Just back!

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Feb 14th, 2004, 03:55 PM
  #1
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Just back!

Just returned last night from another wonderful three week trip to Kenya and thought I would share some of it with you.

Flew from Boston January 25th. Arrived in Amsterdam the 26th and flew out three hours later. We had the new Boing 777 and the crew had never flown one before so we were late taking off until they familiarized themselves with it (caused a little nervousness on my part!). However, everything went well and we landed about an hour late in Nairobi. Stayed at the Mayfair - now called simply Holiday Inn. This was a new hotel for me and I found it to be very comfortable.

The next morning I was off to see my 13 orphaned elephants at Daphne Sheldricks. They are all doing well and growing very fast. They have a new baby rhino named Shida who is also doing fantastically. The newest baby is a very young orphaned elephant from Botswana, originally sent to South Africa. He was flown to Daphne Sheldrick December 23rd (what a nice Christmas present huh?). I was told that even as this baby was being put on the plane someone was offering $150,000.00 for him (probably to resell him for double that). The south African countries don't have a good track record for wildlife conservation (if it doesn't make money for them it is not worth keeping). To honor the right thing being done they have renamed the baby Madiba (Nelson Mandela's nickname). It is wonderful to know that in about 10 years this baby will be living free with other wild elephant herds.

The next day I flew Air Kenya from Wilson to Amboseli and spent the next seven nights there at Ol Tukai (which you all know I love). They had recent rain at Amboseli so many of the gnus were gone (sorry Liz), few buffalo, few zebra but lots of my elephants so I was very content. Also saw several lion families with cubs up close.

My first four days there Kilimanjaro was in her glory with no clouds, picture clear. It was gorgeous and hopfully my photos will turn out well. However, we did get rain the last couple of evenings, the first rain I had seen in Africa and unusual for January and February.

I was saddened to learn that three elephants had recently been speared by the Maasai. On a Saturday game drive we were watching 300 - 400 elephants come out of the swamp and head toward Kilimanjaro when we suddenly realized something was very wrong. All the elephants had gone toward Kilimanjaro except for one female with a baby less than a month old. We knew the baby was in trouble and the older female kept running away from it and then toward it trying to make the baby keep up with the herd. It was impossible - the baby was just so weak. We tried getting the researchers to rescue it, but they were off visiting family for Sunday. Later in the day Cynthia Moss came and looked at my video of the events and knew which elephant family it belonged to and told me the baby's mother had been speared and it was the 11 year old sister trying to take care of it. Obviously the mother's milk had dried up when speared and the baby was starving. We tried all the next day to find the baby but never did. Then on my last game drive before I left we saw the mother of the above baby who had been speared in the trunk. She had been holding her trunk in the water to try to take the pain away. You could see the large spear wound and the trunk was grossly swollen. When she left the swamp she kept throwing dust on it to try to make it more comfortable (she was in obvious pain).

Later that day we saw another female speared in the right front leg and her baby was also dying from lack of milk. Apparently the spearing itself and the mental trauma just dries up the milk quickly. Thus I saw three of five animals that had been speared. It is truly saddening.

As you may know, for years the Maasai were nomadic cattle herders and always coexisted with all wildlife. However, about ten years ago they decided to give up their nomadic live styles and become farmers. They should have known that where they were planning to put their gardens was right in the middle of the elephant paths the animals have used for decades, always leaving the swamp to go to Kilimanjaro at night where there are trees to browse on. They put the gardens in anyway, and naturally the elephant approaches and thinks someone has put a nice salad there for them. The Maasai retaliate by spearing the animals, most of which will die.

It is a terrificly difficult situation with no easy answers. However, I have just written to Mr. Evans Mukolwe who is head of Kenya Wildlife Service begging that something be done immediately. Between Amboseli and Nairobi there are no elephants, so I asked if the Maasai couldn't be relocated to that area where their gardens wouldn't be eaten.

If these animals were dying due to lack of food then I think you need to keep hands off and let nature take its course. However, when injury is caused by man, I think man needs to intervene in some way to right the wrong. There are no easy solutions here, but I just hope something can be done.

I spent almost a week at Satao Camp in Tsavo East. Again, they had had rain just before I got there so I found no elephants at the borehole outside my tent. We did see a numbers of lions, buffalo and cheetahs. In fact on Tuesday while sitting on my veranda all the camp bushbuck and impala ran into camp about 3:30 snorting and I knew something was stalking them. On our game drive we drove back behind the camp and indeed saw a mother cheetah with two babies that had just killed one of the young impala. What gorgous animals they are. If my pictures turn out I'll post them on Ofoto for all to see.

Now here is the eerie part folks. As you may know, on my first safari they found a cobra in my bathroom. The next two trips I didn' see a snake anywhere. In October a green mamba slithered onto my veranda and was killed by the askari. On a game drive this time we saw a huge 15 foot black mamba in a dry river bed but I saw nothing in camp and was feeling quite smug that perhaps this time I would get away scot free of snakes in camp. I was in a different tent, and on my last morning after breakfast I was sitting on the veranda enjoying every second left to me at Satao. Sammy the tent steward was in and out of the tent cleaning when I heard thwack, thwack, thwack and I got out of my chair to see what he was going. Kind of sounded like he was beating a rug (any of you from my generation know how it used to be done). When I looked over the side of the veranda there was a black mamba he had just killed!! Now I have to figure out what it is about me that attracts these darn critters!!! Luckily all these events have turned out fine but I have told the men that instead of calling me Mama Tembo anymore they had best start calling me Mama Nyoka (for snake)!! We ended up with a few laughs after the fact.

The prediction now is that since rain has come in January and February perhaps there will be no long rains from late March to May. Only time will tell. However, in most places the grass is lush and green. Once the waterholes all over the parks and outside the parks start drying up the animals will return. It is beautiful though. I have never seen so many shades of green as I did at Amboseli (from all the different types of grasses). Truly gorgeous even from the scenery standpoint.

When I get my photos back later next week I will try to post them in Ofoto. Will let you all know what that is done.

It's good to be back home, and yet every time I leave Kenya I leave a little part of my heart there. Hopefully I'll be able to go back in August to renew my love for this wonderful country.

Jan
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Feb 15th, 2004, 02:49 AM
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Jan, I have always so enjoyed reading your reports.

But a portion of the report has been weighing heavy on my mind. I wanted to comment on the Maasai situation.

This is indeed a sad circumstance, and there is no easy answer. Those Maasai do not want to be there. They do not farm. It is a nomadic culture. Farming is foreign to them. No Maasai makes a *choice* to leave their heritage and start farming.

Typically the government gets half-heartedly involved and grants the land. The government or some NGO teaches the Maasai the basics of farming. Then the $ dries up after 3 or 4 years and the newly minted *farmers* are left on their own to figure it out. This is not an agrarian society, they are doomed to fail.

In addition, the Maasai do not want to eat vegetables. It is against their spiritual nature, as much as eating pork is against the spirituality of a Moslem or Jew. They believe that cows were given to them my God, and they must survive using the milk, meat, blood and dung for their needs. They believe eating vegetables and fish is wrong.

But one does what one has to survive. Do you think they enjoy buying beads in bulk from China to string necklaces to sell to the mzungu through the bus windows in Namanga? Or dressing up Disneyland style in their Maasai robes to be askaris for a safari lodge, only to go home after work, change into their western clothes ( which were the ones we gave to the Salvation Army 5 years ago) and hang out with their friends drinking Safari Lager at the neighborhood bar. Or having troops of tourists march through their bomas snapping pictures, basically being treated as zoo animals? But hey, its money, and that buys food.

Yes, it is a dying culture. If you cannot make it to Africa to see the Maasai, just visit a native Indian Reservation in the American southwest. You will get the sad, sad picture. I guess its either corral the animals, or the people. No one wins.

I have worked and lived with Maasai on and off for 6 years, so I guess I have seen a different side. Their sweet and childlike nature does not allow them to fight when government limits grazing land. They have no champion when drought and illness reduce cattle population. They are resigned to their fate. I just wanted to paint a picture most tourists driving to the safari camps are not aware of.
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Feb 15th, 2004, 04:23 AM
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Jan, I always look forward to your reports and this time was no different, despite the trajedies. I am glad you made it home all safe and sound. Yes, your photos will be readily viewed. Considering my fear of snakes, remind me not to travel with you! The only one you have not yet encountered is the puff adder!

Queenie: What about the Maasai Environmental Resource Coalition? It is to my understanding that it is a strong advocate for the Maasai. Are you familiar with it? If so, I would be interested (as I am sure others would be) in hearing your view.

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Feb 15th, 2004, 09:29 AM
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Jan
So good to see you back after another enjoyable trip.

Kavey
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Feb 18th, 2004, 06:45 AM
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Thanks for the great report! We too stayed at the Holiday Inn in Nairobi the very first night in Africa and were quite pleased with the accommodations.

So much of Kenya was brown and desperate for rain in November, I can't even imagine how amazing it must be to see everything green. Looking very forward to those photos. And I absolutely can't believe your luck(?) with snakes - I would have been scared out of my skin to keep finding snakes in my tent! A good lesson to everyone to check the ground before stepping out of bed in the morning.
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Feb 18th, 2004, 01:08 PM
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Thanks so much for all your replies. I just got my films back last night and will post some of them to Ofoto.com within the next few days.

Don't only check the floor/ground when getting out of bed but if you are in a tented camp with a bathroom with a makuti roof with a space between the wall and the roof, be sure to shine your torch around everything before going in during the night. Also, if you have left your bathroom window open during the day, double check the bathroom again. Also watch all the paths and grass you walk on. We are not in a "zoo" situation while in Africa and it is up to us to watch out for the animals and not vice versa.

I was lucky enough to walk out on the far side of the borehole to take pictures of the camp this time, but I had to take a ranger with a rifle with me in case the lions and cheetahs got too interested in an old lady!

While sitting on my veranda the last day in Tsavo I noticed all the camp impala and waterbucks running into camp in the afternoon (very unusual). I told our driver that I bet the lions or cheetahs were around and had scared the impalas. We drove around back of the camp on our game drive about 20 minutes later and sure enough, a beautiful mama cheetah and just killed one of the camp impalas for her babies and herself. Got some great photos of that which I'll post later.

Again thanks to all.

Jan
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Feb 18th, 2004, 05:24 PM
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Just loaded a few of my 25 rolls of film on Ofoto. If you are interested in viewing picture of January trip paste
http://www.ofoto.com/I.jsp?c=fy9zpit...l&x=1&y=s1dwlr
into your address bar. You will need to join Ofoto but it is free of charge.
Hope you find something to enjoy.

Jan
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Feb 19th, 2004, 04:34 AM
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sandi
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Jan -

The photos are absolutely wonderful. Of course, the Elles are my favorites and those tiny skiny babies oh so cute. One does hope they survive being so small.

And those pics with Kili in the background, well, what can I say - the only pic I have of Kili was taken from the air on our way to the Seychelles.

A favor, if time allows, and as posted on another thread, I'm still a 35mm film person and would love to upload onto ofoto; but somewhat dense in understanding the instructions. If you could explain, I'd be most appreciative. You can email direct at:

[email protected]

Thanks - and again, so glad you shared your photos.
 
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Feb 19th, 2004, 06:05 AM
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I'm also not that technical, but you cannot upload 35mm prints directly to Ofoto. You first need to convert them to a digital medium by scanning them.
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Feb 19th, 2004, 10:51 AM
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Asante sana, rafiki!
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Feb 19th, 2004, 01:36 PM
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sandi
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thit_cho -

Yes I do realize they have to be digitized (scanned) and I have done that, but the instructions on the ofoto site, for some reason, just had me puzzled. Since I don't have the site handy, not sure right now what it was, but felt if someone had done it from scanned pics, a "cheat-sheet" would be nice.
 
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Feb 19th, 2004, 02:17 PM
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Sandi:

The easiest way to do it is the next time you have film to be developed select the film and CD.

I did this, and then quickly went through my 27 rolls of film and picked out the photos I liked best, then checked off the same photo number on the accompanying Perfect Touch card showing all the pictures on that CD.

Then when you go to Ofoto you just need to create your album, pop your CD into the computer and select the number of the photos you wish to load. Then upload to Ofoto. Once you have done this you can share you album with anyone you wish.

I had never done this before until I did so after the September trip and found it to be relatively simple. I would hate to have to try it by scanning because it would take quite a while to do I think. I did all the photos in about two hours last evening.
Quite simple and easy!

Jan
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Feb 19th, 2004, 02:48 PM
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sandi
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Jan - thanks so much and simple enough. Will do with next rolls of film.
 
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Feb 20th, 2004, 12:21 AM
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Those are stunning Jan, thanks so much.... your pics are whipping me into a frenzy of anticipation for my own trip!

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