Welcome to ‘The Milgis Trust’
Date: May 3rd 2008
This is not a new conservation project, its been going since 2004, but we’ve only just discovered wildlife direct.!!.. 3 years too late, but happy to be here.. This area in northern Kenya is unique, wild, unknown..and exciting.. and what we have managed to achieve since we started is commendable, and mainly due to the Samburu and Rendille people really responding to our calls…BUT we’ve got lots more to do!! Just to introduce you to what we do, and where we are, please look up our website milgistrustkenya.com and we look forward to giving you our news, and your feed back… Thanks every one!! Helen
stolen solar panels leads to 2 dead elephants
What we have discovered in the last 3 days is that it is not very easy to blog from a satellite phone!! which is what I use up at the Milgis, so explaining my disapearance… I am also not so ‘au fait’ with the internet as I have lived most of my life in the bush… so please bear with me as I learn!! We got a radio call on the 4th may, with the news that the solar panels from the Milgis school have been stolen..How very disappointing, but we feel that the elders are hot on the trail of the perpetrators.. What the search lead to was even worse.. We got a message on monday evening that there was an Elephant struggling to get up in the Laana Nikan [lower Seiya]Lugga,..Our scouts were there at 6 the next morning to find it had died in the night, with no obvious signs of the reason. But on their way they found a part of a foot of another Elephant, so presumed there was another one dead somewhere… Finally after a few hours searching in very thick bush, they found another dead Elephant, that had died about 5 days before, seemingly it looks like the same reason..It is always worrying when you find two dead in such close proximity with no obvious signs. We immediately got in contact with the district warden to alert the station closest to this area to check this out…We hope to have some info soon.. THE GOOD NEWS.. is that we heard lion roaring on all three nights, from our ‘star ceilinged’ beds!!, at Elkanto [ Milgis Base] … four years ago the lion would not have dared…..
one elephant was dragging a leg..
Date: May 8th 2008
Thanks for every ones comments on the cause of death in my previous post… The only unusual thing we found was that one of the Elephants was dragging a leg.. Every one is suggesting poison, poaching etc… But about 6 years ago we had possibly a similar thing where quite a few young elephants died of septicemia, it usually started with a swollen leg, and it was during the rainy season again.. Lets hope we can find the problem.
In the last month there has been an out break of tribal fighting between the Turkana and Samburu, and there has been a massive migration of people from the west of the the Milgis Trust base which is unfortunate.. There are quite a few guns with all these people so we have to be very vigilant.. If we hear shots we are immediately on the case… most of the time it is target practice..
The Milgis lions are back!!…
Date: May 22nd 2008
I’ve been walking in the Matthews/Ndoto region since 1989, running camel safaris.. Although we have seen the tracks and have proabably lost 20 camels to lion!!, I have not sighted a male lion since 1990!!..Because they were so shy, insecure, and persecuted.. yesterday we watched for half an hour the finest lion couple frolicking, down in the middle of the Lugga, from the Milgis trust base… The Samburu who we work with were so excited…And I know that all the people who used to frequent this area in the 60’s/70’s, who many times have told me’ the Milgis is finished.. No game left?? ‘ will be very happy to hear this news… I am particularly happy because is a result of our work…weldone our scouts… and thanks to all the people who support us..
Does a Striped Hyena make a sound like a camel in distress?
Date: June 1st 2008
On the 26th may 8 pm, every one at the Milgis Trust base was treated to a very unusual noise… It sounded like a camel in distress… So much so that the samburu warriors rushed down into the bush below the hill to find the camel, they thought it was being killed by one of those famous Milgis Lions!!, mentioned in my last post!.. They nervously searched all round, but could not find anything, so sat on the side of the hill and listened.. The second time it called they realised that it was not quite a camel!!.. The next morning the only tracks around were striped Hyena.. They have a den on the next hill which we have been watching for about 4 months but not heard a sound!!.. There seems to be two quite small young, one older one and the mother.. Initially they were so shy, but beginning to show themselves quite alot now.. Both Spotted and striped Hyena are quite plentifull in this area, but again are extremely shy.. We hardly ever see them on safari, so are delighted to beable to watch this familly with our binoculars!!, some times coming out to suckle and play quite early..
The Milgis Trust has two real goals!
Category: elephants, Samburu
Date: June 7th 2008
We ‘The Milgis Trust’ will know that we are winning!
WHEN (1) We feel it is safe enough to reintroduce the rhino to this part of northern frontier!! [note my previous blog..]
WHEN (2) We see the first elephants ‘set foot’ back on the holy mountain of the Samburu.. Mt Nyiru and we’ve achieved our goal when they can walk again safely on Mt Kulal!!
We can only do this with ‘your’ support… And who ever ‘anonymously’ gave us $50 .. We greatly appreciate your encouragement!! Thanks very much…We joined wildlife direct for two main reasons…(1) To let the world know that there is this very special region in Northern Kenya, that is very unspoilt and has huge potential, in that it can give wildlife a stable and safe environment, and this I say because of the positive response we have already had in the last 3 years, as I mentioned in my first blog!….The way forward is to really involve the local people in every aspect of conserving their ‘back garden..’ I’ve given my life to make it work..I don’t want to be paid for our hard work… I just want to know that ideas, and attitudes have changed, not only of the local people but of Kenyans in general!! And we need as much help, suggestions, or even critisism.. so that we can get it right!! (2) The other reason of course is to try and get financial Help…
Basically in this area.. flora and fauna, lets say has been neglected… Before nobody really noticed if an elephant or rhino was shot,( for that matter any animal) or a huge fire had just burn’t 100 acres of indigenous forest in the Matthews??…At the moment we are on the slopes of Mt Nyiru, for two weeks, and we have put a camp up for some geologists who are working in the Suguta Valley..There is very little wildlife left here, but every one and his wife wants the money for this camp!!..Two days ago we found a klipspringer that has been killed and eaten..There have been huge fires throughout the Selayan valley.. THIS HAS BEEN NOTICED!!.. Tourists that come to Kenya want to see wildlife, actually if there was wildlife here I would double the camping fee paid to the communities!!.. Given half a chance wildlife comes back very quickly… LETS DO IT!!!!..
Giraffes in the Desert!!
Category: elephants, Turkana
Date: June 11th 2008
This morning we went for a flight to look at an area south/east of Mt Kulal.. We had been told that there were giraffe in this incredibly dry area… and YES there are… We could not believe our eyes… We saw two groups of 9 and 7 in a place called Elbaa Malisiteti ..These giraffe obviously do not drink regularly as there is no water any where.. Also we saw plenty of gerenuk, grants gazelle, ostrich, and abit further to the west at Lago 5 grevey Zebra.. We know that these Greveys are drinking north of South Horr, walking up to 40 kms to get there and back every two days..In May 07 crossing the Horr valley, on our way walking to Turkana we counted 23 fresh tracks going into Anderi Lugga for water.. Considering there are only about 2000 of these magestic, gracious zebras left in the world, alot living in these these very dry areas, and water being the biggest threat to their survival, the Milgis Trust is embarking on a serious campaign to fix old dams that have broken, build new dams, or even pan dams throughout these dry areas.. From this area right down to east of the Ndotos… Not only would it enhance the survival of the Greveys, it would also help the Elephants on their return to these ‘Islands in the Desert’..[see blog 7th june] Also the nomadic people would benefit in a big way.. ..
over 100 years ago….and a brief history
Category: elephants, Milgis lugga, Samburu
Date: June 17th 2008
Arthur Henry Newmann, the hunter, spent abit of time hunting in the Seiya, Parsaloi and Migis Luggas at the end of the 19th century… In fact he camped below Elkanto hill..There was an huge amount of wildlife in this area… Newmann shot an incredible amount, especially Elephant and Rhino..In fact many hunters had good times here, it was a hunters paradise, dramatically exciting country, and plenty of game, and many a good trophy was found, thoughout the 20th century up to 1979, when the hunting ban was enforced in Kenya.. At one time there was a suggestion that the area should be made into a huge national park, but because of ‘other interrests’ presumably hunting, it never happend and Tsavo national park was formed..
At the same time there was a terrible slaughter of wildlife taking place by poachers.. mainly elephants, rhinos and leopards… Every one that was able joined the ‘band wagon’, killing with what ever they had, spears, arrows and guns,the later mainly from somalia, and selling the ivory, rhino horn and skins to tradesmen, that built special roads to creep out with their bounty….. Whats worse when the hunting ban was enfoced the poaching took ‘off like wild fire’, seemingly unchecked??… Basically the elephant and rhino population were totally wiped out of Mts Nyiru and Kulal, and very badly fragmented in the Ndotos and what was left escaped to the relatively safe haven of the Matthews, [and south] although on my first camel safari in 1989, on the east side of the Matthews, I came across the slaughter of a whole familly of 20 elephants.. TERRIBLE TO WITNESS… At this time there was about 20 Rhinos left in the Matthews Range forest, but sadly they went one by one.. and as I said before the last wild rhino in the Northern Frontier District of Kenya, was shot in the year 2000, in the Keno valley.. During the ’90s there was alot of guns flooding into this area, and almost every thing that was left was ‘splatted’… sometimes just for target practise…The big cats were poisoned mercilessly..
If only I had been mature enough, wise enough, whatever to have started the Milgis Trust when I saw those first dead elephants… But I didn’t, so the demise of the game has gone further ‘down the road’..The forest fires have burn’t wildly, it just seemed that the people were ‘hellbent’ on destroying their homeland??….What on earth got into their minds??.. And yet the response to conserve it all now has been so positive?!!
The rest of the story has been told in my previous blogs…. and now maybe you can understand why we are so excited at the progress in 4 years..yesterday there was a report of an Eland in the Suiyan….I heard somebody else, one of the other scouts, today say, hes going to see for himself!!! Elephants were seen for the first time for many years above Lesirikan, North west Ndotos!.. May their return to the northern mountains be safe!…
Elephants and lilies’ foxed’ by nature it seems!!
Every time we see a gathering of Elephants milling around and looking slightly nervous, at the junction of the Laana Nikan and Parsaloi Luggas and then when it gets dark, a big push to the east far down the Milgis Lugga, it usually rains after 1 or 2 days!!..A huge flood ensures, and they have water in their favorite feeding areas down in the lower Milgis [Elgerei]… ..Those Eleys always know…??? On the 24th June, the gathering happend, but no rain.?? Incredibly this time the Elephants are wrong,..But not only the elephants are wrong, yesterday I saw something white down on the hill side that isn’t usually there… It was some lilies [crinum macowanii] in FULL flower as well..But there is NO SIGN OF RAIN.. ,, .. How on earth did nature do it!!.. In January this year Pete and I walked past the tell tale signs of rain… Ipomoeas [ cicatricosa] in flower in the desert, but we didn’t really take any notice as we had a plan!! that was to meet Ben the helicopter pilot in 3 days time on the top of the Ndotos, and the weather was fabulous!!..Its a serious climb so we needed 3 days to be ready!!.. We ignored all the signs and got absolutely flooded out !!.. Even the ipomoea were flowering last week… But not a cloud in the sky!!…
Lilies on Elkanto Hill..
Elephants gathering below Milgis Base
News this morning..at the base. 4 female lesser kudu with 2 ‘brand new’ young!! beautiful animals…
Elephants coming back up the lugga!! and Milgis scouts meeting..
Category: elephants, Milgis lugga, Samburu
Date: July 1st 2008
Every Two to three months we have a scouts meeting here at the Milgis base.. This means collectively the 22 Milgis scouts walk roughly 2000 kms to get here and back… The furtherest 3 coming from Ol Doinyo Mara to the North, Ilaut to the north East and Engelai in the Matthews range.. They arrived on 29th evening.. There is always a feeling of excitment in the air as they arrive from the different areas, and lots of chatter, and catching up on news that evening.. Early on the 30th the head of security, Lentokunye, ‘the Elephant’..[ each scout represents an animal] took every one out for a run, and a parade to give them a feeling that we work as a team…Then they all put their uniforms on and came for a long meeting!!! [11am to 6pm so much to talk about].. We were graced with the presence of our Kenya Wildlife Service representative from Latakwen, Sargent Isa, who spoke to them about 3 things… a] we work together as a team.. KWS and Milgis Trust b] ‘BIDII’ ….this is a great swahili word and means ‘work hard’, but harder than Hard!! and c] ‘secrecy’ on sensitive information… There is a big worry of the start of the elephant poaching again, and we must ‘nip it in the bud’,,,, and be very vigilant in keeping an eye out for the perpetrators…[ There has been some poaching in the west, near the Kirisia hills] Even though I still maintain that the four elephants, that have died and I’ve mentioned [two in beginning of may, and the two young ones on the26th June] have not been poached.. We are going to get a metal detector to be sure…Hopefully with your help!! will work out the best one to get and will be back!!.. Back to the meeting!! Each scout then had his moment to talk and give us the news of his area of patrol…. Generally all is well, BUT WATER IS A HUGE AND WORRYING ISSUE… Milgis Trust has big plans for this which we will come up with soon…Cheetahs, seem to be on the increase all along the east side of the Ndotos, but one was eating goats… and we have been told that they will kill him if we don’t move him…?? Grevey Zebra with quite a few young!, and plenty of wild dogs reported.. And the big news that the elephants have twice,[ first time 4 and second 6], have probed there way to the Kelesua Lugga, which is a mere 20 kms from Mt Nyiru!!! How incredible is that!! [ref 7th june]
With reference to my last Blog… No rain!! No Clouds!! And the Elephants are making there way back up the Milgis!! The lilies dried up the next day!!..The mornng Glory [ ipomoea], stopped flowering.. But there was one other thing that I didn’t mention and that was a klaas cuckoo had also been calling during the same time…No sign of him either.. A Samburu warrior has just told me that it is not the fault of the flora and fauna getting it wrong it is because Venus [‘ lakera dorop’] has not shown her face in the west yet.!! ..He says its true.. believe him!!
With reference to the deaths.. unfortunately the man who reported this,[ Milgis 19.. ‘ nickname ‘Akili Mingi’ lots of brains!], got a huge thorn in his foot and can’t walk but he told me that it seemed that these animals just went to sleep… and they were dried up in that position…He walked right up to them in this position, thinking they were alive… Nothing has touched them…Somebody asked me if it could be poision, but I don’t think so as there is nobody living here, because of the tribal fighting… which continues by the way… He tells me there is one place, where after the rains there is natural water catchment.. could this have become stagnant.. a vet suggested it could be poisonous blue/green algae?? .. As soon as ‘Akili Mingi’ is walking again we will go and investigate!!
‘Lesanju’ the matriarch at 21 months old…
In October 2006 a little one month old Elephant fell down an 18 foot well, in the lower Milgis… She was found the next morning by the owner of the well, holding her head above the water level, trying to save her ‘little’ life!!..[The story is on our web site Milgis Trust under news 2006… ] 36 hours later, we managed to get her toDaphne Sheldricks orphanage in Nairobi and for a couple of weeks it was touch and go whether she would make it… But not only has she made it, but she has become a valuable asset to the orphanage, in that at her tender young age she is a mini matriach, taking in all the new orphans under her wing… We named her ‘Lesanju’ … After the chief of Latakwen who had died the year before, in very strange circumstances… And what a shame, as he was the most extraordinary leader… He was young, and full of go, and we miss him… But his name sake continues to make DSWT ‘headlines’!!! Good for her…
Lesanju in the Helicopter, on her way to Nairobi.
Chief Lesanju [in Blue]..Captain of Latakwen football team!!.
DSWT supports the Milgis Trust… by employing scouts in the Luggas to make sure the Elephants can find water in the dry season, without the danger of the little ones falling down wells…
Just a thought…”The night sky is full of unanswered questions!!”…
Date: July 8th 2008
On the 1st July, while up in the Milgis, I mentioned in my blog that one of the Samburu warriors had said ‘What were the Elephants thinking! How could it rain, Venus hasn’t come back yet!!’ While checking that my blog had actually gone on to the internet, I saw the title “The night sky is full of unanswered questions!!” from ‘art for Gorillas’…. With my fasination for what the sky tells us, and a subject that is persistent in the Samburu way of thinking! I thought ..gosh must check that one out when I get into better internet range… and am delighted to see in their blog .. The question that came up most after the students had been told to check out the night sky… …’where does rain come from?’.. Thought it was an interesting coincidence!!…
And by the way… The ‘art for conservation’ idea is an amazing way to get people ‘on board’.. We have got the women in our area drawing animals on pieces of material,, and sowing beads on to them, also beading wooden animals… they are beautifully creative, and its really making them think!!! When I asked them why they put the eye of the Rhino too low, they say ‘well we don’t know, we have’nt seen one’… and I say.. ‘Are you proud of this??’ Them.. ‘NO’…. me… ‘OK!!!’
trials and tribulations of community work…
Date: July 11th 2008
Some times one wonders!! when you try to do good, misunderstandings get blown out of proportion… and the next thing is you are nearly ‘out on your bicycle’!!
Latakwen is a little town about 10 kms north of The Milgis Trust Base… Our Neibours and friends for the last 9 years!!…. Yesterday we went to have a meeting with the community to iron out some rumours that we had been hearing!.. We had decided to move the base radio from Elkanto hill in Nairimirimo Location, to a higher hill to get better communications, and decided it would be a good idea to put it in Latakwen Location for a change and make them feel more part of it! After lengthly meetings with the community to explain… There seemed no problem, every one happy to be included, and we immediatley employed 15 people from Latakwen to build the road… but after two weeks, we had a strike!!, yes a strike.. miles away from nowhere!, they wanted to be paid more than double what they had agreed to, for the work they had aleady done!! Eventually we paid them a bit more than the agreed amount but stopped the work… We then got a message that the radio house would not be moving unless the trust paid rent for the hill, and that any work done would be double the amount… ie half as much again as skilled workers get!…To the 100 or so people who attended the meeting, including the chief, we explained to them that the Trust is for the community so who was going to pay the rent, plus 2 people from the community would get a job as radio operators…..The long and the short of the discussion was .. Some very embarrassed ‘ex road workers’, lots of apologies.. And the go ahead to establish the radio room as soon as possible!!, and that when and if theres work, to pay the normal rate
Having settled the misunderstandings we then went on to tell them the real reason for the meeting… Latakwen is a isolated town that has sprung up in the middle of nowhere, the only water is brackish from the nearby Lugga. Some years ago an organisation put a well in for them, with a hand pump… This soon broke down, and the 1000 or so residents resorted to their old system, and to throwing buckets down the well……. continued tomorrow!!
Water to residents of Latakwens’ door step!!
Date: July 12th 2008
To continue the story from yesterday… The Milgis Trust was approached by Illumine partners from America, to find out if there was a need for clean water in any of the areas we work… Our reaction was EVERY WHERE!!,, But for five years now we have been trying to sort Latakwens water problems out!! At the meeting on the 10th the residents could not believe what they were hearing!!.. Very kindly funded through The Voss foundation, we will be fitting a Solar pump like the one we had at the Milgis school… obviously our major concern is security of the panels which was spoken about long and hard!!.. By the way, the panels for the school wil be replaced,[ ref may 7th] by our last guests on camel safari, from private journeys, who visited the school to take them some books. They could not leave thinking that such a disaster had fallen apon such an innocent community!! Thank you very very much to Dianne…and all your friends from Greenwich, USA!!!.. Dianne has been coming on safari for a few years now with groups, and she has noticed a HUGE difference in the wildlife and its behaviour….. ‘What goes around , comes around’.. conserve the flora and fauna and ALL will reap the benefits.. Welldone the people of Latakwen and Ilgwe Eldome for their conservation efforts!!!
‘Ngoroko’…. Turkana raiders attack 20 kms west of base….
The tribal fighting is really hotting up..15th july…9 dead… 5 wounded.. [including one of our scouts, luckily not serious]… over 200 cows taken.. The Turkana V Samburu.. Big battle was fought 20 kms west of our base where the Suiyan Lugga meets the Parsaloi!!.. Full moon ..a good time to plan this as they can get well away with there bounty before the sun rises…They hit at 12 pm just as every one was settling down to sleep… and fought through the night… but the cattle were rushed off, and the back guard kept the rescuers at bay,,, In the last three months 2 attacks north of here…. in a place called Masiketa..3 people were killed, several hurt including one child who was trampeled by the running cows… Yes.. this is 2008… But this has been going on for centuaries, …And after the latest round of circumsision ceremonis in 2006.. There are many young warriors looking for action!!.. Things have really flared up in the last 6 months…But ‘life goes on’!!!
Samburu warriorZoundry..with the Parsaloi Lugga behind where the attack happend..
Visiting the site where the dead elephant lies…
Tusitiridhowlamu@africaonline.co.keThe other day I went to ‘ pay my respect’s ‘ to one of the elephants that had died in the beginning of may… It was fabulous and touching to see that every single elephant that had passed through had stopped and spent a bit of time there… The normal trails up or down the Laana Nikan Lugga have all changed route so as to pass by… And have all been busy!!!… Not only with Elephant track, of course, but all the carnivores as well…
The tracks of many many elephants, surrounding the dead elephant…
Again, would like to take this opportunity to especially to thank Theresa and Luke for supporting our trust… Your donations are hugely appreciated… Especially with the news below….
We read in the Kenya news paper, and on the wildlife direct emergency blog, about the Chinese being involved in renewed elephant poaching and this is bothering us, as they have been given the contract to build the road to Marsabit… Our scouts are keeping an extra vigilant ‘eye out ‘ …
A messge from the parstoral communities..
There is a lot of talk on the importance of education in the developing world… Many poor communities get these messages and try to believe in them. The people talking about the importance of education however do not assist the communities in finding sources of funds to pay for teachers. Pre schools have mushroomed in almost every village you visit. Some just under a tree, or in some old shack that happens to be there..
In the last two months there has been a dry spell in the north. Because of the extra work load on the families to keep there stock alive, the children tend to get slightly neglected, As an option to escape some parents take their children to school and even some children take themselves there so as to get some food. This gives nursery schools a lot of pressure in terms of space, feeding and teachers. When the rains come some of the children who originally came for food find the school interesting and remain. This keeps the pressure on and almost every month we get requests for assistance to pay for a nursery teachers. It is difficult to ask someone who does not get three meals a day to pay for teachers. With donations of US$ 150 a month we can help pay for three teachers, and help feed the children. Is there any one out there that would like to help??
thank you yours Moses Lesaloyia.. The Milgis Trust manager
Albino Dikdiks and Baboons!! etc…
What is up in the north?.. or is it every where!!!.. In the last few weeks the scouts have reported seeing 2 white baboon, and then a squirrel, then several reports of white dikdiks and now a superb starling,, and a drongo with a white head! Is it the water, the vegetation or the weather up here?? I remember several years ago seeing a white Wildebeeste in the Mara… amoungst the millions!!.. Interesting…
I do apologise for the pictures of the last two blogs not getting posted… I don’t know what the problem is…We tried several times… I will be leaving for ‘safari’ tomorrow to meet our visitors in Ngurnit on the 2nd August.. On the way I am going to meet up with Lesuuda, Milgis 3, our Cheetah.[ all 22 scouts represent an animal]as he has reported, that he has seen a wild dog den, with lots of Puppies…I’m very excited… Will be back with more news on the 7th August…
By the way I have a new puppie… Shes called Ndoto!!…
THANKS to Nature!!
Hi every one… I’m back from my safari to Ngurnit!! Beautiful as usual… and even for me exciting!! [ I say this because I’ve been doing walking safaris in northern kenya for 25 years now… Each day I love it more, and learn more!].. I never managed to get to see the Wild dog den as per my last blog, because my little new puppie was too hot!! We had to climb a final mountain to get there and she was already sitting in the shade and asking me to carry her… But I now know were it is and will return!!
What was really interesting on this safari was how nature works things out… unless we ruin it!!… Just when its beginning to get abit dry and the animals are beginning to look thin, the acacia tortilis, [ a beautiful flat topped acacia], drops its load of seed pods, [they look abit like a curly green bean] but not all of them in a night but little by little, when the wind blows… and every single animal that eats ‘vegetable’ goes crazy, from the Elephants to the squirrels.. and of course all the samburus stock.. They call it sagiram, and its extremely nutritious.. Two nights out on safari we heard people coming out with there stock, at 4am so that they could get there first..talking and singing as loud as they could so as to encourage the Elephants to move off.. Again nature working wonders, the Animals then spread the seeds far and wide!….Then we get back to base where the sagiram season is finished, and the Acacias are all in flower, which when they fall to the ground, are also eaten by every thing, which keeps them going untill the rains come!! We hope that will happen soon…As I write this I have just heard thunder rumbling in the west but the wind is VERY strong from the east still..But its getting closer!!.
Samburu peoples’ respect for Elephants…
About a month ago, there was rain up in the southern part of the Kirisia hills, which brought the Laana Nikan Lugga [Seiya] in flood. The carcass of the Elephant that died in the beginning of may in the lugga was swept down stream about a kilometre or so.. I left it for two weeks before I went to check it out, to see if the all the Elephants would change course so as to visit their ‘old friend’, and amazingly enough, they had!! [ ref post 22/7/08] Interestingly the carcass is all most whole still, as the carnivores can not get through the tough skin, that has been baked hard by the sun..
As opposed to the other Elephant that died a few days earlier[post 7/5/08] but under a tree is almost only bones now, and has also been visited by hundreds of Elephants… The carcass is in thick bush, and all around is big open paths to the site, made by many visits of grieving, I suppose?, elephants… But what is very touching is to watch the samburu pay their respects to ‘The Elephant’.. They wait until there is a clean skull, and then they pick pieces of grass, or shrubs and stick them into the holes… In a way a little like when they pass the grave of their father, they will not go by with out sprinkling some tobacco, or leaving some food!!… In fact there is a legend that if they walk past with out leaving something, the food or what ever they are carrying will either burst the bag, or fall to the ground with out explanation.!!!..
sorry, NO PICTURES again…
Yesterdays Blog had two pictures of our findings, 3 and a half months after the two Elephants died… But for some reason the pictures are not going on…I will be in Nairobi at the end of the month so will find out what the problem is… I’ve got so many fabulous pictures to share with every one…
No rain yet!! Its worse this year as we have had hundreds of people in the area nearThe Milgis Trust‘s base, who ran away from the fighting, with their thousands of goats, sheep and cows… But in the last few days we have noticed mass movement of stock to wards the west, as they feel its better to deal with the Turkana than to let the animals die of starvation… brave people!! But the Turkana seem to be in abit of a squeeze at the moment, as they are fighting on both fronts… The other front against the pokot in the Suguta..The wildlife in the mean time have had a good break, in that there has been nobody for several months in the Suiyan area, so have had plenty to eat and no pressure over water!!.. The Grevey Zebra, of which there are only about 2000 left in the whole world, being one of the beneficiaries!, of the tribal fighting..
Elephants nearly in our tent!!
Just back from a six day camel safari in the Matthews Range… Our first and 5th nights being able to reap the good things that the Milgis Trust has set out to do..promoting co-existence between people, there livestock and wildlife… The first night sleeping out on the Laana Nikan Lugga… There is no way one can describe the feeling when a herd of Elephants are browsing and coming in your direction, with the wind behind them, and you are sleeping in a mosquito net on the ground… It has to get your adrenaline going!!…Can you imagine how big they look, when suddenly the moon disappears from site because he is so close? On the 5th day, a leopard grunting a few meters away from our tents… How fabulous is that….Very Exciting!!…
Its a beautiful morning in the Milgis!!
The other name for the Milgis Lugga is ‘Elgerei’… a hot windy place… but this morning its lovely and calm… If I could describe 50 % of how I feel, or what I see this morning… I’m doing well… I am on a 600 foot hill, called ‘Elkanto’ [ Wild frontiers, and Milgis Trust base ] , above where the Laana Nikan and Barsaloi luggas meet and become the Milgis… We look strait down the Milgis Lugga winding its way to wards the east, where it divides the Matthews and Ndoto mountains…The morning light is picking up each and every one of the 1000 hills surrounding us, with the peaks of the two mountain ranges standing out majestically… The sand in the lugga is shimmering, picking up the early morning rays, and you can see fresh elephant tracks criss crossing the lugga… There is a herd of Elephants cracking branches, wondering around looking pretty content below the hill.. The radio operator has just walked past, and I asked him if he had any visitors last night… He said a porcupine came to drink water.. I told him we had 4 dikdiks right next to our bed!!
Yesterday morning we walked up the new radio hill.. Lowa Onyoke.. Its 1000 feet higher than The Milgis Trust base. This will give our radio coverage a huge boost..With the brave movements of the Elephants up north, to the places that they were wiped out in the 1970s/80s, we need good contact with our northern scouts who are paving the way’ for them…We need to warn the people who live on Mts Nyiru and Kulal that they are coming back, and to remind them of how to live with Elephants!!! This very essential project could not have been achieved without the generous help of the Shikar Safari Club Foundation… Thanks to Chuck Lathrop, and members of Shikar…And by the way… its going very well!!
The drought is beginning to bite now…
And over grazing is not helping the situation..The worst problem is the damage that the hooves of the animals do when they are busy ‘overgrazing’!! We only hope that the first rain is not too heavy, as the erosion is going to be desperate, especially after what we saw on our walk up the Lowa Onyoke hill yesterday…What a shame.. The Samburu have an obsession, about ‘wasungu’ [white people] taking over their land, and when it comes to living here, there are times when one has to tread carefully so as not to get chucked out!!…Especially when you say something against their oldest traditions!! Keeping huge herds of stock.. Erosion in some areas, especially around Guasi, south of here, is becoming very serious, huge tracts of land are in danger of becoming completely bare..Already some are.. What I tell the Samburu, jokingly…. it would be better to give the land to ‘ wasungu ‘ , and at least you could steal the grazing off them!, rather than let the land be taken by the ‘ devil ‘!!
But all is not lost!! Yesterday morning we had a VERY interesting meeting with one of the elders from the area..He started by saying ‘You are right’… What about?? I asked.. He said ‘Ever since I’ve ever known you, you have talked about ..” The population of the people rising dramatically, which in turn means TOO MANY GOATS..and the land can’t take it!! ” Well ..we are beginning to see what you mean!!’ I couldn’t believe my ears.. For all these years I thought I was talking to a ‘ Brick wall ‘, the wall seems to be crumbling!..A bit, anyway.. Its a step in the right direction… Even though its still a long way from solving!!… But the subject has been breached, and hes asking me.. ‘How do we get every one on board, so that we can stem it’…
‘Nature’ does it again!!
On the 10 of August I wrote about how amazing nature was at saving the situation when all seems lost!! THANKS to Nature!! Then on the 18 August, I told you how the people had decided to risk moving back to where the attacks had happened the month before… Better than letting the stock die of starvation..sorry, NO PICTURES again… Of course some of the stock has to stay back for the families to live off… Milk is most important for their survival.. and of course meat..The Goats and sheep that have stayed back are looking desperately thin, but as the title of this blog entails…The day is saved again… All along the sides of the Luggas the fruit from the Savadora Persica and Cordia Sinensis is in full swing.. … The people have moved there stock to live on the luggas, near the water and the fruit…Of course all the wildlife as well.. notably Baboons, vervet monkeys, thousands of Ravens… Civet cats, porcupines, any thing that likes fruit!! Its very dry now, and its really a miracle how our friend ‘nature’ does it..
SO SAD that one match can do so much damage..
What a shame a match is such an easy and cheap thing to buy!! The destruction that a raging forest fire does is unimaginable, just a single match… Sometimes hundreds of acres of virgin forest is burnt in the hope that the grass will grow for their cows instead… imagine the repercussions… Well the Samburu are really beginning to see these repercussions… Its another subject that I have talked about until I’m ‘blue in the face’… and felt that I am not being heard… The Northern Ndoto Mountains have been burnt and burnt every dry season… Now the people of Lesirikan, who used to have a flowing river through the town, have to dig deep wells to get to water…When the rains come the flooding is enormous, sometimes washing away ‘bomas’ [ enclosure for livestock ] that have been there for years… Now we have a good example, at least our warning may be heard.!! A pity ‘we’ have to learn the hard way..
The 5 beautiful mountains that are in our Milgis Trust conservation area are like ‘steep islands out of a desert’… rising from 3000 up to 8000 feet very quickly. When a fire starts at the bottom, it doesn’t stop until it gets to the top…Its agony to watch… The wind swirls around fuelling the flames…Every thing in its path is destroyed.. We really need money to employ more scouts to try to stop this meaningless destruction… $ 110 per month… Apart from fires the forests on these mountains are still very much in tact…The Samburu take there cows go up there in the dry season, sometimes they cut branches from trees to feed them, they have for years, what we have to be careful with is that these cows do not become too many!
progress on the fire problem!!
We have had some big fires last month in the Luggas as well, at least 100 Acacia Tortilis trees.. have been lost lost… [please see THANKS to Nature!! to know the value of these fabulous trees] Many were deliberately started by people who said that a leopard/lion had eaten a goat.. What have they achieved by doing this, because the carnivore moved on, and hundreds of dead trees are left?? One big fire, was a ‘mistake’, [actually the one in the bottom picture] in that a hungry traveller had stolen a goat to eat and he had hidden himself well in the thick bush on the side of the lugga, to cook the goat, but unfortunately his fire caught the bush, and he ran for it! Our scouts followed him, but when he threatened to shoot them they left him to go… Others are started by people extracting honey from bee hives, with the excitement of finding honey, they forget to put the fire out that they lit to smoke the bees out..
The elders visited the base to discuss this problem… They are very angry… ‘This burning has to stop’…They announced ‘Good, I’m glad you are now telling me’.. I answered.!! mmmmmm progress!! I feel…. But even better was the punishment for lighting fires!! If and when they catch the perpetrators, and this is usually quite easy as they check the mans tracks, generally every one here knows every one else’s tracks, its incredible!!.. If not they follow them back to the Manyattas [homestead].. What they will now do, is a group of elders will visit the homestead, in the evening and will start choosing goats that he will pay a fine with.. they will choose the best goats!! The fine will depend on how serious the fire was, and how many important trees were burnt!!.. Once he has paid his fine..He then has to throw a huge ‘sikuku’ [party], for the community, before the elders will forgive and bless him..
Visiting the the Masai Mara…
Yes I’m in the Mara!!, with three of our Samburu people that have worked for us for many years, and one scout from the Milgis Trust, all kindly invited by a Spanish couple who walked to lake Turkana with us last year, with the camels…These four men have heard me ‘go on and on’ about conservation, and looking after what is theres!!.. Our friends from Spain wanted to see the famous migration, [ which we have missed by the way!], and also wanted to see the reaction of our men from the north when they saw this amazing place!!.. Lions all over the place, including two very young cubs!! A leopard trying to sleep on a very thin branch, with its kill well out of danger from any one pinching it above it! Two beautiful cheetahs so relaxed with us, they just turned over and went back to sleep! A porcupine trying to hide behind a piece of grass, then deciding to run for it, gosh they can run fast!! A serval cat catching a guinea fowl!, and to end the day… a herd of Elephants all around the car… and as we were leaving being charged by a little four month old baby … It was too ‘sweet’ to be true…And by the way we have not seen another car.. hardly!! The Samburu can not believe there eyes!, they are speechless and in awe, especially this after noon right in front of our camp … 11 lions just skirt around a herd of cows!!.. We’ve got lots of work to do in the Milgis, and what I know is these four guys, will take a very clear message back to the north!!!
Baby Elephant is found down a deep well…
Sadly we received bad news yesterday morning, that one of our scouts found a baby elephant had fallen down a well… Literally 10 hours before the Milgis Lugga came down in full flood, as there has been alot of rain in the Kirisia hills in the last couple of days.. Despite huge efforts to avoid a repeat of October 2006, when several baby elephants fell down deep wells, 3 died and one was rescued… called Lesanju, who has been a star at the David Sheldrick wildlife Trust orphanage ‘Lesanju’ the matriarch at 21 months old… The new baby has been taken down to the orphanage today…He must be very hungry as he has not had any milk for possibly 36 hours..After the rescue of Lesanju, Daphne Sheldrick had given me some special milk just in case this would happen again, but we could not get to it because it was on the other side of the flooded lugga…He was rescued from KWS Latakwen by helicopter at ten am this morning, and taken to an airstrip to be taken to Nairobi.. At this stage we await news to find out how he is…What a shame..
Baby Elephant doing well…
Just a quick note to tell you all, that the Baby Elephant is doing well… at the DSWTorphanage… He had an interesting trip in the Helicopter!!! The full story will be out soon…
I am still on safari with our Spanish friends…Delayed by an elephant for one hour!!, in the Aberdare mountains yesterday, where we meet a fabulous bull Elephant, on the road… He had absolutely no intention of moving off the road… Wonderful experience for our Samburu men…
The Baby Elephant is very playfull!!
Finally back from our so called holiday with our Spanish friends!! We’re exhausted!! Masai Mara, Baringo, Bogoria, Solio, Aberdares,and Kiwayu at the coast…It was great to be a tourist in my own country… In fact we didn’t see any others… Except a man who told us he had seen some pandas in the Bamboo in the Aberdares!! I have one very amusing memory in my head of our Samburu warrior arriving at Lake Baringo, by plane from the Mara, and the Njemps [ a small maa speaking tribe] man who looks after the aeroplanes being absolutely amazed to see a warrior, and taking his mobile phone out of his pocket and taking a photo of him… How times have changed in the last twenty years..
On Sunday we called in to David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust to check on ‘Parsaloi’.. The Baby Elephant rescued from a well in the Milgis Lugga, literally hours before the Lugga came down in full flood… He is very big for a month old baby Elephant… I think he is going to turn out to be the size of elephant that people remember in the old days from the Milgis…Lets hope!! He doesn’t stop for a minute, hes very very busy, and always playing… We also saw how big our little matriarch ‘Lesanju’ is now… Below is a picture of her bathing in front of all the guests!! It also shows how much of her ear she lost after the Samburu children had finished, marking their elephant??… Shame.. she’s lost almost half her ear.. and it is so important for their cooling…The story of her rescue is on our Milgis Trust website under 2006 news…
Three Grevey Zebra dead??….
With only about 2000 of these magnificent Zebras left in the world… Three more gone, is disastrous??… Our Manager has rushed off to the scene west of the base to see if there are any clues to what may have killed them…Any ideas! of what to look for?… Could the same virus that is killing the goats be the problem… It is getting dryer and dryer but this morning there are quite a few whirl winds, which is a good sign, its very very hot and the convulvulous are out in flower again!!.. So maybe at the new moon we may be lucky… This morning the women from Ilgwe Eldome came to ask me for help, because their goats are all dying… The goats do look terrible…Virus, burning and over grazing combined with the on going drought is not a great mix.. What can one advise?? I told them that we will have a meeting after our safari and discuss these problems… I told them that us women have got to ‘all pull together’ to make things better……
back from safari and the rains are here!!!
This morning we have woken up to the sweet site of the luggas in flood… This is indeed good news… Its very hot and humid this morning.. so hopefully we are going to have much more rain today… News on the radio this morning is that the rain to the east was good, too good, many young animals have died in the night… Just too much after the drought to hit them when they are hungry and tired…But at least the strong animals will have a chance to survive.. We have had incredible winds throughout the safari and its got hotter and hotter!!! The signs of the rains coming soon were looking good..All the commifera trees growing leaves, whirl winds all around, and beautiful clear Sky’s… After the new moon showed its self there was so much hope… And today….BINGO!… Every one has a smile on his face today…lots more news to tell you tomorrow…
Elephant in desperate situation is saved…. PHEW!!!
The story below is just one reason for the absolute relief of the rains coming…On the 30th of September, herders came to the Milgis lugga in preparation to water their cows, but were distressed to find that a 10 year old elephant had fallen into one of their water holes. The water hole was quite narrow and pretty deep.. aprox 10/12 feet. They immediately alerted other herders and they confined on what to do. They all agreed that the best thing is to look for our Milgis scouts in the area to call for help as this was a big elephant which they could not remove from the hole on their own. 2 youths were sent to look for the scouts. One went to kurkum to look for Lesanchu and the other went to Ilakweny to look for Lesampouwa. Lesanchu had gone to the milgis base, having rescued a baby desert warthog that he had found stuck in the mud, ..sadly the little pig died of pneumonia that night… Lesampouwa had gone to the kigwar area on patrol., unfortunately quite a long way… When they finally found him, he immediately alerted the base on his radio.. When he got to the scene he was very distressed, the Elephant was very close to drowning in the mud.. He asked several times for the car to come quick…Every one was nervous..Night fall was catching up…
Seven scouts and the manager immediately gathered spades, ropes and any implements that may help, and left in a big hurry in the Wild Frontiers pickup, down a long slow track and by about 7.30 pm they were there. They found 9 community members and our scout Lesampouwa still waiting for us, their hopes were lifted beyond expectation!! Night had fallen and they had given up hope..Amazingly a bull elephant had visited the site and had tried to kick the sides of the well in…… . The situation on the ground was pitiful… The Elephant was so scared, and was making alot of noise, which of course scared every one… The rescue team called us on the radio at base to say it was impossible… I told them that ‘nothing is impossible for the Milgis scouts when something is in trouble’!! Which fairly gave them the push they needed!! They assessed the situation …The first thing they decided to do was try and get sand in the sides so that the Elephant had more to stand on which seemed to work abit as he was able to bring his mouth up. Then they started digging a trench that the elephant could hopefully use to climb up and out of he hole. The elephant was so wild that at one point it was throwing mud at the guys opening the hole. Having dug the trench right to the hole, they thought that the eley will be able to come out on his own. They all stood back and after 10 minutes of silence he tried to come out but his hind limbs seemed to be trapped, at one point they thought one of the hind limbs was broken. They continued digging until 11pm… they were tired and hungry, of course in the rush had not thought of taking any food with them! They moved away abit out of the lugga and slept, hoping he would make the effort to get out on his own…
Scout digging the sides of the well out, to get Elephant out..
Desperate situation… This Elephant was stuck in the well 36 hours
6.00 am next morning they are there sadly to find the poor elephant still there.. still alive… He was more distressed and wild than the previous night.They felt awful… Once again they were on the radio… ‘Hes still there and he is so distressed… We don’t know what to do??’… My answer was… ‘The only time the Milgis scout will leave an elephant in a well is if it is dead… Do what ever you can to get him out!!.’. Silence again on the radio as they get back to work.. They had opened all that was possible to open the night before so now it was time to try plan B!! To get a rope around his neck and pull him out with the vehicle.. They made a loop and tried to get it round the ears and below the mouth, but the elephant did not make it easy!, he kept on grabbing the rope with his trunk and throwing it away, or chewing it, but finally it was in place and they tied it to the Landcruiser. 2 people with knives were ready at the back of the vehicle so that the moment he was out of the hole they would cut the rope. Three times the rope broke and the elephant slumped back into the mud, but it looked as if the plan could work! They rolled two ropes together and and made the same loop and this time somehow the eley cooperated and it was easy putting the rope round his ears. This time… out he came, and they dragged him a few feet from the hole, the rope cutters were told to cut the rope and the vehicle moved away. The Elephant lay still for 2 minutes which was very worrying, they thought they had strangled him..There was a deathly silence but suddenly he started moving, stretching his legs a few times before getting up on his feet. Every one scattered in different directions thinking it would go wild but instead it just looked around .. may be saying “thank you guys” and sped off to the bush. Everybody was too relieved, and started cheering and clapping..Which was not quite the way they should have behaved with this distressed Elephant, but no one could control their joy!! .Happy days to the Elephant!!
They finally managed to drag him out with the vehicle, but had they strangled it!!… NO.. after two minutes he got up!! And it played into the rescuers hands as they had time to cut the rope!
Explaining wells in Samburuland…
Some of the comments we receive when ever we find an elephant in a well gives me a thought that people don’t quite understand what the situation is like…?? Its quite tough, and we are trying, on limited recourses…This area is vast… When it gets very dry the only water available is down below the sand or rocks in the dry river beds… We have come across wells as deep as 30 feet..This is pretty hard work for these nomadic people just to keep them selves and their stock alive… You can imagine how they feel when they find an Elephant has broken their well, or fallen into it after they have spent many hours digging… Our scouts are trying to keep as many of the wells already broken open so that the eleys can get in and out easily and drink.. But you can’t tell the Eleys these are the ones to use!!… At one time we tried to cut thorn branches to protect the good wells, but then you end up cutting all the trees down in the vicinity of the wells… Remember a flood can come down at any time and ruin all the wells and take the thorn branches away.. So then you have to cut more!.. With over grazing becoming more and more of a serious problem, the initial flood waters are very muddy, to a point that it becomes dangerous.. The mud becomes really thick, in fact thats how the little wart hog got stuck…When this muddy water comes down it fills these hundreds of wells, and every one has to start again…These wells are very dangerous at this stage because you can not see that there used to be a well and you can sink into them… What we really need is a huge amount of rain, that will bring good clean water down, wash every thing clean… Then every one will be happy! We had that initial rain but it seems to have disappeared.. What a shame..I hope this makes you realise the luxury of turning on the tap at home… But at least these Samburu don’t have to worry about traffic jams!!!
Below was a note from the David Sheldrick wildlife trust…on the story of the last elephant/well.. Which I felt was quite fitting! Daphne has been sent a beautiful walking stick by Lesanjus rescuer!..When he went to visit Lesanju, he was touched by the care and love that the DSWT give to the Elephants…
Great Story Helen. Well done to all concerned, and it is so heartwarming to
know that so many people care enough to make such an effort for one
elephant – this sort of thing would never have happened in the past so it
just shows how much these grass roots initiatives help for the future of
elephants in Kenya. Daphne will be so chuffed with her walking stick – and
when in Tsavo going on walks up the Galana with rocks and sand she does use
a stick so it will come into good use.
I think I may have made a mistake as I named your little elephant Barseloi
not Parsaloi! Anyway too late now, but the good news is he is doing really
well – loves the others, very vocal and active and is really happy.
Thanks for all the support Helen.
Grevey Zebra Meeting… 8th Oct. 08 Baragoi
GREVEY’S ZEBRA MEETING HIGHLIGHTS By Moses Lesaloyia.. MT manager
Following many reports of poaching incidents in sikira area of Baragoi, a meeting between the Turkana leaders and the Grevey ZebraTrust,[GZT], Milgis Trust [MT] and Kenya Wildlife Service [KWS] to discuss this issue was held at Baragoi on the 8th of October 2008. The following is the proceedings of that meeting.
The meeting was attended by 22 leaders from the Turkana community, 4 staff of GZT, 2 staff of MT and the KWS district warden. The district warden was the chairman of the meeting.
The chairman introduced the purpose of the meeting and made it clear that it was not blame or accusation meeting but one to find out a solution to a problem that has become chronic in the area. He pointed out that KWS has all the necessary force that it could use to counter the poachers but the age of using force is past and the approach is now dialogue. He gave a blame ladder as follows, the government blames KWS, it blames stake holders like MT, GZT, they blame the community, the community blames the youth and the youths blame an individual. He said the government gave KWS mandate to look after the wildlife and it is their responsibility to ensure that all people play their role to protect the wildlife. He opened the meeting and pointed out that only two questions will be addressed by the meeting, what the problem is and what the solutions are. He invited the participants to be free and open in their deliberations.
What is the problem? Why are Turkanas killing the Grevey’s?
- No awareness creation among the community
- Grevey’s soup is cure for yellow fever, TB, and joints problems
- Europeans/colonialist introduced the killing to the Turkana, they shot them for sport and the Turkana learnt eating the grevey’s meat then.
- Clashes-raiders feed on them while in the bush, families raided also look for food from the wildlife
- Sport-youths play around with guns and practise target shooting on wildlife-even those who don’t eat them
- Killing for food
- Poor cooperation between GZT and other stake holders
- Competition for resources
- Youth defiance
- Scouts not reporting their kins-hiding the truth on poachers
- Invisible benefits from wildlife
What are the possible solutions to these problems?
- Strengthen awareness creation on the importance of wildlife
- Recruitment of more scouts among the Turkana community
- Frequent meetings with the Turkana community by the GZT
- KWS team in Latakweny to be more mobile and visit all places
- Arresting reported poachers to deter others
- Employment of intelligence techniques
- Enhance communication
- Improve team work among the GZ ambassadors-Turkana scouts to visit the Samburu ones and vice versa.
- Creation of a conservancy in the area
- Putting a KWS radio in Baragoi
- Access water to the grevey’s areas
- All elders to be educators for the youth
- Form a GZ committee in the area.
KWS promised that it will try and get funds for more awareness creation among the community on the importance of wildlife and will improve communication by setting up a radio base in Baragoi and try to increase the Latakweny team and the future set up another camp in Baragoi.
MT manager cautioned the participants that no matter how much support comes from outside the only time that this problem will stop is when the community accepts the wildlife as theirs and start taking care of them like their livestock. Whether they start a conservancy or KWS brings a thousand rangers or GZT give all they ask for, as long as their attitude towards the wildlife is not positive nothing will happen and the killing will continue. He urged the leaders to go out and create awareness in the community and try to change their attitude and this problem will be solved. The ambassadors were basically employed for this purpose and not just to provide security. He asked them not to think of employment of more scouts but think of themselves as the care takers of the wildlife in the area. The scout programme is not sustainable…
The grave situation for the Grevey’s in Baragoi area…
Only 20 years ago when we used to commute between Baragoi and the Milgis across the Elbarta plains, I remember seeing lots of herds of Grevey Zebra… As children we didn’t even know how rare they were… Every time you drove to Turkana they seemed common. They were all over the place….. It was only ten years ago when It started dawning on us that they were being decimated..We raised the alarm… Nobody seemed to be in a position to help… What we are now seeing and hearing ref. the slaughter of these majestic zebras today has been going on unabated, mainly because of the dangers… Tribal fighting… There is only about 2000 left in the world of this special animal… Moses Lesaloyias words at the end of the meeting between the Turkana and the people [ previous blog], who are concerned for the safety, are true…and thats what we need to work on..
self extermination/anialation/destruction.. What ever you want to call it!!
I just keep seeing it over and over again.. All I know is that I can’t help but keep thinking that ‘How can people with such pure good tribal beliefs and rules, possibly let them selves get into such an extraordinary problem’… Can’t they see for them selves what the over grazing situation is doing to their land, can’t they see what happens when you burn the forest..
Unbelievable irreversible erosion…,
then terrible deep deep gullies,
large areas with no top soil left, large areas in the mountains that used to be forest, reduced to bear rock…
A tiny little fire like this ends up burning the whole side of the mountain..
I keep on telling myself maybe its the modern world that we live in that is not helping, nobody is willing to help them selves, because they wait for help from others??…WHY??? Were they doing this 100 years ago?? The other day some women came to ask me for help, because they were were hungry, and their goats are thin, but just a kilometre away was a huge forest fire… I told them I’m sorry I can’t help you if you can’t help yourselves..[ ‘My motto’ you have to be cruel to be kind’ ] I know its either one of your husbands, or sons that has lit the fire… this fire is burning all the trees that saved the day by producing so many seed pods..[ Thanks to Nature, 10/8/08] Its time for the women to gather that ‘inner strength’ and get on top of the problem.
On my last safari we came across many many trees that have been cut down to feed their hungry goats, with absolutely no thought of tomorrow… I saw a film the other day…
It was called ‘the tree of life’.. It was about a guy cutting down a tree, in a beautiful forest… The sounds of the cutting disturbed every one around, the animals ran away, and the people just listened, but nobody did any thing…
When the tree fell down, the man was so exhausted, he collapsed in a heap… When he opened his eyes he found that he was in a desert with nothing… Nothing at all..
When he was trying to find his way out he came across a sapling growing in the desert… He sheltered it with his loin cloth, so as to help it grow…
WHY DO WE WAIT UNTIL WE GET TO THIS STAGE BEFORE WE DO ANY THING??? …I would love to get my hands on that film and show every one in northern Frontier District!
Elephant doing fine..and general news….
Just to let you all know that the elephant that was dragged out of the waterhole [Blog 6.10.08 ] has been seen twice since by Lesambaua..It is back with his herd and relaxed…
The news this morning is wonderful.. The whole region has had a good dowsing of rain… This is such a relief as the rain on the 5th October did not continue, and this is when we started seeing all these fires… The worst one was in the Ndoto Mountains… Over a hundred acres of bush and forest was burn’t… The biggest worry being that the fire followed up one of the luggas that houses the few De-Brazza monkeys that live in these steep mountains… Seems that the fire was started by a hunter gatherer extracting honey, and he probably left the fire burning… Our scouts are following up on this..
A Grevey Zebra, fell into a water hole in the Guasi Lugga, and sadly before the scouts were able to rescue it, a big flood came down, and it drowned…..There are two reports this morning of grevey Zebras limping, one in the Sulabei area, west of the Suiyan… Two Milgis scouts have gone with two Ambassadors from the Grevey Zebra Trust to see why.. The other in Chagwai… It is in a herd of seven, and is not letting any one near it… At least it can move fast!
News from the lower Milgis [Elgerei] is that four lesser Kudu have been found dead… This is the area that had good rains on the 4th October [ blog 5.10.08].. There has been a virus killing goats in the area, so sadly I think this is hitting the Kudu… What a shame as the beautiful lesser kudu has made an incredible come back in the last few years…
WOW.. I thought nobody was listening!!
But today I feel much better…40 comments have come winging in, on Blogs that I wrote back in June to yesterdays… I am delighted that somebody… LOTS OF YOU are listening… The encouragement is brilliant… Thank you ALL of you and all the people in the wildlife Direct office for helping me out…The support from your office is never ending.. [Our problem is every day we are on the move so I do all my emailing and blogging with a little Thuraya satelite phone, so checking on the site is difficult, and expensive.. its time I got Thuraya to give me free air time, in aid of conservation!!.] Any one that sent questions on various topics I will answer them in the near future…But one of the last comments… Yes the Grevy, not Grevey!,sorry I think I have been spelling it wrong, is being poached and its a very difficult situation because of the tribal fighting, keeps going back wards and forwards over quite a substantial area, and because the Samburu do not kill Grevys, they tend to settle in to safety, start trusting people, and then suddenly the Turkana move into this area, and the Grevy becomes an easy meal… Also of course the Grevys follow the rain like every one else with their stock so tend to get shot if they are in amounst Turkana… Our scouts have been shot at or threatened a few times…As I say its a grave situation, and very difficult to get on top of…And our managers comment is true…If we don’t get the Turkana to understand the situation en mass, we are going to say ‘good bye’ to the Grevys in the Elbarta plains… One of the most well known grevy areas…
Grevy Zebra killings…Tell readers how they can help…
Comment from Maina.. wildlife direct..
‘I am very alarmed about the Grevy Zebra poaching. What can be done? How can the rest of the world help? It is quite scary given how rare this equine is. We really have to act fast. Tell readers how they can help’.
Maina, How can the rest of the world help…Stop selling guns and ammunition to Africa!…and send some condoms!! Yes it is scary… I feel the only way forward is dialogue… We have to get the Turkana on board, get the message deep into the tribe, get them to understand the urgency of this problem… The Turkana eat every thing, there is hardly a wild animal living in Turkanaland.. With human populations in the Dry Northern Frontier District still growing, guns all over the place, its hard for any animal to survive… and unfortunately these extremely rare and quite the most beautiful equines, happen to live in quite a turbulent place.. The Samburu are revolted at the thought of eating Zebra, the Turkana eat them for breakfast!… With the Samburu/Turkana fighting ‘talking’ is difficult.. Today on the radio I got a message that Lesuuda, one of our Home Guard scouts, who is one of our bravest, who was on his way to the north of the Ol Donyo Mara hills, again no mans land, to investigate a dramatic report, that over the last few months many Zebras, actually the amount was 28??, had been shot, I hope this is not true.. Lesuuda reported this morning that he was going to abort the trip, because there is alot of panic in the area and people are moving their stock…He doesn’t want to get mixed up in the tribal fighting.. We will find out later…The Grevy’s are abit in the same position as the Gorillas in the Congo..
I will get our manager who has alot of experience with ‘talking’/ getting people together, and is quite respected in the area, to really come up with a plan… KWS have been very quiet… We are reporting incidences every day almost and they do nothing… They are short of money, no fuel, and he rangers are not motivated
.. Typical Grevy zebra country..This picture was taken may 07, North of the Ndoto Mountains… Wish it was as cloudy as that now..!!
Shikar Safari Club International’s ‘return’ to the Milgis Area…
Chuck Lathrop, from the U.S. came back to the Milgis in Febuary 07, this time not to hunt, but to go on a camel safari, and to remember those fun days back in the 60s.. He immediately noticed what had changed, and picked up on what The Milgis Trustwas trying to do… He was determined that he wanted to see Shikar Safari club International Foundation [ SSCIF] support the trusts work and of course the area… After a great safari walking through his old haunts, he returned home with a mission… The first barrier he came across was that some of the members of SSCIF did not like the idea of supporting a project in a country that did not allow hunting… But Chuck and others persevered, with abit of encouragement from me with a letter in which I said… ‘Considering this area was a favourite hunting ground, and many a hunter had wonderful times here, and went home with very good trophies.. It would be fabulous if the foundation would consider supporting our project.. It would mean alot to me’… And they did….Huge financial support for 3 years.. We are eternally gratefull… First and foremost was to increase our scouts from 14 to 24, so as to beable to cover some of the areas further north, in preparation for the Elephants return.[ explained below] also..Milgis Trust goals… 7/6/08.. Secondly to move the radio room to higher ground, so as to get better coverage… It has helped our work immensely…Having the ten extra scouts gave us a real boost..All the scouts report in to base 3 times a day, with any interesting reports, animals seen, any wounded animals, or problems.. and generally give news of their area, and attend any meetings, to spread the word, go to schools to give talks…Check on fires, catch the perpetrators, bring them to the elders, follow up on trees cut down, teach people how to prune.. and so on.. All this is reported at the base… and recorded..
Why is the return of the Elephant important in the north… First after the complete destruction of the elephant population north of the Milgis see my blog over 100 years… and a short history… We never want that to happen again.. And its wonderful to know that there are still elephants that remember these areas, and want to go back… Our job is to give them safe passage and welcome them home!!… Also pressures from Laikipia area, and south, on the Elephants is growing every day… The human population increasing every day…Fences are being erected through out, and the elephant needs space… Not boundaries… Actually if you think of it theres not many places that can offer what we can offer them… This is why I feel chuck felt very strongly about supporting us!! Thanks once again to Chuck, and all the members of the SSCI…
ITS RAINING, ITS POURING!!!
At long last the news we have been waiting for, for too long… Thunder, lightning, driving rain, AND luggas in full flood.!!!..Milgis Lugga when its dry…Flat, wide,windy, sandy highway
Milgis in Full Flood.. Raging torrent of muddy water.. impossible to cross!!
Parsalo’s’ death…How am I going to tell Lentokunye… ‘The Elephant’
After the rescue of Lesanju in October 2006 and the terrible things that the Samburu children did to her ears, ‘The Milgis Trust’ decided to name each scout after an animal… so that they could learn all about their respective animal, and then on their travels throughout, while on patrol, to teach every one that they meet, and any one that would listen, especially at all the schools, more about the animals… The reason why is these children cut her ears, was to mark her, when they saw her further down in life..They would recognise her… Little did they know that after she had been given cows milk, and that treatment to her ears, she did not have many hours to live… BUT thanks once again to DSWT , after a big battle, she lived… Her ear was so infected, and parts of it kept on dieing, and of course the stomach problems… But heres a picture of her below!!!
..Lesanju two years after her rescue from the Milgis… Note how damaged her ear is…remember the elephant need their ears for cooling…
On the 12 September, when Lentokunye, ‘our elephant’ heard that there was a baby elephant in trouble, he ran many miles to take charge of the situation… No cows milk allowed, don’t do any thing until I get there… He fell in love with this little elephant, he tried to sleep with him under the same blanket!, but he would not keep still!, so they spent the night wondering around together…He was heart broken when the helicopter arrived to take him away… Little parsaloi died of pneumonia, on the 21st October.. He was just over two month old… Its taken me until today to get used to the idea… And I will be seeing Lentokunye, on the 29th… I know he will cry… Its not much that will bring tears to a Samburus eye, but having worked with this incredibly dedicated man… I know he’s going to take this to be VERY, VERY sad news…
Once again I apologise for the lack of pictures… I try and try, and only half of them go… lets hope this one shows up…
Exciting news…Finally we have the funds to build a nursary school in Latakwen
The two pictures below were taken in April 06, [I hope they show up] and we’ve been looking for the funds to do something about the Latakwen Nursery school since then!! Last week we got the news that we now have the money to build them a decent, colourful nursery school…TOTO TRUST UK…Thank you very very much for the support… We are also very excited as we have found a man who is a brilliant artist, and is going to paint animals and trees all over the walls, if this is successful, he will then do the same on all the walls of the Milgis school… Actually we could give him the job to do the same throughout the area… Its quite an exciting prospect… The schools in the area always look so drab…
The Current Latakwen Nursery school..
Inside the Latakwen Nursery school… Children sit on the floor…
Once again we will re-iterate the point to all the residents in Latakwen that the reason Milgis Trust are making the effort to find the funds and to build a school for them is because… In the last few years, following several intense awareness campaigns about the fact that Wildlife is theirs, the habitat is for all to live in.. It is ‘our’ duty to look after it all… The results are fantastic… Again well done to all the people of Latakwen location for responding… NOW the wildlife is giving you a school!!!…
Another danger lurking in those ‘famous’ sandy Luggas!!…
This morning I could see Mount Kenya from the Milgis, Crystal clear,110 nautical miles away!!. What a pleasure..Its a good sign, it means the rains are still around even though there is a lull at the moment… Quite lucky for me as yesterday one of my camels sunk into the sand in the Parsaloi Lugga, up to his neck!!…Lucky it was a camel!,[not an elephant] and luckily theres a scouts meeting this weekend, so we had plenty of people to help…!!..It took a team of 19 men about 4 hours of hard digging to get him out… What happens is when the Luggas, come down in full flood, after a few days, the surface water is no more but you have water, flowing under the sand..Then you have areas where water is stagnant in pools, that when you had the flood, the water had been swirling, some how you get pockets of air trapped under the sand, and when some unsuspecting animal comes down to drink, it sinks straight in up to his neck, the air bubbles out and the sand ‘grabs’ round the animals legs and it can’t move…When you try to dig them out, the water makes it all most impossible to dig the 5/6 feet so that the camel can move… Its an unbelievable situation…A camel is so tall, and at the end of those long legs is a big foot, so adding to the problem… What amazes me, is that elephants, do not seem to get them selves into these situations… Can they feel that there is a problem ahead… Probably!!.. Many years ago on Manda Island an Elephant had managed to get him self on the wrong side of an underground water tank, something panicked it, and he wanted to run across the tank to get away, luckily he felt it was there, slammed on the brakes just before, [ it left good skid marks] and went back the way he had come from, which was quite complicated, as he had been browsing, not really concentrating in amongst the houses, and now he was in a hurry!!..
Drought, Fires, animals dieing.. was the main subject of this months scouts meeting…
Sitting at Elkanto, Milgis base, with all all the trees in leaf, grass growing all round me!…AND looking out on to our 360 degrees view, to see greenery every where, wet Luggas.. It seems almost impossible to think that two weeks ago it was so dry, you looked out onto a brown horizon, dust, wind.. Now you can hardly see out, the trees have all thrown out long branches, the growth is extraordinary… … SO amazing!!
At the scouts meeting, every one talked about, how bad things had got in the drought, and the wildlife’s battle to get to water… Especially the elephants who are just innocently trying to get a drink but are described as these ‘giant dragons’, doing something wrong??..Again many of them pointing out the Grevys plight of searching for water…also alot of them looking thin…Also reports of ..Animals dieing… Beautiful old greater kudu male just couldn’t make it, many warthogs, all over, some falling into deep holes trying get at water. More lesser Kudu deaths reported, after the rain? Also interesting enough the samburu and Rendille lost alot of goats and sheep, before the rain came and after… The issue of over stocking has has come to light in a big way… Every one talked about how desperate these fires have been, and what can we do about this…[Will write more in my next blog..] Several reports of Grevys limping…Any one got any ideas of what could be affecting their feet… Looking more closely it seems that they have a swelling around the hoofs..especially at the back.. Another report of an Impala, that has moved in with a group of female gerenuks! Two reports of hyenas killing alot of goats, in two different bomas/manyattas.. It seems we need to help them improve the fences, even try and push live fences… [using cuttings from comifera trees, is very affective].. Another report of a bush pig, that has killed many cows.. but this is not new news, this pig is has a fetish for cows!!
The distressing news, and this was coming from the scout!! There are several projects in the area, where water is being piped out of the mountains down to places that people and there stock can get to easily… Yes.. its true… In stead of checking out the reason for the stem or lack in water flow, they just go above and bring the water down in a pipe… Can you imagine what this is doing to the environment..Its happening and its shocking.. The latest one being in Arsim, east of the Ndotos… a place the wildlife, used to beable to get at the water, now it has been dammed, and piped down to a tank… All the scout from that area were distressed with these latest developments…
Fire issues…Senior warden pledges help… Finally!!
On the 30th October… During the scouts meeting we noticed a contingency of elders arriving at the hill, with a purpose in there stride… It looked serious!! And it was…They wanted to fine our scouts for trying to stop the burning of the forests!! for ‘doing their job’… Some months ago one of them had lit a whole lot of fires, which has done a considerable amount of damage…especially to the valuable tortilis trees, that I have mentioned several times during the dry season… Nobody did a thing.. Neither the elders who had told us to leave it to them, nor the KWS [Kenya wildlife service] who we had called in to help… Finally after frustration had filled all us ‘on lookers’ minds, the scouts went to visit the man in his manyatta… He threatened them, and attacked one of them with a knife, and things could have got quite out of control… But they managed to talk him into coming to the base and talking things through.. When he went back, he laughed at the scouts, told them they were useless, and that he would continue burning……which he did.. He also managed to convince some of the trouble causers in the community that they could make money out of his burning!! This was the purpose of their visit… This is not the first time, that the scouts have been spoken to in this way… Over the last few years we have been desperately trying to get help from the administration, or KWS to stop this idiotic burning…The acting chief from Latakwen has tried, but he found himself in the same situation… ANYWAY!! … I had invited the KWS district warden to the meeting, and he came!!… That was a good start, and the scouts asked him to come to the meeting with the elders… As soon as they saw the Warden, they calmed down, and as soon as he mentioned that… BURNING IS ILLEGAL!! and for that you can go to jail!… Things went very quiet.. The new district warden, Mr Mwavita is a man true to his word.. We are very happy to finally have somebody who can help… I told him…all we need is SUPPORT… Its as simple as that.. He told the elders there are places in Kenya, ie Turkana land, where there is hardly a tree, and no wildlife.. you have every thing here… its a beautiful place…Why are you destroying it, what are you achieving?? Please ‘cradle’ it… please ‘hold hands’ and look after what you have, even more now than you ever had, because of the increase in population… If you insist the scouts pay a fine, then the man who burnt the forest will come with me to the cell…. Even the acting assistant chief who was hoping for his part of the bounty… stood up and made a sensible speech… We really hope that we are finally turning into the ‘ home strait ‘ as far as progress on the burning issues… It has been extremely frustrating, with no help from anyone..
Heres a harrowing story… Not for the faint hearted though…
Its a lovely thought, that here we are out here in the heart of Samburuland, the Americans have just voted in these historic elections, if you turn on the radio, its the topic to talk about…In fact I’m sure every ones talking about it… And yet these guys are quietly getting on with their lives, talking about the rains, and which Lugga is crossable at the moment, and when will the cows come back home!..The lovely thought also, is one things for sure is they will probably suffer least in the credit crunch!!
This is not a conservation story, but its a story that shows how amazingly positive, and proud these Samburu people are.. A couple of days ago a very nice man, called Lesarge, pitched up to the hill to see me, he had an envelope full of papers to show me… This was the man who’s manyatta had been attacked in April, by Turkana raiders….. He was in fine form telling me of how things were going in the area, that has now moved to… Don’t blame him, because then he went on to tell the story of the night of the attack… He had gone shopping at the little centre called Masiketa, that was about 5 kms away from his home… As he was heading home at about 8 pm, his bag of maize meal, sugar, tea leaves in hand, for his family he heard some shooting in the direction of his manyatta… He hurried along but nothing prepared his mind for what he was going to find…The raiders had aimed all their bullets into his house… The Samburu live in very low temporary houses made of thin sticks tied together with bark, and skins and woven mats that go on the roof… His whole family were inside…His wife with her little tiny baby, 12 year old daughter, and his 5 year old son.. plus 3 warriors… His son was dead, his daughter had had her lower jaw shot off, his wife had been shot through the knee, and 1 warrior had been shot through the calf … And all his camels had been taken… Unbelievable.. A night mare to beat all.. He was happy this day because finally he had managed to get his daughter out of the hospital, in Nairobi…So now all that was left is to pay the bill… He wanted to discuss how ‘ we ‘ could do it… What I can’t understand is why hes got a bill at all.??.. I asked him how the girl is…He said ‘ shes OK, and shes happy to be home.. she can talk, but shes still got many problems with her throat, and she can’t eat of course, the hospital really tried, but they could do no more to help her…They were very kind and caring to my daughter.. They even rallied together, with some Samburu people in Nairobi, to help me pay for the massive bill of Ksh 450,000/- , I only owe Ksh 131000/- now… ONLY!!.. and hes lost all his camels… I asked him if any one had followed up on the camels, and he mentioned that the government had taken alot of camels from other Turkanas, but he could not take them because they were not his, and they were taken off Innocent people… He told me he will build his herd up the Samburu way, he will ask his friends to give generously!!… His only worry is his bill… We decided that each of us would try which ever way we could.. He was going to ask his friends for goats… And I was going to ask my friends for ‘ Goats ‘!!!….
The wrath of the SEIYA Lugga!…
When these big luggas come down in flood, the only way to describe it, is its like a Tsunami, ‘a wall of water’ but at least its got a river bed to follow… BUT it is very exciting to watch…In places these luggas are almost a kilometer wide, imagine the amount of water coming down… The roar is deafening, and quite frightening actually!! What does lugga mean…Its a seasonal river… Actually these big ones never dry up as there is always water flowing under the sand, all you need to do is dig a hole… sometimes quite deep, but then you have as much water as you like… which is why they are vital to the survival of this area… The SEIYA Lugga came down in full flood this morning… It was about 7 am, and I heard a sound like wind…, but the trees weren’t moving! I went out to inspect, and realised it was the lugga coming down… It was about 7 kms away!.. The Seiya is quite famous in Northern Kenya… Its described as the most dangerous lugga in Kenya… The Samburu say that its ‘ eaten ‘ many vehicles, people, livestock… elephants and lions… Vehicles.. because the drivers don’t realise how ‘mean’ it is, especially in the rainy season… they try and cross when the water is low, sink up to their axils in the soft sand, and the next flood takes them away… People… because the Samburu can’t swim, and they try and cross it when its too high! Animals have been known to be taken by surprise, or they too have sunk in the sand like the camel on the 29th oct., in the parsaloi lugga…Thats why I chose to live on a 600 feet hill, when I hear that roar, I’m ok now!!… But…many years ago we used to have our camp in the beautiful acacia tortilis, on the banks of the Seiya, at Sware… We asked the oldest man there if the lugga had ever been that high… not in his life time, he said!.. There was no driftwood signs, so it seemed correct… In 1997, during the el nino rains we joined the people who got ‘ eaten ‘ by that famous lugga…
Funnily enough the meaning of Seiya is so gentle… Its a kind of papyrus, and is very important to the Samburu.. They take the bulbous roots, Seiyai, and make a nice necklace out of them, or include just one in their beads.. and its a permenant perfume… When it heats up it smells of an earthy eucalyptus… It is vitally important to their circumcision ceremonies, and when you are going on a journey you shave a little off your necklace and blow them into the air… Then your safari should go well!!
We feel that this project will help the future of wildlife in arid areas???
Category: Conservation Awareness, Education, elephants, Errosion, Grevy’s Zebra,Livestock, Northern Frontier District, Overgrazing, Rendille, Samburu, Turkana,Water holes
Date: November 11th 2008
A REQUEST FOR
FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR A WILDLIFE WATER DEVELOPMENT PROJECT….
Following efforts from the scouts and the entire community within the Milgis ecosystem, we have observed a significant and rapid change in the behaviour and distribution of wildlife populations over the last few years. Overall, both wildlife and local communities appear to have become more relaxed and wildlife, especially elephants have been opening up old movement routes into the Matthews-Ndoto Ranges which they used historically. This has benefited local communities living near the mountains, providing them and their livestock access along these new elephant routes to areas in the mountains. Also the elephants are now feeling safe enough to probe the areas north of the Ndoto mountains, in the hope to go back to mounts Nyiru and Kulal.. where they were almost completely wiped out of during the tragicpoaching of the 1970s and 80s..Those that were lucky enough to escape south, are the ones probing to go back… What they don’t know is that things have changed and human populations have increased dramatically, and the water sources are not where they were when they had to run for their lives…
As a result of the increasing presence and movement of wildlife under the protection of the community scouts within the area, the opportunity for conflict with people and livestock over water and pasture during the dry season presents itself. Conservation efforts now have to strike a critical balance: Wildlife and habitat conservation needs to be clearly understood, and the benefits need to be recognised.by the communities.. Our conservation efforts need now to be even more vigilant as a result of our success, which leads to an increase in demand for resources. One of the major sources of conflict in northern Kenya is over water, the resource is scarce in this region and the little that exists is needed by all.
In the northern frontier district, there are huge tracts of land that are unoccupied because of lack of water. Opening up such areas would ease the population in those currently occupied as the wildlife and even nomads would spread out and reduce the damage to the environment that is caused by over crowding. This will also ease over stretching of the available resources. Opportunities for accessing water to the communities living in the drier parts are enormous, there are numerous pans and dams that are no good, because of silting, while there are plenty of dry streams where flood waters during the rainy season can be harvested by developing new dams or Haffir tanks.
We are therefore requesting for support… A water project that will involve accessing water to communities and wildlife in northern Kenya… Some wildlife species like the Grevys’ zebra that are endemic to this region, are threatened by lack of water. The Trust will continue its security and monitoring operations which have been responsible for the encouraging change in the behaviour and distribution of wildlife in this region and in gradually building positive attitudes towards wildlife. This stability provides the platform from which the Trust can implement its other conservation activities which will ensure that for wildlife and natural resource protection to be sustainable there needs to be real development opportunities made available.This includes education, security, health care, livestock marketing and water development.
The specific objectives of this project are; De-silting pans and dams that are dry, and opening up new dams in arid areas. Creating water resource conservation, use and management awareness among the communities…
- Mitigating human wildlife conflict within the Milgis Trust area
The Trust is dedicated to conserving the environment and wildlife in the long-term through the provision of real economic benefits to the communities…, To this end, the Trust is taking steps to make water accessible to the people to try and reduce situations that cause conflict with wildlife. By making water available to both the nomads and wildlife, opportunities for conflict will be reduced, and the communities will start to see wildlife as bringing benefits to them. This will strengthen our conservation efforts and the people will start to be more accommodating to the wildlife..
- Easing the elephants water problems, as the Umbrella species for all wildlife..
‘The Elephant’ is under pressure from fences and human populations to the south, so they are probing routes to go to places with less pressure.. The presence and movement of elephants within the area naturally increases the opportunity for conflict between people and livestock over water during the dry season..
- Especially easing the endangered Grevy Zebras plight of travelling huge distances to water …
- Accessing to water to communities, and solving overgrazing, and erosion …
Through the Milgis Trust community scouts and the Manager, continued awareness creation on the importance of conserving the available water and other resources in sustaining human livelihoods is undertaken. Meetings are arranged… discussions take place on local conservation concerns with particular focus on water resource use issues especially during the dry season. The communities will be trained on catchments area protection, the relationship between the environmental destruction and water shortage among other conservation issues.
The Milgis Trust would do this by purchasing equipment to undertake this activity. Purchasing our own equipment will ensure sustainability of this project.
As an established field presence, the Milgis Trust scouts have made a significant impact on improving security for wildlife and natural resources within the Milgis Ecosystem, in the three year time frame they have been operating… The role of the scouts has therefore been instrumental in maintaining the momentum of conservation and awareness activities across the region. Once this program is under way the following benefits are anticipated;
ü Reduced erosion due to congestion in areas where water is available, once water is made available to other areas the community will spread out.
ü Reduced human wildlife conflict over water resource use.
ü Improved human wildlife relationship and co-existence.
BELOW IS THE FINANCIAL NEEDS….
Tractor, ripper and Dam Scoop, and Back up pickup…
1 x SAME LASER TRACTOR 125 4wd ..
- assembled in Italy using European components… meets all current European specifications · 125hp DIN, 140hp SAE
· 6 cylinder, 6000cc turbo charged engine
· rear tyres 18.4 R 34
· front tyres 16.9 R 24
1 x 3.5 cubic meter Dam Scoop
1 x Ripper
offer 7 free services to our customers however depending on where this tractor will be located we will negotiate what we are willing to do for you as soon as we have further details.
Training: We offer full operator training for your operators and service maintenance training for your mechanics. The training is offered free of charge with only incidental costs of transport, food and accommodation etc being charged.
1 x 4wd pickup backup vehicle..
Extras… camping equipment…
Total costs to set up the Dam unit… …………………………………………….aprox Ksh 10,750,000/-
aprox….. US $ 150,000.
Operating costs per month… Fuel, maintenance, wages, and food… aprox Ksh 200,000/-
per year x 12 = Ksh 2,400000/= US $ 32000.
I am putting this on the Blog, because especially after this last drought, we have decided this is one way we can hopefully ease many of the problems… I am not expecting just any one to come up with this sort of cash!, but if anyone knows of any organisation that may beable to help…We really want to get this project going…As a independent mobile unit… Run By Pete Ilsley.. a Milgis Trust Trustee….
Milgis Lugga in flood….pictures!! I hope
Beautiful old series two Land Rover given to the Milgis Trust… Thankyou
Every things happening up in the Milgis this month!! Usually a quiet sort of place…except when the wind blows!…
2 weeks ago, ‘The Landrover’ left for the Milgis Lugga, from our workshops at Naro Moru… We were very kindly given this series 2 landrover by Marika Beckman, who came on a camel safari in March..She decided this was the place for this beautiful old car to spend her last days… We picked her up in April, she was a wreck as she had done many Rhino Charges with Donna Hurt!!.. But after a thorough going over, in the workshop, and a paint job, shes out in the bush again… What a lovely vehicle, just so quiet compared to these modern cars and yet so much power.. She cruises up Elkanto hill in second gear!!..
We want to find out more of the probably 40 year history of this car, I’m sure its interesting!..But what we know is its already done alot for CONSERVATION!!… Immediately the land rover got to the Milgis, we organised an awareness campaign up in the north…Ten scouts went ahead by foot to gather every one for meetings, all round Mt Nyiru, and Ol Donyo Mara.. The manager and some of our “clever talking” scouts from the Matthews area, have gone to meet up them, so as to inform the communities about the inevitable return of the Elephants, what its like to live with them, and please to welcome them home… They also have lots more to tell the communities…. water for the wildlife, erosion issues, the result of too much stock, tree cutting, the value of wildlife, especially the Grevy zebra and how rare they are, ideas of how to protect there bomas [ thorn enclosure] against predators, killing the predator is not the answer!! Of course one one of the major topics is the burning of the forests…He has a small inverter, which will work off the Land rover battery and he has many pictures on his computer to show them …and a small film on how to live with predators..
Last but NOT least… Andrew thank you for your donation….Its greatly appreciated….Lots more news tomorrow
So much going on I can’t keep up!!
As I’ve said before… Nomadic communities, to put up with living with wildlife has it trials and tribulations… There are numerous reports from the scouts of predators of all kinds killing the peoples goats, cows, and camels… Elephants break their wells, that have taken them hours to dig, they tear down trees, when we are telling every one not to cut them!!…etc… All those ” bad ” things that wild animals do!!!… So people need to see benefits, or they will not see the point in looking after them… We do camel safaris through out this area, and we pay camping and conservation fees to the communities, and lots of people get employment, but we are not big enough for every one to benefit…Other wise there is very little tourism in the area… Its maybe too remote…[suits me!] Anyway the Milgis Trust has many other projects… Schools, employing teachers, water development, we help with many health problems… It all seems to be happening at the moment…
The SOLAR PANELS ARE IN FINALLY!!…Justus O, Karen B, Nora L, Robert S, and Charlotte B…Thank you all of you from all the Elders, Women and Milgis Pre-School Students from Ilgwe Eldome for giving them water again… Nobody in this wild area ever in their wildest dreams thought that somebody could cut the frame and get away with 4 big solar panels… Although there was somebody looking after them he wasn’t too serious, they had no idea they were so valuable… To them they look like a piece of magic glass, that takes water out of a well and pumps it 4 kms up a hill… !! We are sure it must have been some visiting tradesmen who took them…This issue became a huge problem in the community… When Diane Terry from Private Journeys, came on safari in July they could not stand it either and pledged the money!! Thanks so much…But what a palaver getting them up there in their metal cast so that nobody can steal them again….. So we do apologise that it has taken so long…. The elders waited all day, while they were being installed so that they could put a spell on the panels, in there own way…We now have two serious watchmen!!…
The elders came to say a special prayer to stop the solar panels from ever being stolen again…
We are building TWO new class rooms, one in Latakwen, and one at the Milgis School… Plus a store for the MS and we have fenced the school, with live comifera trees…65 Women did it in one day… All thanks to TOTO TRUST UK….
This week the water will be in Latakwen…Thanks to the VOSS foundation… The community are digging the one and a half km trench from the well to the town, schools and dispensary… All residents of the area have been given there quota of digging… great team spirit… I don’t dare try to put more photos on this page…
Three children were picked up by aircraft yesterday!!… thanks to East African Air Charters, and MEAK [ Medical and Educational Aid] and taken to Nairobi… Two with heart problems, and the other was the girl who was shot through her mouth… Dee Belliere of MEAK has decided that she needed further care and took her to the amazing Bethany children’s hospital in Kijabe for further treatment… Today she is undergoing a big operation.. Thanks to all…
Lastly… But very important for Milgis every day operations..VHF BASE RADIO moves to a higher hill for better communications…We are moving the radio room to a hill that is almost 1000 feet higher than Elkanto, just across the Parsaloi Lugga…. We need better communications to our VHF Radios to the North, and the radio will be on all day and all night…All the materials are being carried up with manpower!, or camels if they can, fit them on… Water and food will be delivered once a week by camel… Thank you Shikar Safari Club Foundation..for helping.. especially in our endeavour to see the Elephants safely home to the Northern mountains…
Tying the makuti [ palm thatch] on the New radio house on Orok Onyuki hill…The North end of the Ndoto mountains in the distance…The view from this hill is fabulous… I want to be the radio operator!!….
The Vultures ruffling their feathers!…
An extraordinary sound to wake up to yesterday morning towards the east… A rumbling in the distance.. I asked a Samburu what it could possibly be? He Said .. yes he heard it and confirmed that it was the Vultures on Moile Rock “shaking their wings”.. Moile rock is probably about 100kms away towards the Kaisut Desert!!.. “Its probably going to rain again”…He said… We climbed up to the new radio hill, from which you can see for miles…there wasn’t a cloud in the sky yesterday! And its funny I heard another Samburu guy tell a man who was not from this area… ” don’t take the tarpaulin off the car, as the rains will be back”… the reply..” Ah the rains are finished”, and the Samburu guy said…” No ‘the star’ has not come up in the sky yet… So keep the tarpaulin on”!..I presume that star must be Mars…..or maybe mercury?? Lets see what happens… By the way there are lots of clouds to day!!
Talking of stars.. don’t forget to keep an eye on Jupiter and Venus in the evening sky… They are again getting very close to each other… Just a wonderful sight!!
guess what!!… Its raining again…
If you haven’t read my last blog you won’t know why the title is what it is!… But this morning I woke up hoping ‘the star’ was going to be in the sky… But there was abit of cloud and also the Matthews range is quite high so maybe its up but not showing to us a Elkanto yet!…Anyway it is raining again in the mountains!!.. Unbelievable.. If it was for me to give you a weather report two days ago I would have definitely said no more rain…It was hazy, quite cool for here, and not a cloud in the sky..Any way we welcome the rain back.. The more the merrier around here…
The new head teacher at Latakwen comes up with a good one!!!
We were in Latakwen centre two days ago and the water project is going very well… Its a wonderful atmosphere, every one and his wife, from the old Granny’s and grampas, down to the sweet little children are helping to dig the trenches for the pipes, and to cover them.. Its alot of fun…Even the new headmaster of the primary school, in his suit, digging away!… After he had done his bit, he sidled up to me and said… ” Thank you Helen for what you are doing here in Latakwen, building a nursery school, and bringing drinking water to the town… We thought the Milgis Trust was just for conservation!!”… This was like a red rag to a bull!!!.Never say something like that to me!!…..” WHAT and you are the headmaster of the Latakwen school, and our neighbour “… I’m afraid this comes to me as a bit of a shock. And how many times do I have to say it!!..You and I are going to have a long discussion!!! The Milgis Trusts aim is to look after the forests in the mountains, the water that flows out of them, the wildlife, and the nomadic peoples way of life!! Where is every one going to live if nobody takes care of their environment…??? Unfortunately he had to leave, but we will prepare a big MILGIS TRUST programme for the Latakwen primary school!!
Shocking pictures of forest destruction in the name of Research…
Reminds me of the kind of research the Japanese are doing on the whales!! Unbelievable that this researcher managed to get permission from the forestry dept. in a time when it is almost impossible to get any kind of permit in Kenya to cut trees, let alone in a protected forest……Whats worse is a university in America is sanctioning this research which involves cutting indigenous trees down in the Matthews forest…This all seems to me very strange… We have been in touch, with people in U.N.E.P., Division of early warning and assessment,who in turn contacted the Kenya forest service, who temporarily stopped the research!!, well the trees have already been cut!,and also with the head of department and his thesis adviser from the University…Below is some of the correspondence…
To Department of Biological Sciences..University of Illinois at Chicago..
We are writing to you to bring your attention to Research work, being done by a student of yours in the Matthews range, Northern Kenya, which entails cutting alot of indigenous trees.. We would like to know if the university knows about it and if you sanction this destructive exercise…
We are writing from the Milgis Trust… www.milgistrustkenya.com Below is our Managers report on the issue, after he visited the sites, he also met with the community and tried to gather what ever information he could……
DESTRUCTION REPORT 3/9/08
Plots cleared -9 and 11 more marked for clearing
Plots size approximate -60 m. diameter,
aprox no of trees cut down-234
On visiting the site we saw the magnitude of the damage caused. Huge trees were felled and from the way the logs were cut it seemed there was some preparation for selling the logs. Majority were cut to similar sizes 2-3 feet long and arranged according to lengths. Some logs had numbers written on them.
Hundreds of plastic bands used for marking plots boundaries were all over the forest. This poses a danger to the wildlife in the area, who could feed on the bands.
Lots of painted pieces of wood used as pegs are also scattered all over the forest. This is a serious pollutant to the area and could cause contamination of the Ngeny river water once washed down stream when it rains. This also poses a danger to the users of the river water.
Matthews forest is one of the few remaining pristine forests in
, where human activities have not extended its destructive hand. This forest is the source of
the only permanent river in the area. Allowing such magnitude of destruction in the name of “research” poses a great danger to the survival of the communities that depend on it for water and to the wildlife that lives in the area, also rare species like the Debrazza monkeys. Also there are huge areas that have been burnt over the last few years, if he needs areas with out trees he could use these…
Moses Lesoloyia …Manager Milgis Trust
9/11/08 Thank you for your email. Over the next few days, I will talk to his thesis adviser, as well as other faculty on his thesis committee, about his research project and get back to you shortly. Head of dept..
Sent: Saturday, November 22, 2008 4:16 PM
Subject: Matthews research?
To..Head of dept, I am a little disappointed that we haven’t heard a word from any one from the university, on what is going on with this research in the Matthews range… This is now becoming a huge issue in Kenya, it has been brought up in parliament, and we are wondering why so many trees have to be cut down for research…There are hundreds of Americans supporting the Milgis trust, and other conservation projects to save these mountains, and there is an American university seemingly quite happy to let this go on… We are incredibly disappointed…Please get back to me what is going on and what this research is all about…
Dear Ms. Helen Douglas-Dufresne,
Thanks for the email. Since your first email of November 8th, and my reply, I have met twice with the researchers thesis adviser and one member of his thesis committee. The researchers adviser is in the process of writing a letter and has promised he would reply to you shortly.
Sent: Monday, November 24, 2008 10:12 AM
Subject: Re: Matthews research
Thank you again for your reassuring reply… We are sorry about this.. But we are genuinely concerned, about this situation… Nobody can understand why L. needs to cut some of them huge trees down, and clear big patches of forest, for research in this day and age where ALL forests in Africa are threatened…There has been massive fires in the Matthews mountains over the years if he needs places where there are no trees can’t he go and find these areas… What on earth is he studying??…Its actually an embarrassment … We are working really hard to save these forests, and this guy comes and does this…Hundreds of thousands of Nomadic people, and wildlife, rely on the water that flows out of these forests…the Nugent being one of the most important rivers flowing out of the Matthews…
There seems to have been large amounts of money available and or handed out to various people… Really and truly what is the motive.?.. yours Helen
To be continued tomorrow… with more correspondence from the thesis adviser..and more photos..
Forest destruction in Matthews range in the name of research…to go with last blog…
Matthews Range forest destruction continued…
Unbelievably the researcher managed to cut trees down in 9 different places before the community discovered what was going on and went in to the Ngeng valley and chased them out… They were extremely angry… But the researcher has been back and has paid/has promised to pay the community money so that he can continue… Quite honestly I am disappointed with the community after all the good they did to stop the tree felling…Does this look like 12 meters radius… I think we both have a problem with Maths!! or meters..
Thank you for your notes about Ls research in the Mathews
Range. As Ls doctoral adviser, Head of dept., has asked me to respond.
Please note the attached letter, which indicates the approval process that
Ls pursued in Kenya. US law prohibits discussing details of student
records or activities without explicit permission, so feel free to contact
him directly.. Thank you for your concern… I have already tried this as per below…and the approval process letter did not come through..
Sent: Tuesday, September 09, 2008 3:57 PM
Subject: Tree cutting in the Ngeng valley
Dear L, Please could you get in touch with me or the manager of the Milgis Trust, re the forest destruction in the Ngeng valley above Kittich camp… We are VERY CONCERNED… yours Helen and Moses Lesoloyia email@example.com
Dear Mr H, Thanks for getting back to me… We are extremely concerned
> about the damage that has been done in the Matthews forest, in the name of
> research… think of it this way… 60 meters x 60 meters x 9 = 32400 meters
> squared of valuable forest has been cut down and he wants to cut more…
> …yes we know that Luca has the permits from the government… We’ve been
> through all this… Lots of money has passed hands, yes we know… But tell
> me what research through your university could possibly sanction tree
> cutting of such hugeness, in a remote pristine forest forest like this… I
> just don’t understand what you are thinking…
> All you need to do is look at the news and see whats happening in
> Africa, these government officials are willing to let any thing be
> destroyed if money is being offered..If the government were serious about
> looking after the environment we would not need to set up the Milgis Trust!
> Please please can we ask you to look into the reasons that more forest
> has to be cut down, surely what he has done is enough… These mountains are
> very very important to the arid areas around, and tree cutting in the name
> of research is embarrassing… all the best Helen
What is the motive here?.. These trunks cut into these sizes…
It really would be wise to contact L. directly – I am not at liberty to discuss details of his
work, by law, but he can. Your estimates of what he is cutting and what he
intends to cut are not accurate.
Thank you for your concern.
> Ok Sorry…if the area is 60 diameter its 2826 x 9 cleared so far its 25434
> square meters
> or lets give you the benefit of doubt.. [ a second report from another conservation group estimated each area was 50 meter Diameter]
> 50 diameter its 1963 x 9 cleared 17667
> square meters??
> I do apologise… Have I got it right now??
> let me put some pictures on wildlife direct blog for you to see thats
> its not just a maths problem I have!!
> I don’t think I have to say it again, as I’ve probably gone on but the
> damage in this beautiful pristine forest in the name of research is abit
> like the Japanese sending a ship off, with research written along the side,
> to kill whales for the Japanese people to eat!!…
> The only thing we want to know after all that I have mentioned in my
> emails before is … Is the University of Illinois at Chicago happy to know
> that indigenous trees in Kenya are being cut down… So many of us in Kenya
> are trying to stop the terrible destruction in all the forests….It is
> completely out of control throughout the country, and rivers are drying
> up… And you just seem so casual about it… Why doesn’t this guy stay in
> America, and cut trees down around the University or next to your home!!…
> Hes even got lots of money to give you….. Why does he need to do it here,
> is it cheaper??
> We are happy for you to send all this correspondence to L.. Thats
> fine by us..
> I was born and brought up in this country, and Kenyas biggest problem
> is trees being cut down at a uncountable rate, and L is adding to those
> numbers in the name of research… I can assure I’m not the only one that is
> unhappy.. H
FINALLY below is an email I received yesterday, from the researcher… I have sent it to the Manager for comment on the size, etc if this is correct I apologise, although I have seen two different reports saying larger…but this in my case is not the problem… it is the sheer fact that he was able to cut indigenous trees in the Matthews for research… I hope somebody can make out what the research is!!… I am confused…
Sent: Tuesday, December 02, 2008 4:32 PM
Subject: Research in Kitich forest
Dear Mrs Dufresne
> I am L, the researcher who works in Kitich forest. I am
> writing to inform you about the purpose of my research.
> There was much confusion in the last weeks and lots of inaccurate things
> were said on my work Mathews range forest. I suggest that we should get in
> touch and exchange information between us to rectify those inaccuracies.
> Nothing in my activities is secret. As a researcher who specialises on
> conservation biology in tropical Africa – with more than 15 years of
> experience in the forests of Kenya – I would like the results of my work
> to find an application to conservation in practise, and it is saddening to
> see that the purpose of my research has so grossly been misunderstood.
> I am a forest ecologist, and I am aware of the conservation status of
> African forests – many of my past studies actually denounced the
> destruction of natural forests in Africa. However, in a country like
> Kenya, where 80% of the nation energy requirements are provided by wood,
> forest conservation must accommodate sustainable uses of natural resources
> by local peoples. My past research in northern Kenya suggests that nomadic
> people do not only have destructive impacts on forest biodiversity.
> Perhaps counterintuitively, I suspect that numerous species of animal and
> plants could actually benefit from the habitat diversity that is generated
> by activities of nomadic pastoralists in the forest. Of course, these
> activities should be properly managed and their effects carefully studied
> and understood.
> The primary purpose of my current research is to go a step beyond
> denouncing forest destruction. I am trying to find practical solutions,
> and I hypothesize that the traditional activities of local people can
> have a positive role in forest conservation. This same realization is
> beginning to materialize in many protected areas throughout Africa. For
> instance, Lewa recently started a community livestock grazing programme,
> acknowledging that carefully planned grazing can benefit both people and
> conservation (see: http://www.lewa.org/livestock-grazing.php). What I am
> trying to understand is whether something similar could be done even in
> forest habitats. My research is not wanton destruction but an attempt to
> understand if it possible to help local peoples to maintain their
> lifestyle and at the same time conserve biodiversity. In this purpose, I
> would like you and I to be partners, not enemies.
> I really look forward to hearing from you, and hopefully to meeting you
> soon. If we meet, I am sure you will quickly understand how I am in the
> As a final note, I wish to rectify some of the inaccuracies found in Mr
> Lesoloya’s report.
> 1) the area affected by my research is tiny: I opened only 10 small forest
> gaps, each one of 12m radius (not 60m). The total area affected is
> therefore 4521 square meters – about an acre – in a forest of 300 sq km
> (the size of Mombasa town)
> 2) the selection of the site was done in order to minimize all types of
> impacts. There are no huge trees in my experimental gaps, no Piripirinti
> (Podocarpus falcatus), no Lporinga (Cordia africana). The largest trees in
> the site are Lmargueet (Croton africanus), most of which are already dying
> due to a fungal infection.
> 3) I live on a small university fellowship, and have no way whatsoever to
> produce large amounts of money. What I paid are simply the research fees
> that all researchers are required to pay when they work in Kenya or other
> African countries.
> With my best regards, L
>Dear L, Thanks for this email below, and the one this morning……Why
don’t you explain to the people reading the blog, what you are
doing…Actually I could put your letter on the blog… As you know I
have waited almost 3 months, since the community came into your camp to
evict you, before I decided the time was right, having tried a few channels
to contact you, find out from the forestry, UNEP, and through the University
to find out what is going on… You should know better if its true that you
have worked in the forests of Kenya for 15 years that cutting trees down in
an indigenous forest especially in the Matthews is not going to go down well
here.. As I have said to your head of dept, and your thesis adviser, there
are many people concerned about this tree cutting in the Matthews, not just
I am happy to meet with you and to hear what you have to say, but on one
condition that no more trees are cut down in the Matthews… Unfortunately
the damage has been done… ‘what is done cannot be undone’ , but did you
the ‘forest lover’ not feel a ping of sadness, or have a conscious that
cutting these beautiful trees down is going to come back on you?? Quite
honestly I find it very difficult to believe that doing this damage to the
forest is going to help the communities live a better life, and isn’t it
just going to encourage them to cut trees, if you a foreigner can do it..,
maybe they will try!!?? yours Helen
Matthews saga.. continued…
Ok every one… Here’s more of an explanation?… and a contact… The University as you saw from the first two blogs, don’t seem to beable to give us any info, as per my emails to the Head of Dept., Mr Kay, and to his Thesis adviser…Henry Howe… Lucas contacts below…
> Dear Helen
> thanks to you too. So please let’s decide when we can meet so that we can
> talk. Of course I propose that talk means discussing, so I hope that in
> our meeting you will at least give me a chance to convince you.
> You said you have waited almost three months and tried a few channels to
> contact me. This is good because this inconveniences would have been
> avoided had we talked form the beginning. However, you could have found me
> very easily, by just typing “Luca Borghesio” on google – in this way you
> can get more information on me, my full contact details as well as
> descriptions of some of the other projects on which I am working in
> You and I are working on the same things, simply we have two different
> approaches to conservation. You perhaps believe that conservation means to
> remove human impacts from natural ecosystems. My point is instead that
> there is no such thing as a “natural ecosystem” as all ecosystems
> (especially in Africa have been modified and reshaped by humans for
> thousands of years). In my opinion, conservation means management of
> natural resources, including sustainable use, which is an essential point
> in a country like Kenya where 80% of energy resources are provided by
> Finally, I would ask you why not rewriting a bit you postings on Wildlife
> Direct. I wrote you and I repeat that much of what you wrote is plainly
> wrong. My plots are 12m radius, not 30m , I have no problem with maths.
> And “money talks” is simply an insinuation that is not appropriate to
> describe a honest person, as I am. I have proofs for what I am saying and
> you are welcome to visit my study area at any time to learn more about my
Readers… please take note of the above..
4/12/08 14.30…Luca, Thanks for this and I will post it on wildlife direct, so that all
the other people that need convincing can read… Alot of people have been
in contact with me about this… It is not just Milgis Trust… Soo I hope
you can convince us all…
I have been walking in and around the Matthews for 23 years… And
before then we used to go to the area above Kittich often, after Mills
Burton died and when they started Kittich camp up again…
Up in the Milgis we have very limited satelite internet, and I did
actually write an email to you, Ian Craig gave me your address… he was
the first person I contacted when this all started…which you didn’t
answer, I also sent a letter to Ngelai, which was mean’t to be given to
you…And several messages, via radio… Maybe you could have contacted
us.??.. You know we exist.. Maybe because of your contact with Julio, you
shrug, us off, but actually we are very serious, in trying to stop any
destruction in these northern forests, and I am happy to say, the fires are
much less these days esp. in the Matthews……Actually it was the fire
problems in the Matthews that sparked the Milgis Trust off… Many years
ago, we did a walk across the mountains from the north, into the Ngeng
valley, and we walked though a big area that had just been destroyed by a
fire… I decided on this walk that, something had to be done to stop this,
we started the ball rolling, and the’ Milgis Trust’ was formed..
Any way… The fact is that tree cutting in the Matthews by a
responsible person like you has left alot of people shocked, and saddened,
because this place before Julio took over the camp, and stopped people
camping, was visited by many people, and it is fairly well known…I used to
start all my camel safaris in the area just above Kittich camp…In fact I
spent many weeks up there…
I understand that people think in different ways as far as conservation
is concerned, and I am not the person to stop your research, or argue with
you…I just don’t want to see any more trees being cut down, in the
Matthews forest.. And with what is already cut down, I feel that is quite
enough.. If money doesn’t talk then why have the community who stopped you
cutting trees, agreed to you cutting more down…I hope you can finish your
research, and give us some interesting facts!!.. What comes to my mind is
… There is not a fire wood problem up there in the north, except where
people are beginning to settle in one area, ie Ngelai, Wamba, I would hate
to think that they would resort to going into the forests to find fire
wood??..Julio would love that!! Or are you going to come up with a better
I am away for a few days and will be back at the Milgis from the 14th
December… Where are you based??.. salaams Helen
Matthews Forest saga continued, with a reply from our manager who’s cross!!…
The amount of time I’ve spent on my computer, due to this forest destruction in the beautiful Matthews forest, is ridiculous and sometimes one thinks… Its just a drop in the ocean, compared to some of the things that are happening.. But then I don’t sleep, thinking about it.. WHAT FOR?? WHY CUT THESE TREES?..Then who is this person who cut the trees, the university advisers, the person who gave out the permits, probably people who’ve never been to the northern mountains..which incredibly have managed to keep out of the charcoal problems, and logging..The main damage to these forests is fires, of which we’ve battled with, as you know, with very little support..Also when it is very dry, and there is trouble in the west with the Turkana, the nomads tend go up into the forests, and unfortunately, if there is no grass, tend to cut trees down to save there cows from starvation… But they do not win quite often, and when the rains come its quite often a disaster for the cow population… I know that Kenya has recently had a change in the forestry department, and we all hope its a good thing, but this permit being issued has really shocked us.. Any way… see below the MT manager, says he’s not going to be maligned.. He saw for himself and he did-not like what he saw…
Response from the Milgis Trust Manager…to comments made by Luca about his report!!
Sent: Friday, December 05, 2008 12:41 PM
Subject: Response to Lucas issues, from Moses Lesoloiya.. The Milgis Trust manager..
Luca…It is clear that you have done some damage to the forest, and you are now trying to reduce the magnitude of this destruction…
- Plots size.I am certainly not the only one that came up with 50/60 meters diameter…To the best of my knowledge… Even the MP counted 50 steps to measure the size of the plots that were cut, and others that came in from Wamba.. I counted 56 long steps in one cut plot and 60 in one not cut but marked with tapes.But because of the damage to the trees around the plots, I felt that 60 is fair to say… Leadekei from KWS also visited the area and could also be asked to give his measurement. I think the photos show even that the areas are bigger that 24 m. diameter… Is this really the issue??.. What ever the size its not ‘on’, in this day and age….
- Over 80% of the kitich forest is Lmargueet and destroying it alone is no excuse. Cutting indigenous forest is damage no matter what tree it is. .Every tree that was growing in those plots, was cut down, what ever kind of tree.. Luca should realise that all the cut trees are lying dead in the forest and should evidence be needed it is all there. Everybody who went there knows this.
- In my opinion what luca says is his purpose of research does not match the activities of his research?. What does nomads way of life have to do with felling trees with power saws?. How does pollination or seeds dispersal relate to clearing of gaps in the forest?. Where will the birds he mentions in his notes live, if the trees are cut down…
- To who did luca pay the research fees to and for what purpose and why after the community had chased him away?…. Luca you should be honest. You only came to the open and to get papers signed by the community after you were chased away, why didn’t you speak to the community before you started cutting trees down..
My comment today is… Luca you have replied to Anna, and told her that ‘remember people living in Northern Kenya are very poor’…Sorry but certainly the people living around the Matthews are not poor, compared to many many other areas in Africa, but they will be poor if their water flow, from the Matthews stops due to forest destruction..Also there are very few people living in these mountains permanently, so who are you going to evict… Yes the population increase in the world generally, is posing a threat to all mountains, and this is a very serious worry..
One more thing…If you have nothing to hide… Many people have asked me this same thing…Who were the other people involved, helping you cut the trees, and the way all the trunks have been cut into neat sized logs, and numbered.. What were you going to do with them… Finally please explain.. TO US ALL… IN AS SHORT AS YOU LIKE… WHY YOU CUT THESE GAPS IN THE FOREST… WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO NEXT, IN THESE GAPS…BECAUSE SO FAR WE DON’T UNDERSTAND…
Matthews forest …Thank you Richard for your support…and Lucas justications..
Richard, Thank you for your support on this Matthews Saga… I am delighted that you have brought these valuable forests in Northern Kenya to the lime light… This whole thing with Luca managing to get a licence to cut a substantial count of fully grown indigenous trees for research, will funnily enough I hope, end up helping these forests, I’m not sure about the reason for cutting the trees for research??, BUT.. below is more from Luca to try and convince us…What is more exciting hopefully the Kenya forest service will show more interest in these forests… Instead of only taking money from them, IE this research permit, and camping fees up at Mt Nyiru, etc….Each time they come for fees, I ask what the forestry are doing about the forest fires, they can not answer… I even wrote to them to ask them, and have had no reply… A couple of comments from your blog, for the record… Re the size of the gaps made in the forest…either Samburu, do not know what a meter is, or Lucas meters are long…We will send somebody to check again!.. so the record is strait.. BUT to me this is not the issue… The issue is the fact in this day and age a researcher was able to get a licence to cut, live indigenous trees…After all that has been said and done in Kenya lately about cutting trees… I actually thought there was a total ban… The Matthews range is Samburu district!! And the amount he paid or promised to pay to the community about a month or so after they had evicted him, and after the forestry had suspended his research, because he had not agreed with the community, is in the region of 100000/- not 150000/-… Just for the record.. Any way your support on this issue is very very much appreciated, and Wildlife Direct is is an unbelievable help to conservation… Thank you for the idea and for setting it up.. .. salaams Helen..
Matthews peak, taken from the north…
Implicit in much conservation thinking is the idea that the activities of local human peoples are damaging to the environment. The direct consequence of this is that local people are often excluded from protected areas, sometimes with little regard for their rights, but also with little appreciation that – as any other species – humans might have a role in the balance of natural ecosystems. Let me clarify with an example: we all agree that lions have a key role in controlling herbivore populations in African savannas. When lions disappear, chances are that the entire ecosystem will suffer. Now, my question is: given that humans have lived in Africa for longer than anywhere else, why can’t we hypothesize that local peoples might have a key role in the preservation of African ecosystems – including forests? Are we sure that a forest without human impacts is by default better that a forest whose structure is partly affected by the activities of local peoples living in that area? I guess that we are not at all sure. Research is badly needed on this subject.
I studied local nomadic peoples and their effects on Afromontane forests for some years. Let me summarize a few key facts. First, forest area in the Mathews range is 26,300 ha. Assuming 1% yearly growth, this means that approximately 36,000 cubic meters of wood are produced each year in the forest.
My estimates suggest that about 10,000-20,000 trees are *dropped by local people in the Mathews range during drought years. In normal years it is less than half, about 3,000-6,000 trees.
On average, a tree in the Mathews range forest has a diameter of 9.8 cm and a height of 8.3m. These data are from 800 trees that I measured in the forest in 2006-2007. With these measurements, we can calculate that an average tree has a volume of 0.25 cubic meters, which means that even in drought years, local people drop less than 5,000 cubic meters of trees in the forest. This is much less that the average yearly natural growth. Of course, I have not considered forest fires (which, however, are much less frequent now than a few years ago), and my estimates are very rough, but a case can be made that after all, human use of forest resources in the Mathews range might still be within sustainability levels.
Ecological knowledge tells us that Afromontane forest canopies have a discontinuous, “gappy” structure. This is not the Amazon: trees here are comparatively small. In Afromontane forests, 10-30% of the area is actually made up by gaps in the canopy, whose diameter is on average 29 meters (n = 232 measures). More than 50% of these gaps show signs of human activities, therefore I hypothesize that humans have an important role in the creation of canopy gaps in Afromontane forests.
Forest gaps are also important for wildlife. Herbivores preferentially graze in the gaps. Endemic chameleon species might be gap-specialists, and bird diversity in a gap is approximately twice as much than in “undisturbed” forest.
Now, I am not jumping to the conclusion that we should conserve the Afromontane forest by dropping trees. Much more humbly, I am asking whether the activities of local human peoples might be important in the maintenance of forest species diversity. If that was true, then by managing these activities in the proper way, we will achieve a win-win outcome, in which local people could maintain their lifestyles and at the same time contribute to the conservation of species diversity. Wouldn’t this scenario be enticing?
This is the theoretical justification of my research; now let me describe the experimental settings. In my experiment, I selected 20 small plots within an “undisturbed” tract of the forest. For two years I studied ecosystems processes and structure before the creation of a gap. Then, last August, I (with the help of two friends) created gaps in ten of the survey plots. The remaining ten plots will be left undisturbed to provide experimental control. The ten artificial gaps are 24m diameter (i.e. 12m radius), that is, approximately similar to the “average” forest gap in an Afromontane forest.
Concerns were raised over the ecological impact of my “destruction”. Please consider that the total area of my artificial gaps is tiny – 0.45 ha in all in a forest that is 60,000 times larger. Also consider that gaps are natural components in this ecosystem, nothing alien is being introduced here.
If you are thinking that this could have been done in “natural” gaps without the need of dropping any trees, you are wrong. There is too much variation in size, shape and age within natural gaps. By using an experimental approach I have zeroed many sources of variation: all my gaps were created at the same time, they have the same size and shape. This will allow to record changes in ecosystem processes with a detail that has probably never been achieved before in tropical forest research.
Now let me conclude. Readers of this blog called me “idiotic” “inconsiderate”, and used words as “catastrophe”, “madness”, “destruction” etc. Some snubbed at the “findings” of my “research”. Those people might want to reconsider their judgment. I am a serious naturalist, I spent years working in this region and I think I am in my rights when I ask to be judged on the basis of truth and not rhetoric. Nothing in my research is a secret. Those who wish to come and see are welcome at any time.
With my best regards, Luca
Helens comments on your justifications… *The trees that the Samburu people cut down for there cows are usually pretty small.. Or they prune big ones… We are working hard on teaching them how to prune, so that next year, that same tree can help them…Don’t get me wrong, we don’t support any one cutting trees, but I do understand that people will tend to ‘destroy’ if there livelihood is on its last legs…
While our manager travels up to the Ngeng valley its time to say thank you…also progress on another front…
I am back in the Milgis… and firstly would like to thank you all of you…Especially to Karen P, Laurens H, and Anna M… So much thanks for the donations…greatly appreciated… We appreciate every penny, and also every one that gives us encouragement in words is invaluable… …
In the mean time Moses Lesoloyia has travelled back up to the Ngeng valley to try and meet up with ‘the now famous Luca’!! as we have heard that he is in the country… Moses will give us a report on his trip, but what I gather in a short conversation, that Luca was extremely apologetic on many issues, was very pleased to see our contingency of scouts, and has assured us that no more trees will be cut down.. This was our stance from the beginning…as “What has been done can not be undone.”.. In our opinion now that the trees are down/dead,/gone he may as well get on with his research…And hopefully give something BIG back to this area??…We will also be following up on various things like the plastic streamers, tags, in the forest… whether the research money will go to saving the Matthews forest or will disappear into the system, and any other issues that have come up through this saga…
Other sweet news to the Milgis Trust is a young cheetah was found lost and hungry at Rairariti, and what would have happened before … it would have been killed , but not this time… the old man has killed one of his goats to feed it, and he has asked us to come and collect it… Moses Lesoloyia, will leave early tomorrow morning to collect it.. Tomorrow we are going to take the radio, up to the new hill, and will slaughter a goat up there as there has been such politics about our radio moving there… Only because the new councillor thought there was big money for his pockets!! All is sorted out now, and our new found friend, the baby cheetah will start his new life on the radio hill!… Then we will have to think how best we can bring it up, so as not to let it get used to eating goats!!
Also in an other area a baby gerenuk was found, and it is doing well with two goat foster mothers… We are keeping a close eye on it but hopefully it can go back to his herd!, or it will think its a goat..
The baby cheetah is BEAUTIFUL!!
Oh but its already been through a lot, poor little thing… There was 5 cubs and this one couldn’t keep up with the family, and was found by some children, as I said before things are looking up!!… In the past they would have killed it, but attitudes are changing, and they picked it up and took it to there father, who killed a goat to feed it!!…. Incredible.. Then sent a runner to tell us to pick it up… The Manager went with a young lad on the motor bike, with a box, but the poor little cheetah, it must be about a month old, if it didn’t have the black tear lines, you would say its a honey badger…Which is a ferocious beast! Very clever trick of nature…She could not handle the box, so eventually they chucked the box and held the cheetah in their arms…Would have been a good picture! Then the next problem arrives… a puncture, not so far away from our new radio hill, which I have climbed up earlier in the day, I kept on asking myself, who’s idea was this!! it is 1600 feet above the Parsaloi Lugga… Anyway they decided they needed to get this little cheetah to me as soon as possible.. We had slaughtered a goat, to open the hill, and to have fresh meat for our new guest!… They left the bike, and started climbing the hill… It became impossible, it was too hot… It arrived a little desperate, and over heated… We settled it down, it was crying for its mother all the time, an incredibly loud squeak, … then it started getting fits, and falling to the ground, on its side.. too sad, and it wouldn’t eat at all… But this morning it is fine, and hungry.. In the after noon I walked back down back to Elkanto, with it in my arms, and kept it out of the sun, and kept it cool… Shes eaten well today… and we ALL want it to live… Shes soooo beautiful.. I am off on safari tomorrow, it breaks my heart to leave her, but I will leave her in good hands…
The radio is up and working brilliantly, each scout is asking whats going on, I can hear you so well!! .. This is exactly what we need… Our scouts are scattered over a big distance , and reception, up to now has not been the best… Good job done… Worth the climb after all… Not to mention the view of all views from the top, I slept on a rock, with my little black dog by my side… In fact I didn’t sleep, it would have been a waste of a beautiful night… plus ‘Ndoto’ was worried about the leopard!!
successful awareness campaign around the northern mountains…return the traditional conservation ways…
Before I start!… News on the cheetah cub is good, getting better… very playful…no more fits!!
This is written by the manager of the Milgis Trust… I like his traditional way of thinking… it may be quite long… but its interesting!!
Lately there has been a real increase in elephant’s movement to the north. For the first time in almost 30 years elephants visited Mpatpat area in the northern side of the Ndoto mountains, also keleswa to the west of the ndotos and are now permanently in Seren, Kasipo and Ura areas of the ndotos. A single elephant track was seen in the aparen area in the desert. He, the elders in the area said followed an old elephant route. This elephant could be a surveyor and could soon be leading others to this area. The north is now a strategically important region for the elephants as with the human population pressure and many fences being erected throughout Laikipia, the Elephants are beginning to feel safe in the north and are starting to “spread their wings”
It is because of this situation that our focus is on the north and a team of 9 scouts and the manager went for a 5 days awareness creation in the Ldonyo Mara area. The awareness involved community meetings, video shows and slides shows. The team conducted awareness in Tunguu, Arge, Kurungu, and Gorle and many informal stop overs in Keleswa, South Horr, Ngilai and Barsaloi.
All meetings started with a short traditional blessing, recited by one of the elders. The manager then introduced the Milgis team and the purpose of the meetings and started by telling the communities about the work Milgis Trust does, explaining why the conservation work is so important, and the communities that are trying will benefit from education, medical and water projects… The manager stressed that all these benefits are coming to the community because of wild animals. He then invited each of the scouts to talk about the animal he is named after. The approach is to talk about the animal, what it is like, and its importance in the Samburu community and its role in natural environment.
Elephants. Samburu.. Ltome . scouts name…Lentukunye.
He mentioned that elephants are the biggest land mammal. They can be friendly and will co-exist with human beings if not disturbed. He said they used to be almost everywhere within Samburu but were killed for ivory by the shiftas and the Lkishili generation of the Samburu, elders concurred on this and even pointed at places where some elephants were killed just near some of the meeting venues. He pointed out how important it is now to “welcome” them back in these areas.. They are under pressure in the south and they are starting to look for places where they can be safe, probing old routes and our predictions are that very soon they will be here in ldonyo mara, and Mt Nyiru.. We are here to announce their return so that you are prepared for them. He cautioned them that when the elephants return, please do not shout or shoot at them this makes them wild.. We have had reports from Ura that elephants are destroying trees. Of course they are a big animal and need food so they will break trees… thats their food…, but if they are not scared they do less damage…
Importance to the community; the manger asked the community what they know as the importance of elephants to their culture and the following were mentioned.
- When a Samburu marries the first fire is lite using elephant dung.
- Some families can not conduct circumcision ceremonies without a piece ofivory
- Elephants are useful in opening up routes in bushy areas
- Creation of water pans
- Seeds dispersal….
The lion is the king!! Please respect him!!…. Although we know the lion kills our livestock we need to take care of them, we must conserve wild animals so that the lion can find food in the bush. If you take your livestock into the bush, and you see predator tracks, or the birds warn you, then you are the one that needs to take precaution.. We need to avoid giving our livestock to very young children to look after, and at night we need to make proper fences around our homes to prevent them from getting in.
There used to be many lions in the old days but now there is serious reduction due to introduction of poisons, said an elder; though we use to kill lions with spears the impact was not as serious as the use of poison. We should stop using poison and report any person who uses it.
Importance to the community; one elder said though the lion is a killer to our livestock it is very important in our culture as follows
- No ritual can be conducted without a lion’s skin, be it marriage, or circumcision.
- If lions were not there wild animals would be too many and we would not get enough grass for our livestock.
Wild pig ,Lguiya…..Letura
The wild pig is similar to the warthog but according to the Samburu it is blessed, because of its colouring. This animal did not exist in many places but has been on the increase in the recent years and is now found in many places. There is no serious threat to him as the Samburu do not eat its meat. However destroying its habitat is a problem for any wild animal..
Importance to the community;
- The wild pig skin is used to make colours for cow’s bells.
- Its teeth are used as totems for certain families.
Grevys Zebra…Loibor kurum..Lenegwesi
This is one of the most endangered animals. Though the Samburu do not eat it’s meat loss or competition for essential resource is causing the deaths. This wild ass is endemic to the northern part of the country and the Samburu should be happy and feel lucky to have them within their area. The elders pointed out that they still have a lot of the grevys in the desert but they said the problem is water shortage.
Importance to the community;
- Early warning system. When the nomads do not see grevys where they are usually found they know something is not normal, either enemies or predators are there.
- Zebra hide is used as medicine for a certain cow disease caused by rats.
Gerenuk, Riko …..Lemagas
This is also a rare species. He asked how many people have never seen a gerenuk, the response was that all have seen but immediately said nowadays not so often. They said after the recruitment of a scout in the area there has been an increase and two months ago they came to feed on acacia pods near the villages. He said when he was young the elders use to say a prayer to NGAI that the herders, and travellers would stumble over an animal that has been killed by a predators. He says these days this is rare, and we must reverse this… He told them that should the gerenuk be extinct predators will be coming after the livestock.
- It is believed that if you keep a gerenuk with your goats you will become very wealthy.
The manager talked on general conservation in the area and asked the community to be serious on conservation as they are very lucky, they still have what the rest of the world does not have. They need to take conservation very seriously because the human population is increasing and very soon there will be no enough space to keep livestock in large numbers. He asked them to revert to their culture which was very rich in conservation education. Traditionally the Samburu have systems that ensure ecosystem balance. The Samburu have put in place taboos that prohibit the killing or eating of meat from certain wild animals and even cutting of certain trees. The elders in the meeting gave the following feed back on these taboos
Traditional conservation mechanisms of the Samburu
The Samburu community prohibits the killing and eating of meat from the following animals;
- All grey looking animals, donkeys, lesser kudu, wild pigs, elephants, rhinos, dikdik, hare, klipspringer, female ostrich
- All black animals and birds, male ostrich, wild dogs, crows,
- All gazelles with black patches on the sides, Thomson gazelles,
- It is a taboo for grown ups to kill a young animal that is still dependant on the parents or to kill a lactating animal. Usually young boys are allowed to kill them because it is known that they rarely succeed.
The manager cautioned that this culture is slowly eroding and is part of the cause for the disappearance of wild animals in the area.
He then browsed through the following areas which he said will be part of the video and slides shows.
Erosion…… Pastoralists are entirely dependant on the environment for survival. The livestock that they depend on for food entirely depend on the environment. Conserving the environment for the pastoralists is conserving their life. Destroying the vegetation is the major cause of soil erosion. Vegetation is destroyed in the following ways
- Over grazing…keeping too many livestock
- Careless cutting of trees— for fencing, for fodder
- Forest fires
- Human settlement-clearing land for farming.
Traditionally it is a taboo to completely cut or fell a tree, “in the old days if by mistake one cuts all branches of a tree a goat is slaughtered and fat is poured round that tree trunk”, said an elder. This culture is disappearing as sights of huge trees cut down are all over. It is important that we encourage these positive cultural practises. The main reason given for the destruction of the environment is livestock survival, the manager urged the community to start thinking of keep fewer livestock that have better value in terms of milk production and meat so that they can fetch better returns. He showed the community clips showing the effects of soil erosion in many parts of the district and warned that if they don’t take care their area will soon be affected too.
Fires…. The manager also talked about forest burning and the dangers that it causes to human survival. He gave examples of many places that used to have flowing rivers and now among the driest areas in the district. The elders gave further places and one elder of the Nkimaniki age group said when they were youths, about 1950s there was plenty of water everywhere unlike this days. The manager stressed that the main cause of water shortage is destruction of the catchments areas in the mountains especially by fires. He showed clips of fires destruction in the milgis lugga.
Human wildlife conflict……. In many incidents conflicts with predators is caused by human negligence or carelessness. Some of the circumstances that can lead to conflict are as follows;
- Poor/improper fencing
- Not taking precautions with livestock in dangerous places
- Using young children to look after livestock
- Leaving livestock to stray.
We desire to see a community that grazes their livestock with the wildlife together. In this way the community will start to benefit from both the livestock and the wildlife. The moment we start benefiting from wildlife then we will start to love them.
Conclusion…. The general feeling of the community was very positive and awareness on conservation is low but with very high expectations on immediate benefits of conservation. The leaders in the area were positive and already involved in the conservation effort through Lonjorin conservation group, which is in the early stages of forming a conservancy.
Our patrol trip to the sitan area of the desert was very good and there were many tracks of gazelles and grevy zebra in the lower muran area. This area needs another trip in the future especially Lonjorin area.