Saturday, August 26, 2017

Great primate safari in Uganda

We just returned from a great primate trip to Uganda. our trip took us to some of the key places of interest as below, with the highlight being a great experience watching and photographing the big apes. We started our trip in Entebbe then Kibale forest, Queen Elizabeth, then Bwindi forest. Although our main goal was the big apes, we also enjoyed general game as well as the people we met or interacted along the way. Below is a short info about the places we went. I have also attached some photos of the big apes from the trip

Kibale Forest
Kibale National Park contains one of the loveliest and most varied tracts of tropical forest in Uganda. Forest cover, interspersed with patches of grassland and swamp, dominates the northern and central parts of the park on an elevated plateau.
The park is home to a total of 70 mammal species, most famously 13 species of primate including the chimpanzee.

Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary
Rich in biodiversity and beautiful scenery, the wetland is a birder’s paradise with about 138 species. Located outside the park in Magombe Swamp it also hosts eight species of primates including the black-and-white colobus, grey-cheeked mangabey, red-tailed, l’Hoest’s and blue monkeys, and olive baboons. Bushbucks and mongooses can also be found here. The sanctuary was set up to preserve the exclusive environmental features along with the wetland and is managed by the local community.

The Kazinga channel
The Kazinga Channel is an oasis for many of the fascinating species that inhabit the park, and taking a boat tour along it gives visitors the chance to cruise just meters from hundreds of enormous hippos and buffalos while elephants linger on the shoreline.
An average of 60 bird species can be spotted during the trip.

Bwindi Impenetrable forest

This is the home of the gorillas. The park is inhabited by a population of about 340 individuals of Mountain Gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei), commonly referred to as the Bwindi population, which makes up almost half of all the mountain gorillas remaining in the world. The rest of the worldwide mountain gorilla population is in the nearby Virunga Mountains which is shared by Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo. The major threat to these mountain gorillas is poaching, habitat loss and disease, however, since 1997; there has been a gradual increase in the mountain gorilla population in Bwindi. Your visit here is incomplete until you partake in community tour, which is an experience that gives you an insight into real Uganda life.

Below are photographic highlights from the trip

Monday, August 7, 2017

Early August Migration Update

The wildebeest migration continues to thrill Mara visitors. There are a lot of activities accompanying this annual event. For the past week the herds of wildebeest and zebra continued in their traditional migratory routes in the Mara. The herds which have been crossing the Mara river near the lower Mara bridge are now massed up on the Mara triangle. More herds have kept crossing over from Serengeti into the Mara triangle, and most of these are on Lerai wedge and along the Sand River on the eastern side. Some have spread out on the central and Burrungat plains though in small isolated herds.

The animals continued crossing near the lower Mara bridge onto the Mara triangle in the past week, though in reduced numbers. At the moment, there were many wildebeest and zebra crossing at the paradise point. There has been a lot of action at this point for the past few days. The water level is still low though a bit higher than the past month.

The crocodiles at the Mara river have never ceased taking the opportunity. There were many animals taken by crocodiles during the crossings, you often see crocodiles in a feeding frenzy on dead wildebeest carcass. With many animals on the Mara triangle now moving north, we expect heavy easterly crossing at different points on the Mara river over the coming weeks. 
If you were timing your visit to see this, now this is the time.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Early July Wildebeests Migration Update

The concentration of wildebeests in the Mara has gone up even more since my first report last month. The Serengeti herds that came into the Mara have now started crossing the Mara river west into the Mara triangle. Many crossing have been witnessed over the past week.
The Loita herds have increased in number, and the Serengeti herds have doubled and are now beyond the main Keekorok/Mara bridge road and some are already on central plains. We thought the long grass in their way will keep them from moving fast across the plains, but that was wrong. the animals moved across the plains much faster and the concentration build up was also fast as the southern herds keep pushing north. The western front of the migration is north bound around Kogatende, and have been crossing the Mara river over the past week into Lemai Wedge. Should they keep the same pace as the eastern front, then they will be in the central Mara Triangle in a couple of weeks. However the concentration in southern Mara is already breath taking.
The Loita herds, besides increasing in number, has also pushed westwards across and are now at Topi plains and Olorukoti heading to paradise plains. A few crossings have been witnessed in the past few days. This has mainly consisted of zebras who were also the first to get this area as they lead the rest of the migratory herds. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

The migration starts in Masai Mara

The migration of wildebeests and zebras have now entered the Mara. This has been confirmed today after a fact finding mission round the entry points along the Mara and Serengeti border. Though this is still in its’ initial stages, every indication shows that the stage is set for the world’s most fascinating wildlife spectacle. A few herds of mainly zebras and wildebeest have crossed the border near sand river gate. They could be seen this morning taking their traditional route towards Roan hill, and some have already crossed the main road to the Mara river from Sekenani gate. Their movement however is slower because of the amount of grass in their way. Since April this year we have continued having intermittent rains which has made the plains covered in long green grass. we are still experiencing sporadic rain showers. The will for sure slow the migration movement north. Looking onto the Serengeti from the sand river, one can see isolated herds of zebra and wildebeest heading north though reluctantly. We anticipate that as the concentration builds up more will bush up north into the Mara.

Speaking to the northern Serengeti national park patrol unit and some of the guides,  they said the migrating herds have taken two wings one wing heading north from Ikoma area to the west and the eastern wing is the one now moving into the Mara. I will keep you updated no the progress of the migration.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Celebrating being the Eco-Warrior best guide of the year (2016) award

I am so glad to have been voted this year as the winner of the annual Eco-Warrior award as the guide of the year. The award recognizes sustainable tourism/conservation practices. I was voted for my role in the vultures research and conservation awareness in schools around the Mara on the plight of the vultures on the Mara-Serengeti Ecosystem. This has been alongside my busy schedule as a guide.

Since 1996, I have been involved in the study of the vultures in the Mara, looking at their breeding status and their general concentration. From 2003, i  teamed up with other researchers, Simon Thomset, Munir Virani (both from peregrine fund) and Corinne Kendall of Princeton University, so as to lift the level of research and data collection for scientific publication. We have published 2 papers so far;In 2008 October, the BBC natural history aired this project during the Big Cat Live program.
Some of the questions that we seek to answer are:
1  What factors drive the dynamics of the Mara vulture population?
2  Are any species declining?

3  What is their breeding status?
4  Do the resident species have a breeding season?
5  What are the threats affecting vultures in the Mara?

Populations of vultures in Africa have generally declined due to various threats such as poisoning, persecution, and lack of food and nesting habitats. At least three species of Gyps vultures in south Asia are listed as critically endangered by the IUCN's Red Data Book due to poisoning by the pharmaceutical drug diclofenac from contaminated livestock carcasses that have caused populations of these species to crash by as much as 95%. This was first highlighted inKenya in 2002.
Vultures in Africa, in particular in East Africa, face a threat from the effects of poisoning of terrestrial predators and possible effects of pharmaceutical poisoning through contaminated livestock carcasses. A catastrophic collapse of vultures in the Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem could have dire ecological and socio-economical consequences for the future of the Mara National Reserve. The Serengeti-Mara ecosystem is the main feeding, foraging and breeding grounds in East Africa for the vast majority of vultures in the region yet little has been done to study these dynamics in the Mara. 
The Serengeti-Mara complex is one of the most well studied ecosystems in Africa except for its birds of prey, six of which are regionally threatened. There is justified concern amongst the conservation community that rapidly changing land-uses threatens the future of this World Heritage Site. The status of vultures in general has been ignored as far as data on their distribution, abundance, threats, ecology and behaviour is concerned.
Vultures play a key ecological role in the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem by consuming large ungulate carcasses, therefore ridding the environment of potential disease causing organisms that could threaten the survival of other inter­dependent and co-existing species. They account for
nearly 70% of the consumption of large wild herbivores in the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem. Put in this perspective, the ecological role of the vulture community in the Serengeti/Mara is of greater importance than all the carnivores and mammalian scavengers combined. All too often, wildlife management policies have ignored vultures and concentrated their research and resources on the photogenic "Big Five", with little or no concern for what are certainly the most ecologically important animals, such as vultures. The catastrophic collapse of vulture populations in South Asia has raised the profile of these efficient avian scavengers. Mechanisms are already in place where research and monitoring of vultures can help in preventing a similar population crash inAfrica.