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Category — Hooved Mammals

Earth Expeditions: Participating in Community-Based Conservation in Kenya – Part IV

For more than 10 years, the Zoo has partnered with Miami University’s Project Dragonfly to lead graduate courses that take educators into the field to experience community-based conservation, participatory education and inquiry firsthand. This year, I had the fortunate opportunity to co-facilitate Earth Expeditions Kenya: People and Wildlife in Integrated Landscapes with Dave Jenike, the Zoo’s COO. We took 17 educators with us, including formal classroom teachers as well as informal educators from zoos and similar institutions. This is the fourth post in a series about our experience. Read the previous post in this blog series here.

Days 5-7:

In addition to working alongside the researchers and staff at the Lale’enok Resource Centre, we also took part in some other amazing activities.

Open Inquiries and Group Discussions

Core to the mission of Earth Expeditions is inquiry. Following the QUEST model of inquiry promoted by Project Dragonfly, the students split up into small groups to conduct their own scientific investigations. Some of the creative comparative questions they asked included looking at whether there was greater terrestrial invertebrate species richness close to or farther from the river and whether DEET or dirt worked better as a bug repellent. The students also led a group discussion on community-based conservation.

Jamie and Ruth Anne tally how many different types of invertebrates they find along a transect. (Photo: Shasta Bray)

Jamie and Ruth Anne tally how many different types of invertebrates they find along a transect. (Photo: Shasta Bray)

Jill and Kirstie report on their dirt vs DEET investigation. (Photo: Shasta Bray)

Jill and Kirstie report on their dirt vs DEET investigation. (Photo: Shasta Bray)

Game Drives

Each day, about an hour or so before sunset, we would split up into the three cruisers and head out to look for wildlife on a game drive through the Olkirimatian and Shompole conservancies. While driving through Amboseli National Park earlier in the week was amazing, seeing an abundance of diverse wildlife—from zebras to bat-eared foxes to giraffes— living here on Maasai land was even more compelling.

Seeing giraffe on a game drive (Photo: Jill Bailey)

Seeing giraffe on a game drive (Photo: Jill Bailey)

At one point, our guide, Patrick, stopped to cut small branches off of a Salvadora bush. Using a knife, he pared down one end of each twig and passed them out. We chewed the ends until the fibers separated, creating a brush and then brushed our teeth with it the way the Maasai do.

Brian brushes his teeth with a Salvadora twig (Photo: Shasta Bray)

Brian brushes his teeth with a Salvadora twig (Photo: Shasta Bray)

The most exciting moment had to be when my cruiser came upon a young lion laying in the middle of the dirt road just after sunset, and this happened not long after we had to stop to change a flat tire in the bush!

Oh no! A flat tire! (Photo: Shasta Bray)

Oh no! A flat tire! (Photo: Shasta Bray)

Maasai Boma Visit

One late afternoon, instead of heading out on a typical game drive, we were invited to visit with a Maasai family at their boma. When we arrived, the woman and her two young girls greeted us and showed us around.

Two beautiful young Maasai girls (Photo: Shasta Bray)

Two beautiful young Maasai girls (Photo: Shasta Bray)

As it neared sunset, we joined the herder as he brought his cattle home. In fact, he handed over the herding stick and a few of the students took over. Apparently, herding cattle is much harder than it looks! It was quite comical to watch the students try to keep the cows all moving in the right direction at the right pace.

Brian, Kirstie and Alex try to herd cattle  (Photo: Shasta Bray)

Brian, Kirstie and Alex try to herd cattle (Photo: Shasta Bray)

Once the cattle were finally in their corral, the woman then showed us how she milks the cows. I can’t imagine what kind of trouble we’d have if she’d asked us to give that a try!

Maasai woman milks a cow (Photo: Shasta Bray)

Maasai woman milks a cow (Photo: Shasta Bray)

To be continued in a future blog post. Check back soon!

August 20, 2015   2 Comments

Rhino Trek – New Black Rhino’s Journey from Atlanta to Cincinnati

Male black rhinoceros “Faru,” which is short for Kifaru (the Swahili name for rhino), arrived at the Cincinnati Zoo on July 21, 2015.

Faru and Seyia – A Match Made…by the SSP!

The 2,800 pound rhino was brought to the Cincinnati Zoo from Zoo Atlanta on a breeding recommendation from the Association of Zoo and Aquarium’s (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP). The SSP has determined that Faru and the Cincinnati Zoo’s female black rhino, “Seyia,” are a good genetic match.  So, if all goes well, there could be rhino calves in the Zoo’s future!

Faru

Faru

Seyia

Seyia

Keepers have spent the past several months getting to know Faru and his behavioral patterns. He will spend 2 to 6 weeks settling in, learning behaviors, and getting to know the Cincinnati Zoo animal care staff before being introduced to visitors.

“There is frequent communication between keepers before the rhinoceros is transferred. We really try to learn their behavioral patterns and habits so we can best accommodate them once they’ve arrived. The transfer process is incredibly involved,” said head keeper Randy Pairan.

Keeper Marjorie Barthel says, “He is doing well. We are taking things very slowly with him to allow him to move forward with the least amount of stress possible. He has come so far already in his new home.  Right now I’m working on building a relationship with him. We need to trust each other.”

Faru was born at the San Antonio Zoological Gardens & Aquarium in 2004.  He moved to Atlanta in April 2011 where he bred one calf. Because black rhinos are solitary animals, Faru will stay separated from Seyia until late fall.  They will be put together when they are familiar with each other and ready to breed.  Introductions are going well.

Seyia and Faru meet for the first time.

Seyia and Faru meet for the first time.

Faru’s Journey to Cincinnati

So how exactly do you move a large rhino from Atlanta to Cincinnati? Follow Faru’s journey in the images below to find out!

In Atlanta picking up the crate with a fork lift to take it to the truck.

In Atlanta picking up the crate with a fork lift to take it to the truck.

Atlanta crew raising the crate to the truck.

Atlanta crew raising the crate to the truck.

All loaded and ready to go!

All loaded and ready to go!

He made it to Cincinnati! A giant crane carefully lowering the crate into his new yard.

He made it to Cincinnati! A giant crane carefully lowering the crate into his new yard.

Mwah.

Mwah.

About Black Rhinos

The black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) is native to the eastern and central areas of Africa, including Kenya, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.  They eat mostly leafy plants, branches, shoots, thorny wood bushes, and fruit. Black rhinos also have two large horns made of keratin that they use for defense, intimidation, and feeding. An adult can weigh anywhere between 1,760 and 3,080 pounds, and newborns (calves) weigh between 35 and 55 pounds. Black rhinos breed year-round and have a gestation period that lasts 15 months. They are one of the oldest known species of mammals.

Faru’s species is critically endangered with more than 115 individuals being managed by the SSP.  As recently as 1970, an estimated 65,000 black rhinos could be found throughout sub-Saharan Africa. However, between 1970 and 1992, 96-percent of Africa’s remaining black rhinos were killed in a wave of poaching due to the value of their horns. Heightened conservation efforts following the poaching increase led the black rhino population to grow from 2,410 in 1995 to a current total of 4,848. Today, black rhinos live in protected parks located in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Kenya, Namibia, and Tanzania. Poaching is still a serious problem, threatening to wipe out decades of conservation efforts. Even protected parks experience poaching breeches, which means the amount of safe land available to black rhinos is diminishing.

The Cincinnati Zoo’s Carl H. Lindner Jr. Family Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) will be doing reproductive research on Faru and Seyia as part of the continued efforts to save the black rhinos. All five species of rhinoceros—White, Black, Greater One-Horned (aka Indian), Sumatran, and Javan—are perilously close to extinction in the wild.

August 7, 2015   3 Comments

Earth Expeditions: Participating in Community-Based Conservation in Kenya – Part II

For more than 10 years, the Zoo has partnered with Miami University’s Project Dragonfly to lead graduate courses that take educators into the field to experience community-based conservation, participatory education and inquiry firsthand. This year, I had the fortunate opportunity to co-facilitate Earth Expeditions Kenya: People and Wildlife in Integrated Landscapes with Dave Jenike, the Zoo’s COO. We took 17 educators with us, including formal classroom teachers as well as informal educators from zoos and similar institutions. This is the second post in a series about our experience. Read the first post in this blog series here.

The South Rift landscape seemed to stretch on forever (Photo: Shasta Bray)

The South Rift landscape seemed to stretch on forever (Photo: Shasta Bray)

Day 4 (continued):

We arrived at the Lale’enok Resource Centre in the early afternoon. As soon as we stepped out of the vehicles, we were greeted by a welcoming committee. The Olkirimatian Women’s Group welcomed us with a beautiful song once we made our way into the shelter that would serve as our home base for meals and meetings throughout the week. The Operations Manager, Joel Ngongo, then introduced us to the Centre’s staff, researchers and community members that were there.

Maasai women from the Olkirimatian Women's Group welcome us with song (Photo: Shasta Bray)

Maasai women from the Olkirimatian Women’s Group welcome us with song (Photo: Shasta Bray)

We received a quick orientation to camp, including very important safety information such as always be alert; there was a venomous snake spotted in camp earlier that day. Near the tents, they had set up temporary sand pit toilets and showers that basically consist of a bucket of water with a spout that you open and close. Water is a very precious resource here in the South Rift Valley, especially during the dry season, so we kept showers to a minimum and were sure to turn the water off when soaping up.

Bucket showers and the water tap (Photo: Shasta Bray)

Bucket showers and the water tap (Photo: Shasta Bray)

We returned to the shelter for a conversation with John Kamanga, Director of SORALO (South Rift Association of Land Owners) and Chairman of Olkirimatian Group Ranch. He shared with us the history and background of the Maasai culture and how the Lale’enok Resource Centre came to be. The Maasai have coexisted with wildlife as nomadic pastoralists that herd livestock for thousands of years. However, as times change and their culture evolves, the traditional Maasai way of maintaining that coexistence must also adapt. For example, there is growing pressure to subdivide the land and build fences, which would prevent wildlife as well as people and their livestock from migrating to find good grazing areas. Also, many of the young Maasai men who traditionally protect livestock from lions now go off to school, leaving their herds more vulnerable to attack. The community-based research and programs conducted out of Lale’enok aim to solve those issues and support both wildlife conservation and thriving livelihoods.

Maasai herder brings his cattle home at sunset (Photo: Shasta Bray)

Maasai herder brings his cattle home at sunset (Photo: Shasta Bray)

To that end, one thing the community has done is to designate three zones of land use on the group ranch. The first is a settlement and grazing zone occupied by people and livestock for much of the year, particularly during the wet season. The second is a buffer zone into which people and livestock migrate during the dry season. Lastly, there is the conservation zone that serves as a wildlife refuge and is only used for livestock grazing during drought conditions. Following this structure ensures sustainable land use and preservation of the savannah ecosystem.

We happened to arrive on the last day before the community would be allowed to migrate across the river into the conservation area in response to the current drought. It was a great opportunity for us to visit the conservation area and see it unoccupied; later in the week, we would see it occupied with people and livestock. It was also our first chance to game drive, get the lay of the land and look for wildlife. We split into three groups, each with a guide and headed out in the cruisers.

Getting ready to head out on our first game drive in the South Rift

Getting ready to head out on our first game drive in the South Rift

First, we visited an unoccupied boma, or homestead. Peter, an elder who is on the Conservation Committee, explained the set up of the boma and pointed out which corral was for cattle and which was for shoats (sheep and goats). We also peeked inside one of the manyattas, or huts, in which the people cook and sleep. The entire boma is surrounded by a fence of thorny branches.

Peter describes life in a Maasai boma (Photo: Shasta Bray)

Peter describes life in a Maasai boma (Photo: Shasta Bray)

Thorny acacia branches surround the homestead (Photo: Shasta Bray)

Thorny acacia branches surround the homestead (Photo: Shasta Bray)

Then we continued our game drive until after dark, spotting a diversity of wildlife from zebras and wildebeest to baboons and giraffes. It’s so amazing to think that the Maasai, their livestock and all this wildlife – including lions and other carnivores, even though we didn’t see them on this first game drive – share the same space. Sure, here in Cincinnati we share our backyards and cities with birds, squirrels and deer, but even so, we still think of it as “our” space. We’ve eliminated our large predators like wolves and cougars and are generally nervous when potentially dangerous animals like bears are spotted in the area. What could we learn from the Maasai about living with wildlife rather than separated from it?

Zebra and cattle sharing the same space (Photo: Shasta Bray)

Zebra and cattle sharing the same space (Photo: Shasta Bray)

Giraffes spotted on our game drive in the South Rift (Photo: Shasta Bray)

Giraffes spotted on our game drive in the South Rift (Photo: Shasta Bray)

It was a very full first day in Olkirimatian. Exhaustion and the much hotter, drier climate caught up with me after dinner so that I retired to my tent and fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. We had five more days of adventure and exploration ahead of us.

To be continued in a future blog post. Check back soon!

 

 

 

 

August 5, 2015   1 Comment