flash back to those situations, I’m reminded of what it felt like to have visited a place. Those stories, when shared on a travel blog, are the ones most likely to draw readers back for more.

Again, those tips and more can be found in the post Your Guide to Starting a Travel Blog in 2020. Thank you, Brooke Saward.

10. It’s Elementary – or is it?

A child’s rhyme helps travelers focus with a greener eye.

The Good Tourism blog has an interesting piece this month on
How Bees, Trees, & Tourism Reduce Human-Wildlife Conflict in Uganda.

I was originally attracted to the article because the title references tourism in Uganda, and is accompanied by an image of a mountain gorilla – both subjects that are pertinent to our African travels.

As I got deeper into the article, I became intrigued with the traditional beehives the villagers were taught to make.

That post piqued my interest, and with a little more research, I found this video.
I can get sidetracked very easily.

8. She was beautiful. She was notorious. She loved Africa.

At Linda’s suggestion, I’ve begun reading West with the Night. It’s another memoir by a strong-willed woman who called Africa her home. Both Beryl Markham and Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) lived their lives with great independence – independence rarely afforded women at that time – taking risks in the face of fear, taking up arms against stuffy social norms, and taking paths previously forged only by men (not to mention taking on a few lovers along the way).

Early in her memoir Markham writes, “Africa is mystic; it is wild; it is a sweltering inferno; it is a photographer’s paradise, a hunter’s Valhalla , an escapist’s Utopia. It is what you will, and it withstands all interpretations . . . To a lot of people, as to myself, it is just home. It is all these things but one thing. It is never dull.”

And I am eager to go!

7. Maktao: A Whole Lot of Cute

Maktao’s Lunch

Maktao is my temporarily adopted elephant toddler. He currently resides at the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi. In order to participate in the 5pm foster visit (much less crowded than visits earlier in the day), visitors must adopt an orphaned elephant for a year ($50).

The orphanage sends a newsletter with updates about your adopted elephant. The latest information I received read, “We can tell all our orphans apart not just by their appearance but their quirky little characteristics as well. Maktao is a playful little chap always keeping the other orphans entertained with wrestling games. He isn’t fussy who he plays with and will choose anyone on any particular day to start a pushing game with.”

Although the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (SWT) is best known for its work rescuing and rehabilitating orphaned elephants, it is also very involved in the promotion of anti-poaching programs, and the advancement of community awareness and veterinary assistance to animals in need.