Tag Archives: Richard Bonham

Discovery – An Old Friend Returns

In the late 80’s there would be a buzz of excitement at Ol Donyo Wuas, the lodge that gave birth to Maasailand Preservation Trust, if we even just saw Elephant tracks, let alone an Elephant in flesh and blood! These infrequent occasions would invariably lead to a follow up, as we tried to find out who was passing through and to build an inventory of who was who.

At the top of our Elephant world ”who’s who” list was a fellow we called BOSS, easy to recognize by a deformed right ear and his assertive character. He was one of the first bulls to realize the area was safe and became a regular visitor. Then sometime in the mid 90’s, he appeared with a radio collar which caused even greater excitement and as there was only one person running around Kenya collaring Elephant, Ian Douglas Hamilton. I contacted Ian, who confirmed he was responsible and that he had named him Discovery, and said please keep an eye on him. So his new name stuck and the story continued.

We did keep an eye on him and he became very much my favorite, then in 2004 I saw him looking rather worn, wizened and old. His skin hanging off him like worn, creased pajamas and I thought he was on his way out. That was the last sighting of him and I wrote him off as dead, then a few days ago when he sauntered nonchalantly into the lodge water hole for a drink, scattering the 4 other bulls already there in all directions it was a happy surprise to see him and to know that he is still very much the boss.

Discovery - An Old Friend Returns

Over the years Discovery bought more bulls into the area, and today the sight of over 20 bulls, 3 of them with ivory over 100 pounds a side, is so common that its no longer a talking point. Its great to have this icon back and I cant help wondering where he has been all this time, probably not Amboseli, as I am sure our friends at the Amboseli Trust for Elephants would have picked him up on their highly efficient radar, so most likely Tsavo?

With the drought its been a tough time for Elephant everywhere and here in the Chyulus there is no exception. The drought has made the unfenced tomato and maize farms, in what used to be swamps, even more tantalizing and irresistible. As a knock-on effect we are seeing more an more elephants appearing with spear wounds caused by irate farmers, but more sinister we are regularly picking up carcasses of Elephant, with tusks removed. These are being directly targeted for their ivory and are not victims of human wildlife conflict. However having said that our Game Scouts, all 67 of them, are doing a great job and not many poachers get away with such attrocities. Their best recovery was 700 kgs of ivory, mostly from Tanzania, that was recovered in a road block in Mbirikani town. The challenge however is to not let the Elephant be killed in the first place, but with the rising price of ivory, changing hands here at up to 600/- a kilo, its almost an impossible task.

Also on this depressing note the bush meat trade seems to be escalating, previously if our scouts made 100 prosecutions a year they were considered to be doing well, but this year as I write we have hit over 700 prosecutions. ……so the war is on, and in the meantime we are doing our best to keep the likes of Discovery roaming free and to see his reappearance is a reward in itself.

Richard Bonham
Chairman

Thanking Our Game Scouts

It was 7 in the evening when all Mbirikani Community Game Scouts (MCGS) gathered together for the annual party to celebrate what has been achieved for the last one year.

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In the presence of the MPT Chairman, Richard Bonham; Mbirikani Group Ranch Chairman, Joshua Kilitia and the senior members of the Group Ranch Commitee and Maasailand Preservation Trust staffs awards were given for achievements in 2009. As well as being a time to award prizes this was also a time for MCGS to interact and relax in a comfortable environment, rather than the bush camps they are used to.

Sergent Sakimba and his team were awarded Best Team for arresting 133 suspect poachers; cattle and property thieves. Beating the second highest team by 28 arrests. The team was presented with the trophy and a cash reward of KES20,000.

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Other prizes were awarded to the rest of the teams including Kiteko team, who was awarded a male goat for being the second highest scoring team. Another joint team of MCGS were given a prize for their work in arresting two poachers with 570kg of ivory in the month of May.

After the award Project Manager, Fred Njagi, started the speeches. He made special thanks to the teams for achieving so much in this year, despite facing some many problems and challenges in their opperations. The drought plus not being able to pay for much needed new cars has made their job hard. Concluding his speech he recommended Wilson Manja as team leader for the upcoming transboundary operation. This operation is to work on a very crucial wildlife corridor that connects Amboseli NP in Kenya and Kilimanjaro & Arusha NPs in Tanzania.

If you can help us by sponsoring a MCGS we will be able to continue to do this work. It costs USD150 to keep one member in an operation for one month. Please donate what you can.

Steven Melubo
MPT Staff

Kenya Drought Update – MPT Game Scouts Help Elephants & Fight Bush Fires

We will continue to post our introductory blogs over the next few weeks but we also want to keep you updated on the latest news from MPT. Here is a little update for you on how the drought is affecting us here:

As you will have heard from blogs such as the recent one by our neighbours the Lion Guardians, Kenya is currently in the depths of the worst drought it has seen in several decades if not longer. Here in the Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystem the last two rains have completely failed and the pressure this has put on the ecosystem is taking its toll on both wildlife and people. Below is a recent aerial photograph of an elephant herd we were called into check on. A mother an calf were reported in a very poor condition and our Community Game Scouts responded. The calf was so weak that in the end the CGS had to help him to his feet. Thankfully this story ended well with the mother finding water at a near by watercourse and being able to produce enough milk. The next morning we flew in to check that they had made it back to their herd. But for evidence of just how bad this drought is just look how little grass there is!

Aerial Elephant Shot - Drought

Normally at this time of year there should be a good few inches of grass when all that is left is the completely dehydrated clumps you find. These unsurprisingly offer practically no sustenance for grazers, wild or domestic. Below is another aerial picture, this time of two Maasai herders and their shoats.

Aerial Maasai Herd - Drought

This lack of grazing has put an added pressure on the ecosystem had a marked increase on the mortality rates of many species. Most notable are the large grazers such as bufallo, zebra, eland and wildebeest whose carcassases are so numerous that we fear we are looking at a >50% mortality (death) rate in the hardest his species. Below is a picture of Warthog drinking from one of our waterholes, just look how dry the background is!

Cameratrap - Warthog at Waterhole

The drought has also made other threats such as bush fires a very worrying presense. There have been several of these recently and as part of our CGS duty they have been out fighting them. Below are some pictures of a recent fire fighting excercise.

GS at Fire

This time footprints were found at the sight of the start of the fire.

Welcome To The Maasailand Preservation Trust Blog

We would like to start by welcoming all of you to our new blog and thanking all at WildlifeDirect for their assistance in setting this up. We hope that this fantastic website will get our story told and allow us to broadcast tales far and wide of the essential work we are doing to ensure an ecologically healthy future for Kenya