January 28, 2015
Conservationists and scientists have held talks in Kenya this week to come up with a last-ditch plan to save the northern white rhinoceros from extinction.
There are only five northern whites left on the planet: three live in a 700-acre enclosure on the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in central Kenya, where the emergency meeting was held on Tuesday, while the other two are kept in zoos in the Czech Republic and the US.
"The battle is to work out what is feasible scientifically in the short time still available to us," Richard Vigne, Ol Pejeta's chief executive, told AFP.
Northern white rhinos have suffered from the loss of their traditional rangelands in Central African Republic, Chad, north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, nations that have been hit by decades of chronic conflict, lawlessness and misrule that made conservation impossible.
Poachers have also taken their toll, killing the animals for their horn — long prized for making ceremonial dagger handles in Yemen and, more recently, to be ground into a powder for medicine in Asia.
Rhino horn is worth more than $65,000 per kilo on the black market, more than gold or wholesale cocaine.
The remaining northern white rhinos are all elderly or incapable of natural reproduction, so artificial methods are now the only hope.
The best chance is the creation of a "test tube rhino" by in-vitro fertilisation.
The embryo could then be implanted in the womb of a surrogate southern white rhino, a closely related rhinoceros subspecies that is less endangered.
Past attempts at artificial insemination of northern white rhinos, carried out at the Dvur Kralove Zoo in Czech Republic, failed, and surrogacy is untested.
Stores of frozen sperm and eggs could be used to revive the animal artificially, but neither method will provide an immediate solution meaning the northern white rhino will likely disappear, at least for a while.
"The science is just not there yet," Vigne said.
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Walking and game reports.
Month: February 2007
Weather and grasslands:
A little improvement in weather this month with warmer days averaging 30ºC and cool mornings averaging 16ºC. Generally speaking less and more localised rain with a few scattered showers earlier and then much later on in the month, although the 13th we had 47mm and on 24th we had 32mm these were the two days of heavy rain with hail. The total rainfall for the month is 172.5 mm with some areas being still quite wet and slippery with regards to the game drives. The grassland plains in the reserve are still green and with many grass varieties now seeding. Good numbers of ungulates are still favouring the shorter grass areas on the higher ground where soils are better drained. The conservation areas of Koiyaki, Talek and Lemek are good places to see many plains game species.
An apology to a typographical error for January, January's rainfall was 195mm and not 95mm as was stated in the last game report.
Defassa Waterbuck: Small breeding herds with calves averaging 5-10 months old and a good sized satellite herd of bachelor males can be seen on west side of the Marsh close to the junction to IL Moran Camp.
Impala: Numerous breeding herds and bachelors herds can be found through out the woodlands and conservation areas. With the good rainfall there is good grazing for Impala and others a like. Close to the camp entrances are good places to see these graceful animals.
Olive Baboons. Large troops numbers with more young infants being seen born this month. They spend most of their foraging time on the ground are terrestrial in their habits, as various trees and shrubs start to fruit Baboons are often the first to sample what's going, the African Greenheart (Warburgia Ugandensis) has started fruiting so good numbers of Baboons can be seen close to the camps and sometimes in the camps.
Eland in small herds with calves averaging up to 7 months of age can been seen in the Mara reserve on the open grasslands plains of Paradise and Topi plains. East of Musiara towards the conservation areas are also good places to see them. Some large males are also present and close by to these breeding herds.
Cokes Hartebeest. Small herd sizes with 2-3 month old calves will be seen in the more open grassland plains of Rhino Ridge and Topi plains, the conservation areas are also good places to see them. A few animals can be seen in the Musiara marsh area.
Topi will generally be found on grassland plains or flats where there is palatable grazing with a good leaf basis. West side of Rhino Ridge, Paradise the Topi plains and in the conservation areas of Koiyaki are good places to see them. They like the Hartebeest have their calves in Late October-December so many calves are 3-5 months old now. A few will be found and seen in the Musiara marsh.
Thomson and Grants Gazelle are more readily seen on the open short grass plains and ideal places are the grassland plains in the conservation areas where grasslands have been kept down by livestock competition.
Elephant: Small herds are seen daily within the woodlands and a few bulls that are in 'Musth' can bee seen and smelt as they follow the breeding herds. Many young calves are about with a few being seen born in January. The African greenheart tree is fruiting so Elephant favouring this fruit like the Baboons will frequent areas with good stands of these trees.
Warthog: Are still being seen despite the long grass and their young piglets, which are 4-5 months old. Many females are being seen with one or two piglets and many of these piglets and including adults are being preyed upon by Lion particularly in the Bila Shaka and Musiara grassland plains areas.
Giraffe: sightings of them close to the camps are not uncommon, also in the Acacia woodlands of the conservation areas.
Cape Buffalo: A large breeding herd for the Mara of an estimated 250 animals has been frequenting the Bila Shaka and Rhino ridge areas.
Spotted Hyena: Spotted Hyenas can be seen in larger numbers in the conservation areas of the group ranches, although in the reserve there may not be as many, reasonable numbers can still be seen with a few dens that are visited regularly. They compete strongly with Lion as what animals that are available both will prey upon. Lion have the upper edge in that they will succumb and prey on much larger species i.e. Hippo and Elephant calves. It is not uncommon here in the Mara/Serengeti ecosystem so see Lion evidently run down and eliminate the competitor.
Side stripped Jackal: A pair has been seen on the Musiara plains to the east. These Jackals are larger than their cousins the Black backed Jackal and tend to be seen on their own or as in pairs; they will prey and forage on smaller mammals, rodents and insects etc.
With the current rainfall and high grass levels some plains game species have dispersed out on to the shorter grassland plains and consequently some of the cats have been a little difficult to see.
The Bila Shaka pride of one pride male, four breeding females, four 23 month-old male cubs, 1 male and 3 female 20 month old cubs and one 3 month old cub. The Single female with her one male and one female eight-month-old cubs are with the Bila Shaka pride and seem to be accepted into this pride, interestingly the eight sub adult cubs are the progeny of the present pride male's brother who was killed in August 2005 by three nomadic males that came in from the Rhino Ridge area, this kind of action is known as 'natural selection'. The single female's two cubs are the progeny of the present male and he seems to have accepted them very well and has been seen feeding with them, this is termed 'altruism' They are being seen latterly in the Acacia woodlands of the conservation area of Koiyaki which lies to the east side of the Musiara plains. They have been seen feeding off Warthog and Topi.
The Paradise pride of three males, five breeding females, three sub-adults, six 15 month old cubs, four 11 month old cubs, one 9 month old cub and two 5 month old cubs. This pride now being seen nearly daily in the Paradise and Rhino Ridge areas. The pride tends to splits up with the scarcity of prey value and often females with a few cubs will be seen at any one time. Recently 5 females and the 11 cubs have been seen. They have been seen feeding off Topi and Buffalo.
Seldom seen this month the maternity/ridge pride of 27 members; including two males, eight breeding females, eleven sub adults and six cubs of which four are estimated at 13 months old and one of the lionesses with three cubs estimated at nine months old. These lion are apparently still in the OL Kiombo region of the double crossing.
More often seen this month the Rhino ridge pride of two breeding females, two males and three 16-month-old cubs that are seen within the eastern Rhino ridge plains and the southern side plains of Bila Shaka. This lion pride again tends to split up when prey becomes scarce. On the 21st and 23rd two females and a male were seen near Topi plains.
News Flash: One female of the Rhino Ridge pride had three cubs earlier on this month but two were killed on the 21st by a herd of Buffalo who had run through.
Seen more often this month the Single Gorge/Acacia pride of 5 breeding females, three 7-month-old cubs and two males. Due to the good rain and general game dispersal they are more often seen in the Koiyaki conservancy. They have been seen more recently in the top end of the double gorge and on the 'fly over' plains in Koiyaki.
Sightings of Cheetah in the reserve have much improved, although with the long grass sightings of cheetah have been more frequent. A few of the lion prides have split up and moved out and this may be the reason for more recent Cheetah sightings.
Honey: Unfortunately is no longer with her three 10-month-old male cubs. She died on the 17th on the plains below Kichwa Tembo Camp.
A young female has been seen north of the marsh and into the Koiyaki conservation area, she has been seen feeding off Thomson Gazelles and their fawns.
The single male is reported being seen east of Bila Shaka and towards Rhino Ridge.
On the 21st, 22nd and 24th A honeymoon couple have been seen mating in the northeast side of the Musiara plains in the Koiyaki region.
§ Zawadi and her fourteen-month-old male cub have been seen again but not as frequent as last month, more cattle have apparently moved into the immediate area.
A single Female has been seen near IL Moran camp and the same cat again on the east side of the Marsh. She has been sighted a few times this month and driver guides are unsure if it is the female with the two eight-month-old cubs.
The Male at the paradise crossing points near the Serena pump has been seen again, on the 23rd he was seen with a Thomson gazelle kill.
Another Female has been seen more recently on the Paradise plains.
Walking in the Koiyaki Conservation Area.
Little walks in between the bouts of rain. The grass is long and many wet patches or small springs that have erupted have introduced wet feet. Despite the grass and wet conditions the weather has been good each time we went out. Elephant have been seen moving in and out of the conservation areas with a few males in 'Musth'. Spotted Hyenas are still active on the 'fly over' plains with Zebra and Topi being taken as prey. Certain species of Orb web spiders have come out with webs being intricately strung between branches of croton trees.
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