Walking with baboons, Ewaso Ngiro River, Shompole

africanlatitude wrote this at 14:38 :

I escaped the work at Loisiijo Lodge to visit Joel of the Ewaso Ngiro Baboon Project. The habituated baboons are upstream on the river only 7 km from Loisiijo Lodge.

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The project is run by Dr Shirley Strum. For decades she has been studying these fascinating primates and realized that one of the best ways to protect them was to make people understand them better. Even better she realised the potential for the baboons to generate revenue to the local community.
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Dr Strum website

This is exactly what is happening on the banks of the Ewaso Ngiro, Shompole. Every day Joel goes out to study a troop close to the research centre. To join him on one of these walks is a great experience.

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Starting at 6.30 am, or even earlier, you walk along the river to find their sleeping tree. The baboons we are going to see have quite a small home range, about two kilometres of river bank and vegetation, adjacent to the research center. Joel knows exactly where they have spent the previous night.

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When I was there it was desperately dry, the only highly nutritious food at the time were figs. We spent a while watching them feed in these amazing fig trees. The ripened figs were a timely offering, only a week before foraging was even harder for the baboons and some of the bigger bolder males were snatching young goats from the herds drinking at the river!
This act of desperation could mean death to these baboons as the Masai are extremely accurate with their spears and rungus……

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The baboon walk is not only about baboons but is also a fantastic nature walk. We saw many interesting things at close range including nightjars and yellow winged bats sleeping in the bushes, and Joel knows very well the trees and vegetation. Thanks Joel!

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Desperate drought

africanlatitude wrote this at 13:36 :

It cannot get much drier…. even tough survivors like zebras are dying, sadly I saw a few dead ones on my way to Loisiijo yesterday. Cows have been dying by the hundreds and times are really tough for everyone.

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On the 15th October I joined the Shompole leaders to make some food distribution, the food was sponsored by generous American well wishers.

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60 x 90kg bags of maize and beans, plus numerous containers of cooking oil had been brought to Oloika village.

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Smiles were on everyone’s face, but what is really needed is rain to ease the suffering.

Phase 5 - The Last Leg

africanlatitude wrote this at 12:13 :

Back to work again… our gang of workers made it’s way back to Shompole Group Ranch on the 24th of August.

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Having left Loisijo abandoned for several months allowed the previous occupants to settle back in again.

The leopard is back, and visits the area near the top bungalow.
The Verreaux Eagle Owl has taken position in the largest fig tree and prefers the branch which overhangs the river.
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The porcupine visits every night, and if you don’t catch a glimpse of him in the torchlight, then you can certainly hear him shuffling around in the dry leaves.
The baboons no longer make a detour of the camp on their daily passage up the river.

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The spotted hyena has extended its territory right through camp to the river, last night it decided to try taking a bite on one of Yusuf’s nice new cool boxes….
And the genet has three babies, one fell in the kitchen sink last night to be rescued by Kipen. (lucky there was no water)
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The ACC ( The African Conservation Centre - www.conservationafrica.org/ ) is still very supportive of the project and donated an extra million shillings to finish the building work off. Of course that is not going to complete the lodge, as we still have to supply all the solar electricity and water pumps, build staff quarters, finish the bungalow number 4 etc…. etc… but we will certainly keep trying…..

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And that’s not taking into consideration the rope bridge which will be needed when the rains come back….the upgrading of the water tanks, digging a well, planting grass etc…..

Marketing in Berlin - ITB

africanlatitude wrote this at 14:49 :

Well it’s one thing to build a community lodge, but we do need to do some marketing, so off we go, Robyn, John Kamanga (from the Olkirimatian Group Ranch) and myself to Berlin ITB.

ITB 2009 was a first time experience for John. It included riding a bicycle that powered a computer,

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climbing a wall and seeing a huge shiny Mack truck.

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For us who had been to travel shows before, the difference was being with other people from all over the world instead of being located in a pavilion dedicated to your own country. We shared views and contacts with people committed to sustainable tourism and those wanting to learn about it. And not just from within the tourism industry but from various NGO’s & others working in this field.

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We discovered a few programs which could certainly help the Shompole and OlKiramatian communities to improve their tourism & conservation projects. As well we gave some lectures on our projects and participated in various discussion groups with others from the UN, GTZ etc.

The end of phase 4

Michel wrote this at 21:27 :

We have now reached a point where Loisiijo could be operational. The 3 river frontage bungalows are now complete, as well as the dining area and the Kitchen. Finition and furnishing will be the main goal for phase 5.

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Our roof specialists are posing in front of their finished work:

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The top bungalow needs a lot more work, but it will have to wait for Phase 5.

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