Category Archives: Milgis lugga

The ups and downs of CARNIVORE conservation??

As ‘we speak’ I’m listening to the VHF radio full of never ending talk between 3 teams of our scouts and KWS who are busy following a wounded Elephant, shot at by poachers 3 days ago in a valley on the southern slopes of the Ndotos, and he has dragged himself down into the lower Milgis, into very thick bush and they now can’t find him.. Hes lost alot of blood, and hes lieing down often.. SAD, SAD.. As every one keeps saying.. The Elephant situation is serious, and its frightening.. ITS A NEVER ENDING BATTLE.. We know who the people are, but unless you catch them ‘red handed’, they just get let out to do it again.. and thats exactly whats just happened..

DSC05389.JPG The lonely tracks of a mother and calf running from danger..

Any way, while that all goes on on one side I have been watching in dismay another saga unfolding again, with our most beautiful carnivores..

IMG_0254.JPG picture taken below Lkanto.. mum and her cubs!

The ups and downs of conservation, with reference to these magnificent animals… In Europe / America, they were called vermin and ALL shot 100 or even 200 years ago.. Thank goodness most of our African friends didn’t behave like that.. They lived with them and accepted and used them.. Not sure about the early Europeans in Kenya??.. You read any book and they killed lions /leopards every other day on their ranches!.. .. Sadly that attitude also spread up here in the second half of last century the cats, wild dogs, Hyenas actually all animals were killed discriminatingly, grrrrrr, the modern world catching up …… I do wonder if ever again wild animals in this world will beable ‘to live and let live’, I suppose we are breeding too quickly, for that dream and soon there will be no space left for animals except behind wire fences.. Believe me its happening in front of our eyes in Kenya.. BUT up here since we started the Milgis Trust we are delighted to say that we are seeing an incredible increase in carnivores.. (and no fences!) We all know what they do when theres no wild animals left to eat.. They go for the peoples livestock which is not popular, but I am always so surprised how accommodating the pastoral people are.. Thank you to them.. and they deserve to reap the benefits! If I have a chance they will and are actually!

IMG_0102 2.JPG Dikdik

IMG_0109 sererit.JPG a fabulous specimen of a bush pig..

The issue that I am watching is food for these big meat eaters, and the reason why theres a problem.. Remembering that we live in a very dry area, where there was never the plains game that other areas of Kenya have, plus the fact that almost every thing was killed by any one and every one.. There is a time when many people told me ‘to forget Northern Kenya its finished’!! Luckily I didn’t but this problem, is now ‘our’ problem, the ‘Milgis’ Problem!

Its as simple as this.. Carnivores have many young in one go and Herbivores have 1 at a time.. plus the Carnivores pop em out much more often than there ‘food’ does.. Just compare these Aprox. gestation periods in days of Lion -110, leopard – 100, Caracal – 80 compared to lets say Buffaloe – 340, Lesser kudu – 220, Warthog -170, the tiny little Dikdik – 170 , these figures are amazing.. Sooo how does one win, in getting the wildlife to rebuild itself when starting again! This is after what I once wrote.( the despicable blanket poaching in the 70s and 80s and into the 90s.. Every one, and I mean ‘everyone’ KWS included for some reason joined the awful ‘band wagon’ of poaching the wildlife in Northern Kenya, in fact almost wiping it out ) The wildlife is coming back slowly but surely, but just watching down below Lkanto, the carnivore proliferation far exceeds the Herbivore proliferation..We, not just me, but all my Samburu friends here at Lkanto, are so happy to see the carnivores, we sit on the rock where these warriors are sitting for hours!! Sadly because their own success they don’t have alot to eat, they must wake up each evening with a hard nights work ahead of them.. But they are surviving and they look fabulous in the night photos we are getting!!.. But this issue is a ‘double edged sword’ really.. and I try to appease the communities not to kill them, when they kill their livestock, but sometimes one feels is an up hill battle.. and I don’t blame them.. When somebody steels money out your bank account, of course one reacts with vengeance.. A leopard tried to kill one of our camels the other day, the camel eventually died, and it hurt.. But I tell them that if they hadn’t killed all the carnivores food so readily before, this would not be the situation.. AND by the way THEY AGREE.. Maybe this is a reason they are so accommodating.. When I take tourists out on safari if we are lucky to see any of the special five of the carnivores we actually double the camping fees that the community gets.. This certainly helps, but only wish there was a simple answer

DSC04973.JPG The warriors very happy to see this lion.. Its a very long time since we’ve seen one below Lkanto, but reports on the radio are on the increase, so something is working!! The Milgis Lugga was famous for its lions in the good old days, but one day we found the gov’t vet in the area dishing out poison to kill the cats, and hyenas.. This guy has stopped now, although sadly they still do it when theres a rabies outbreak..

DSC04965.JPG Much excitement down below lkanto when this lion casually wandered out of the bush and had a drink, and then lay down!!

DSC04984-001.JPG Heres her tracks while she was drinking..

REMEMBER A SAMBURU CEREMONY CAN NOT TAKE PLACE IF THERE IS NO LION SKIN TO TIE ON THEIR LEGS.. !!!

IMG_0146.JPG This splendid lesser kudu bull, has managed to survive several visits of the hunting dogs, this leopard and her two cubs, all the Hyenas and the lion so far, but sadly I think his days are numbered..

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DSC05022.JPG A few days later, 8 am we had this extraordinary show of 8 very excited spotted Hyenas, rushing in all directions making alot of noise.. We sent some scouts to check on what was up, and found that they had been hassling a lion! To put it in the Samburu thinking.. They were telling the lion ‘to hurry up and find some food for them’.. Here they are on there way home having caused there chaos.. In all my years out here and walking throughout, I think I’ve ever only come across spotted Hyena twice in the day time!

DSC05462.JPG Sadly another addition to our orphans, this one is from Lake Bogoria, but we were asked to bring it up in a sensible way and release it here.. She is absolutely beautiful! Her name is ‘Mbaso’, meaning lake..

Luckily there are plenty of these IMG_0549-001.JPG

IMG_0603.JPG and these! If the carnivores can catch them..

After that depressing story heres something to brighten your day up.. Lodermurts different range of hats through out the month of may!! The sun rising to the south on the first picture and out to the north in the last one!

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20.5.13 A hot day coming up??! DSC05011-001.JPG

27.5.13 DSC05027.JPG Lodermurt is the solid rock that we look at down the Milgis Valley.. Its 60 nautical miles away..

The Milgis is ‘breeding content’!

Not sure if the title makes sense, but have a look at what I mean.. Heres our Christmas family coming along well!!.. IMG_0013.JPG

Desert warthogs… Still 3 young ones looking pretty grown up now! I’m impressed as we have been plagued by hunting dogs!! Please note I use that word as far as the pigs, and other poor old creatures are concerned, that must live in complete fear when a group of these very highly dangerous hunters are around.. We are delighted with their very vocal presence..

Last night as I sat there under a crystal clear star studded sky on the top of Elkanto, BUT listening to the Parsaloi flood roaring down towards the Milgis.. We could hear it 15kms away, so a huge amount of rain up stream!! Very exciting!.. I was trying to think of a title for my next blog of ‘mums and babes’ all caught on the night cameras in the last month, below Elkanto…. Have a look at this little show !!!

IMG_0281.JPG Two little Caracal Kittens following mum… there were quite a few pictures of Caracals passing the camera so we can only hope that one of them is ours!!

Bush pigs…

IMG_0454-001.JPG Mum with 6 babes in tow..

Here they come..
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IMG_0036.JPG We have 100s of this scene, but unfortunately the camera was upside down, and too high!!.. none the less we have one picture of a beautiful hunting dog pup, and mum..

IMG_0001suiyan.JPG Keeping watch!..

IMG_0001porky and babe.JPG I absolutely adore this one of the Porcupine, rushing along.. He was going so fast there was not a chance of a second shot!!

Each scouts radio call sign is an animal, and they have to learn about there specific animal and teach the rest at scouts meetings!! My call sign is ‘Eyaiye’ Porcupine in the Maa language, so I have have a special affinity with these wonderful animals!! so if any one out their has more to tell about this creature please do!!

Just a few more pictures of the months catch!!

Threatening!! Hes telling the camera to watch out!.. Come abit closer and I’ll prick you!

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IMG_0154.JPG A beautiful portrait of a wild cat..

IMG_0093-001.JPG I reckon this has got to be a pretty fine specimen of a Desert Warthog!!

Stripy, standing high and beautiful IMG_0311-001.JPG

Finally Leo.. In pretty good shape I would say…

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After the rain all around, this is what we woke up to this morning! A lovely wet Milgis Lugga..

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This is what caused it!!DSC04775.JPG

Sarah’s endurance race for Elephants…

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Sarah… THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF OUR HEARTS!! Below is her letter to her friends and acquaintances.. We are ABSOLUTELY delighted that this is for our Elephants!! We wish Sarah all the very best, and we know shes going to beat all records because its for the best cause in the book!! GO>>>> SARAH!!!

Dear Friends,

I have long had this crazy dream of skiing Vasaloppet, so finally I registered to compete on February 25th . The Vasa race is an annual long distance (90km/56 miles) cross-country ski race between the village of Slen and Mora (imagine London to Brighton). It is the oldest, the longest, and the biggest (in terms of participants) cross-country ski race in the world. The race was inspired by Swedish King Gustav Vasa in 1520 when he was escaping the troops of Christian II (Christian the Tyrant).

I’m not sure I’m going to make it to the finish line, and even if I do, I sincerely doubt I’ll be able to match Pippa Middleton’s impressive time of 7hr 13mins despite my father wishing the contrary.. Out of the 15,800 racers only about 10% are women, I believe this is because it is ridiculously difficult – as you can see in this brilliant clip from last years race:Â Vasaloppet 2011 Aj AJ Oj OJ.mov

If you want to place a bet on me making it to the finish line then I would really love to be able to share this with a cause very close to my heart, The Milgis Trust and Elephant conservation. Please help me to lend a small contribution by donating to the paypal account for the The Milgis Trust

Milgis Trust website http://www.milgistrustkenya.com

The Milgis Trust is based in Northern Kenya and works to conserve the wildlife, habitat and pastoral ways of life in the remote and beautiful Milgis area, which covers 8,000 sq km around the Milgis River. It really is the most remarkable organisation. Managing on a small budget it does so much, supporting the community through health, education and clean water projects, and protecting the diverse but fragile Milgis eco-system, including fighting the escalating battle against wildlife poaching through its network of Milgis Trust scouts. It is working well but they can’t do it without the funds, so this very, very important, and they appreciate this so much!

£75 provides food provisions for the Milgis Trust primary school for one week, £100 pays for the essential wildlife scouts meeting, which happens every two months £220 pays wages for the Milgis Trust Medical Clinic nurse for one month £5,000 pays for an operation with a wildlife vet to dart and treat an elephant wounded by poachers.

Elephant conservation

The Elephants in Africa are being decimated once more after about 20 years of slight respite, and the saddest thing is that the world will realise this when it’s too late! The Milgis Trust is doing every thing possible to keep them safe. Working together with their local communities around the Milgis Lugga things are going pretty well, but they cannot rest one day because poachers are out there. They employ 30 scouts, who are uniformed and are in contact on the radio 24 hrs, their job it is to keep watch and deal with any threats to the Elephants (and of course all wildlife), and their habitat all the time. They also employ over 30 ‘ilkirimats’ the Samburu word for caretaker/informer who get half a wage but work closely with their respective scouts to keep watch. , xo Sarah

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This is the Elephant we call mammoth.. He is/was the gentlest coolest ‘Sangalai’ I’ve ever known.. He is/was huge.. I say this because he has a beautiful pair of tusks and he may not be with us any more.. We think that he must be a descendant of the famous Marsabit ‘Ahmed’ because of the shape of his tusks.. I think of him every day, and hope to ‘Ngai’ that he is still with us, and he will pitch up one day as he has done before.. Although we have not had any trouble since January last year, except in the Matthews of which we have our suspicions, there are no fences or barriers and he may have wondered off into an area where the poaching is rife.. [ this wonderfully eerie picture was taken in August 2011 on the night camera.. He visited our camp while out on safari..] .. His absence/silence is killing me!… But we are always positive, and I think he will pitch up on the 25th of February!! .. We have a warrior who wants to devote his life to the safety of this Elephant and all the Sangalais, and some of the money that Sarah raises will go to wards his wages..

DSC02060.JPG ‘Rogero’ as he is fondly known by the Samburu.. [ Its actually Mammoths real name ], would be a very happy man if he did pitch up..

This below is what I wrote to Sarah when she told she was going to do the longest, hardest endurance Skiing race in the World for the Elephants!!

Sarah, You are an absolute star and I am and our special friends the Elephants will be eternally grateful for any bit of help.. THANK YOU SO SO MUCH!! We will be thinking of you, and sending serious vibes over the airways, from the Elephants as well!, for you to beat Pippa’s record, as we also believe you will do it!!

You might think I am joking, but Elephants are not fools!! two times that i know of where they have really proved that they do know whats going on!..

Pete did a walk for them, 65 kms in October 2011, its on my 3 blogs written in Oct 2011… Petes mega walk in 1 day for the elephants and lions… Wow!! you are all stars, and the last one… the Elephant whisperer made it!.. please try to look up the last one especially how the 3 Elephants waited for Pete to arrive, and they greeted him!!

Also theres this incredible story in South Africa of a man who rescued a group of Elephants that were going to be shot, and many years later he died, and the Elephants arrived at his home to pay their last respects.. If I can find the story I will send you the link!.. He wrote a book called ‘The Elephant whisperer’.. its really lovely!!

Keep up the spirit Sarah, WE ARE WITH YOU ALL THE WAY!! All the best Helen

SARAH.. GOOD LUCK!!!!!

Happy Days to all our Milgis Friends!!

AND SO MANY THANKS TO ALL OUR SUPPORTERS…

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Full moon in the Milgis… The planet below the lower cloud is Jupiter!

Well our good news is that all our dams are full!, after a wonderful after thought of ‘Ngai’, who sent an unbelievably perfect day of rain to Samburuland, 4 days ago and filled all their Dams!! What a perfect Christmas present this year!!!..

This means there will plenty more of happy mums like this one below!!

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Desert Warthog with her youngsters…

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This is the Caracal’s new friend!…. Her name is ‘Three legs’ or ‘Ngajek uni’ in maa..

The Caracal kitten, will eventually be freed at Elkanto, the Milgis base, where it has a very good chance of a good life, and with lots of other Caracal’s around, and lots to eat.. It is doing very well, and is becoming a very close friend of this poor little puppy that was found almost dead in a ditch, dragging herself along with her front legs, one of her back legs was very infected… She is now back on four legs you’ll be happy to hear!! talk about a surviver!!.

‘LDOILO’- Echoes from Samburuland

FINALLY MY DREAM HAS COME TRUE!!! I’ve been talking about it for sooooo many years, 25 years actually!, ever since I first heard their voices, and now we have it!.. A beautiful recording of songs, chants and sounds from the Samburu!..

DSC01482.JPG The front cover fittingly in the colours of the Kenya Flag!!

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*You can’t buy this. This is not for sale. This is more of a gift from the soul of Samburuland, than just another CD.

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This CD is absolutely beautifully presented and is a wonderful selection of Northern Kenya’s every day, sounds, songs and flute music from the Samburu people in the Milgis Ecosystem… ..

THANKYOU GAVIN HOGG AND BEN EVANS and every one else involved in making this masterpiece of music!!… Especially the Samburu people for believing in us! In believing in the ‘Milgis’ and producing such special sounds!! Its ‘brilliant’ to have your full support!..

* BUT, YOU can be a part of it. You NEED to be a part of it…. Because when you play this music as loud as you can, and you do it in a place where you can really listen….. JUST LISTEN…. You will feel the warm wind of the northern Kenyan mountains against your skin, the sand of her luggas pressed down under your feet and you will start to move and sway until your spirit jumps with the Morans on the river bed. This is music that transports you and it speaks of the beauty, the trail, the tradition and the majesty of life, the way it has always been here. It will haunt you back to life. *words from Zeke Davidson when he first heard it!

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How it started!…. This is how Gavin describes the moment..

‘The first morning while we were drinking tea on the lugga, wondering how it would start. When from somewhere deep in the bush and down the lugga, we heard the distant chants of an approaching band of people.. Slowly it grew louder and louder, the sound growing in intensity and excitement, until fianlly 25 warriors appeared through the scrub in full tribal dress with spears and full voice.. They had come to sing.. The excitement of that moment will remain with me for the rest of my life!’

This was the start of what developed into an incredible week for all who were involved..

*You can’t pay for it though. Putting a dollar value on a disc would render it worthless. It simply won’t make the marketing values needed on a disc by disc basis. We need you to make a gesture that speaks to the same profound sense of place and spirit that the sounds on this disc will bring into your life. For a donation upwards of $200, the Samburu communities of this region, will gladly share their ancient chants with you!

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*If you believe in wild places, in places with untameable spirits that defy all of the harsh realities of today’s over used world. You want to be a part of a community making their own ways work, unquestioningly. Support Echoes in Samburuland, make these voices heard where you are, and we will send you one of these disc’s to transport you here whenever you can be with us.

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DSC00058.JPG BEN EVANS..

DSC00071.JPG A beautiful trio in looks and sounds!

‘Ldoilo’ means Echoes in the Maa language… An appropriate title given the location of the recording,- a natural ravine, with towering cliff faces that gave a wonderful resonance and echo to the recordings.. It is also has significance in a way that we hope the message of the Samburu and their way of life and custodianship of their environment, will echo from their homeland to spread awareness around the world…

The songs from this area have never been recorded properly before .. We recorded every thing live on location . You will hear the sounds of wildlife in the bush included… We want you the listener, to be transported into the Milgis: to feel the heat, the elements of life, to smell the aroma, and to listen to the sound and songs of the samburu… Close your eyes, be at peace, sit back and TAKE TIME to absorb this extraordinary aural experience!!!

these are the words of Gavin taken from the cover…

Warm up the first evening!! ‘MPARINKOI’

DSC00024.JPG Mparinkoi; This is the first song sung in any daytime ceremony.. The group will consist of singers from different clans. The chants are from different clan members boasting about the achievements of heir own clan, how brave or fast they are.. The clans sing of respect and rivalry between them selves… DSC00027.JPG One day many years ago, I was at a Samburu wedding.. It was just unbelievably colourful and the early morning singing was incredible, but at about midday there seemed to be abit of a lull in the proceedings, so I decided to climb up a small hill and watch from a distance for a while.. Suddenly I heard this roar of voices, which sent a shiver up my spine… It was the elders and Junior elders at the ceremony ‘tuning up’ for this extraordinary show!.. Its abit like an orchestra tuning up their instruments before they play a symphony!.. But this is voices.. Every man throws his voice as far as he can, so that when it comes to this amazing ‘Mparinkoi’ his voice will be heard!… Its REALLY impressive!.. We had to do this recording several times as when they whole group landed on the ground in tandem, Ben’s microphone went crazy!! We worked it out eventually by putting a mattress under the microphones to cushion the vibrations!!

DSC00081.JPG Men, women and children came from far and wide to participate with immense pride and dedication to perform their songs

DSC01463.JPG This beautiful animal is the Milgis’ latest orphan… he needs to be fed!…….

So PLEASE… become one of the esteemed members of the ‘Ldoilo’ clan, and contribute to the Milgis Trust… We have been kindly given a stand at the Ngong Racecourse, Nairobi.. At the Christmas fair on the 1st and 2nd of December 2012… We will be there with the LDOILO CDs!! If you can’t be there you can press the donate button on this page, pay your donation, and you will recieve a reciept from NWHS/Milgis Trust, which you can forward to us, with your postal address…. We will in turn get this unique CD to you!!.. Other wise don’t hesitate to contact Helen or Gavin..

World environment day was celebrated in the Milgis also!!

And what a special day it was!!… Right in the remotest corner of Northern Kenya the children from the Milgis School came to celebrate with us on the Lugga! One might call it World Elephant day!, as it all seemed to be about Elephants! But thats ok, because they are the talk of 2012..

DSC00195.JPG This was their wonderful creation..

And the idea came from this! Eley hedge (1).jpg All the way from Penpont in Whales.. This beautiful hedge was the very hard work of Gavin Hogg, who came to the Milgis with Ben Evans on a mission to record the beautiful songs of the Samburu people.. All in aid of raising money for the Milgis work ‘Samburu helping Samburu’.. ‘ Echo’s ‘ what goes out, comes back to preserve this wonderful place!

DSC00035.JPG More on this incredibly exciting project coming soon but lets concentrate on the day in question… WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY.. which was on the 9th June, and Gavin said he was going to draw a huge Elephant in the sand, and the children from the Milgis school are to fill it in, with sticks, stones or what ever they could find in the Lugga.. It was a brilliant idea… The children all arrived in all their finery and Gavin got them all to work!!

DSC00134.JPG ” Collect any thing you can find to fill the elephant in.”.

DSC00117.JPG The beginning of the Elephant, just the out line.. The enthusiasm was extraordinary and soon there was over 100 children, and 20 warriors rushing around gathering what ever they could find to fill him in!

DSC00109.JPG From the little guys to the head boy!

DSC00126.JPG The warriors finding white stones for the tusks..

DSC00130.JPG A group of camels on their way to water, pass by!! and below two women wonder past.. none of them even fazed!DSC00155.JPG Finally the Elephant has taken shape and all the children climb up the side of the canyon to view their creation.. DSC00143.JPG Gavin with his arms up.. This was such an exciting day for him!!

DSC00157.JPG With the Elephant below them, the children sat in silence just looking…. Then a few words on what World Environment day is all about.. Our honorary Scout Kosma gave them a story from Dr Zeus’s Lorax book.. Thanks to Julia Hailes in England for sending this excellent story with a very strong message.. Its all about how greed destroys the world…. Kosma did a brill job talking them through the story.. mmmmm, aaahhhh, oooooo.. Were the comments from the children.. Shocking they said! From a people who are usually very unselfish, and incredibly generous this was an aw fall story..

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Later Kosma explaining it to a group of warriors! DSC00092.JPG

Next… The children did a small play..

DSC00180.JPG This was a very moving show… ‘Samburu love Elephants, and will protect them forever’.. was the jist.. It was for me a tearjerker of note!! .. The singer was calling for all Kenyans to look after these gentle giants…

DSC00189.JPG The School environment Club with their teacher Titus Lekirere, having an animal discussion!

Finally a rip roaring dance, performed by the Milgis School cultural club, under the guidance of their teacher Mike Lesiantaam.. DSC_0343.JPG

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The Canyon in the Milgis was alive with colour and absolutely beautiful ‘Echos’. What goes out will come back!!

Milgis news!!

What on earth happened to the year.. It was only January the other day, now its May, the rainy season already!!… mmmm… But we do have good news from the Milgis!

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Elephants have been on the move once more!. Back to places 30/40 years ago they were completely wiped out of.. Now its a safer place to be as an Elephant than most places!, with our help, and our scouts and informers are being extremely vigilant.. Water is their problem now, which we have tried to solve for them also with pan dams, on their routes!

The smart new Nursery classroom in Latakwen

Some sad Eley news too… A two year old youngster that we darted and treated with Matthew the KWS vet, with a very swollen leg is taken by Hyenas..

Water for the people in Urra, west Ndotos.. THANK YOU VOSS!!

5 more needy children are lucky to go to school,

Most of the now 24 pan dams we dug have water in them!! Unfortunately the rains seem to have been quite patchy through out the area… But its sufficient, because luckily the people here are still nomadic, and if they haven’t had rain at home they can move.. ..

Despite this incredible show in the Matthews, it didn’t pour with rain this night..

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But impressive sight anyway !

DSC03952.JPG 18.55.. The same cloud just over half an hour later in the moon light, and not a drop of rain!!

Great excitement on the radio this week as the news of 34 Elephants venturing north into areas that they have not been seen for a very long time.. For obvious reasons with the situation at the moment I am not saying where, but a very significant happening as it means that they are generally feeling safe up here… I would like to say well done our scouts, and informers and also especially to the communities, who are now working incredibly close with THE MILGIS TRUST to keep their wildlife safe!..Good for them!

DSC03970.JPG As our Milgis Logo portrays.. The Camel (the communities) protecting the Elephant ( the wildlife)..

DSC03793.JPG ‘Gentle’ being the operative word! they don’t want to bother people! This is a painting, done by Nderitu on the wall of the new class room in the Milgis school! Portraying again, you mind your on business, the Eleys will as well!.. Talking of new!!.. We also have a huge thank you to Toto Trust for the beautiful new colourful Nursery classroom in Latakwen..

DSC03716.JPG Thank you TOTO TRUST!

While we are on the subjects of Elephants.. This is a sad story about this poor little youngster.. We had a call on the radio that there was a small Elephant, the size of a donkey all on his own dragging his leg, down in the lower Milgis.. Matthew the KWS vet flew up with Pete, from OlPejeta to dart and treat him.. But its not as easy as that!! We battled to get to where he was, and against our better judgement we decided to follow the Milgis Lugga to where he was.. mmmm Not a good plan!! Because the rains in November/December had been so good the sand on the Milgis Lugga was incredibly soft we got stuck and stuck and STUCK!!.. Eventually we walked the last 6 kms in the heat of the day!, carrying all the veterinary gear to where the Elephant was being monitored, by our scouts, and a very helpful KWS team from Marsabit.. By the way KWS we are so grateful to get your support up there!
DSC03840.JPG We were lucky after an hour in the incredibly thick bush to beable to dart and treat his very swollen leg.. probably a bullet wound.. We got him up again and our scouts spent a week with him, watching his every move as much as they could in the thick bush, and from all reports he was making a good recovery.. DSC03851.JPG They were trying to make friends with him, and making good progress, so that we could move him to an easier place to monitor him.. Then unfortunately we got a report that they had started seeing Hyena tracks around.. Before we were able to make the next complicated plan, about 30 hyenas came in and killed him in the night..

I’m afraid we were devastated …. This is another result of poaching sadly..

To happier things!.. We THANK VOSS foundation once again, for all the incredible support they give to the Milgis.. We are unbelievably lucky to be working with you… In February friends of VOSS walked with the camels from the Milgis out to Urra, west of the Ndotos, to open another water project !! Once again an beautiful celebration, people came from far and wide to say THANK YOU… This is now the 4th water project we have done with VOSS.. The others are in Latakwen, Sware, and Ol Donyo Nasipa!

DSC03541.JPG The girls from Norway! Thank you for coming all this way to help..

DSC03540.JPG Urra is a little centre, in the foothills of the western side of the Ndotos.. There is a small school, and many people live around in manyattas..

DSC03526.JPG The well, and solar panels, and the watchman’s house.. His job is to look after the solar panels, and well, and to make sure there is plenty of water for the people of Urra, and the Elephants!!

DSC03530.JPG The beautiful Samburu women singing their praises to the Voss visitors.. Wonderful singing and dancing, and lots of fun was had by all..

DSC03534.JPG Beautiful clean water up at the Urra school..

Before! Why did we choose Urra.. DSCN0869.JPG During the dry times the people in Urra really struggle to get to water, and when they do the Elephants kept on breaking their wells every night, but they put up with it!! People from 20 kms around were also coming for water here as well.. It became an impossible situation.. SO They came and asked for help!

DSCN0865.JPG A carpet of Dung in the drought, from all the animals visiting the well..

Logistics of doing these water projects.. Interesting!!

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The sponsorship programme…

DSC03954.JPG This Samburu girl from Parsaloi is very clever!! She passed all her primary school exams with flying colours but her family could not afford to send her to secondary school.. All the family livestock had been stolen in a raid, and her father had died.. So she was sent back to primary school.. But the teachers said this was ridiculous, so asked the community to try to help.. The community tried their best to help her out, but she did not have enough to see her through to the 2nd term so would be sent home, so I am pleased to say the Little Troll Foundation has guaranteed her through the to the end of her schooling.. Thank you so much, to them and to the others, wanaduma, and other Norwegian friends this year who are helping us send 5 new children to school, making the sponsor programme now helping 25 children.. All who have the same story as this girl..

All the Dams are full, or nearly!! Below is the newest one at Lorok Onyoke, a really really dry place usually.. In the dry season the nearest good water is around 15/20 kms away.. thank you to our friends in Portugal..

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Before and after pictures!

Lorok Onyoke pan dam.. DSC03922.JPG

Elephants can take the credit for less fires…

Hello every one…No I’m not dead, just been very busy travelling, or safariing as we say! DSC03472.JPG

For those that don’t already know this is how I make my living!.. Walking safaris through paradise and beyond with camels carrying the gear!..

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Loooong time since my last blog!! We have walked the length and breadth of the area that the Milgis Trust covers with our camels since December 2011… From Mt Nyiru in the north, a huge massif, just to the South East of Lake Turkana..

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DSC03606.JPG photo taken from the lovely grassy plains to the East of the Ndotos.. Ol Donyo Mara are the hills to the right

To Baio to the East, this amazing Mountain in the Kaisut desert catching the beautiful evening light..

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across the beautiful Ndoto Mountains.. sony jan 10 033.jpg 3 times!, Once from the South, then the North and then we went with the VOSS women to open the new water project at Urra in the foothills to the West of these magnificent mountains!
And lastly Lenkiyio (The Matthews).. Through the lovely forests and into the Ngeng valley.. jan. 06 025.jpg This is Matthews Peak

Over the top with the camels!!.. quite a feat..

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It has been absolutely fabulous to see for ourselves the good work the Milgis scouts are doing, and what we are achieving…(Now 28 scouts and 15 informers!!) AND I think we now have proof that the Elephants can take the credit for no fires burning on the Mountains!!.. Its absolutely wonderfull news!!.. Contrary to a news paper article saying that Elephants don’t like to climb mountains.. I don’t think its true actually!.. Because numerous times we have followed Elephants up very narrow and steep paths, and with out there good work we would be still cutting our way through!!

This dung up near Aldera rock proves it!!olympus oct 09 - jan 10 196.jpg

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IMG_0335.JPG And these paths is what they create… With out them this thick bush is impenetrable!! In the last 30 years because the Elephants weren’t around, all up the flanks of our valuable ‘Islands in the desert’ , the water towers of Northern Kenya, the bush became so thick that when the people could not get there animals up in to the mountains for dry season grazing they started lighting fires.. Absolute destruction beyond belief was happening, BUT now the Elephants are back this ridiculous passtime of burning, has has become a thing of the past I am happy to say.. Hip hip hooray!! AND

A HUGE ‘ONE UP’ FOR THE ELEPHANTS!!!

We have been watching in total dismay as Mt Kenya and the Aberdares, both National parks have been burning completely out of control.. Huge huge fires.. I don’t know how they started, or by who but they have been very serious, just for fun i took this picture on the 15th March, just before sunrise… DSC03737.JPG

The sun rose right over the top on this day!!

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Back to our Mountains the Ndotos and Lenkiyio (Matthews) and Nyiru.. Yes so far, there have been no fires and if you have been following my blogs you would know how desperate it has been in former years.. several Blogs on this terrible and stupid situation …Fires lit by people who have decided it would help to get rid of this very thick bush, and of course one just can ‘ Kiss goodbye ‘ to the whole side of the mountain.. With the strike of one match the Samburu have no idea what damage they are doing to their very own future.

If you don’t find time to read the others Please read this one blog I wrote way back to know how frustrated I was…Click on this….

‘Painted Wolf’ Bonanza!! & Thank you, Marwell..

Happy New Year to every one, and heres to a safe, and happy 2012 to all creatures great and Small.. … We celebrated our new year near the WILD Dog’s… What a pleasure !!!..

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These 3 pictures were taken by Lemagas, with an ordinary camera!!

DSC02914-1.JPG Inside their den…

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Then this little sequence of beauty’s with the night camera, in the same den!

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Theres at least 12 puppies, and maybe 14 adults

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We left the night camera in the den for a week, and found the dogs had, had a good chew on it!! But it still works..

DSC02950.JPG Painted wolves.. Thats a better name for these beautiful animals..

The Milgis Trust Thanks Marwell Wildlife and Zeke Davidson for your support.. Below is a small introduction by Zeke of the work we are doing together.. .. The technical side of things!.. ( Sorry his pictures would not post, so I’ve improvised with mine)

Hello to all the Milgis Trust Bloggers! I still feel new to the Milgis, but have been visiting here for the past 18 months or so now. I work with Marwell Wildlife, a Uk based charity dedicated to the conservation of biodiversity and other natural resources. We achieve this through restoration of species and habitats, promoting sustainable living, and by inspiring change through science, education & public engagement – which is something of a mouthful!

grevy.JPG Marwells Speciality.. The Grevy Zebra.. Thanks to Marwell Zoo introducing us to these night cameras, they really opened our eyes.. Theres far more out there than one thinks, but its very nocturnal!! H

Suffice to say that when the trust approached Marwell in January 2010 with a request to look at “some data” they had, and help to get some monitoring established, we jumped at the chance to work with this dynamic, dedicated and intensely passionate team. The data is turning out to be a quietly understated GOLDMINE for conservation action. We will get to more on that in a few months time as we develop analyses out of the historic information we have in hand already. But I am sure I don’t need to explain the value of continuous sightings reports from 24 scouts making daily observations of wildlife in the Milgis ecosystem over the past 5 years! We hope to plot the return of elephants to the Milgis and beyond, to catalogue her amazing biodiversity and to provide information that will help people living here make real time decisions about conserving their environment, while maintaining their livelihoods and traditions in a timeless lifestyle that is still relevant today.

As we settle into 2012, we can happily say that the ground work has been laid for a long term partnership between Marwell and the Milgis Trust. We at Marwell are thrilled and feel really honoured, not to mention incredibly lucky, to have been sought out by Helen and her team. Over the past two years we have instituted regular training workshops for the growing force of scouts, ( now nearly 30, and 12 informers) we have standardised observation methodologies and entered the digital age by converting the data collection onto a computer based database.

And that is the real nub of this post, because not long ago we had word that our efforts to help Milgis Trust raise funds specifically for elephant conservation and research have been successful. In a phone call from their Head Quarters, the US Fish and Wildlife Service African Elephant Program confirmed that we had been successful in our grant application. We are now ready to begin a wide scale elephant conservation project, underpinned by the scouts and their data collecting activities, and the ongoing work of the trust.

This is hugely significant news. The focus on elephants will serve as a flagship to understanding not only how the Milgis functions, but how all her species use the land, her resources and coexist alongside the pastoralist Samburu people who live there too. Elephants have lead the way for our partnership and just as the young ones follow the old matriarchs back to Mt. Nyiru and beyond, we will follow them too. Learning from their travels which habitats are most important, which areas need close protection, which water points are their old standbys for crossing the barren lands and how we can ensure their permanence now that they have returned.

wider area bgs-3.jpg The area the Milgis Trust covers.. remember wildlife does not know borders, so the scouts follow their migrations.. There are NO fences, and these important water towers are needed to keep the Fauna and Flora well watered and fed!

This elephant project will focus on conserving habitat connectivity for African elephant (Loxodonta africana) populations in Northern Kenya , and will be the most northerly based elephant conservation study in East Africa. So this work is a vital expansion of the direct efforts being brought to bear on the global conservation of African elephants. As Helen has always maintained, elephants have historically inhabited this ecosystem, although were absent for several years from the mid 1980’s until more recently thanks to poachers. By formally undertaking research and monitoring on these mega herbivores we will maintain the area as a holistically functioning ecosystem, without fences or segregation between wildlife and local pastoral communities. This area is an important migratory corridor between the complex of protected areas in the south, (Laikipia and Samburu, Buffalo Springs and wildlife reserves), the Marsabit Massif to the north east (the northern extent of the Samburu-Laikipia elephant population) and Mt Nyiru ( in the north west.)

However, much of this information is still based solely on local anecdotal knowledge. To ensure that it is accepted by both the communities and planning authorities we will have to put the Milgis elephant highways on the map with irrefutable data. In spite of the serious depletion in elephant numbers since the late 1970s, this area is currently home to the second largest elephant population in Kenya. The area is extremely isolated geographically, and elephants are facing several threats, including, among st others; intensifying habitat loss and fragmentation owing to the expanding human population, severely limiting climatic conditions, persecution by commercial ivory poaching and indiscriminate and illegal killing..

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The Milgis Trust Elephant Project (MTEP) will be continuing to investigate this human/elephant conflict and the spatial dynamics of the population through the established network of Milgis scouts and engaging pastoralists in a programme of community based conservation activities. The project will seek to understand elephant habitat use and behaviour, sustainability and conservation in remote northern areas, and will also engage local communities in education workshops and participatory planning, in an effort to increase awareness, involvement and ownership of elephant conservation. In this way we are building a legacy of community based conservation and management with less dependence on foreign aid and external funding. These are tried and tested methods that have been used with great success in areas such as the Ruaha wilderness in Tanzania where large carnivores have had a reputation of man eating, the Tsavo-Amboseli Ecosystem in Kenya where lion guardians are recruited from the Maasai warrior caste who have historically hunted lion as a rite of passage, and for the long term protection of mountain gorillas in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda, to name just three examples.

Already we have begun to build a detailed Geographic Information System (GIS), or electronic map, to be able to visualise the landscape the Milgis elephants are using..The urgency for providing scout training is growing as increasing elephant presence in these areas might potentially also increase the opportunity for conflict with people and livestock. Conflict is chiefly anticipated over water availability, especially during times of drought. It is therefore vital that the Trust’s operations continue to promote elephant conservation to local communities whilst increasing community awareness of the benefits of elephants.

You might wonder what the trade off for living with elephants would be to a family living in a simple manyatta right in among st these giants. Well, local communities have already expressed positive attitudes to wards elephants as they are perceived to provide essential benefits to their pastoral lifestyles. There are many examples, but just one here, they maintain open routes through dense bush and provide access to mountain grazing areas. This access facilitates sustainable grazing as herds of livestock can be relocated to allow lowland areas to recover during dry seasons. Until recently these areas had been lost to community grazing management as elephants had been absent from the area for many years. The people were now turning to burning, to beable to get their livestock into the mountains, with devastating results. However, with the elephants gradual return, these valuable resources are slowly becoming available again. This observation comes directly from the people living in the Milgis area and is a key reason why the Trust has established this project. This work is a direct response to the communities request for assistance in securing their livelihoods and forms part of the Trusts commitment to improving resources through conservation action.

All this is a very neat fit for Marwell’s conservation goals through the restoration of species and habitats, promoting sustainable living, and inspiring change through science, education & public engagement! But you can follow all that on www.marwell.org.uk and on Twitter and Facebook too.

”Happy Days” from all of us in Northern Kenya…

Its been an amazing year in the Milgis!.. Drought, Death, Rendille ‘invasions’, Rain, Floods, beautiful flowers, Elephant poaching, Grass and LIFE!!!!!… These are some of my favorite pics from this last year !..

P8173505.JPG Rain brings Lillie’s!

Elephant xsing (1).JPG Elephant Shadows!

Baio layers.JPG Mountain layers.. South Ndotos..

Beer hippo.JPG The only hippo in the Ndoto’s! With a ‘tusker’ on his nose…

close to my fav.JPG This striped Hyena is so beautiful..

DSC00459.JPG Guerenuk???fire ball.JPG Elkanto sunrise!

P8173508.JPG The suns early morning golden rays catching these Lillie’s..

flooded.JPG Flooded… for those that have been to Elkanto!! We could not get a vehicle off the hill for a month!

goo track.JPG A White Tailed mongoose passed here!

leo.JPG Leo himself…

Milgis light.JPG Early morning travelling… This is what we do for a living when we are not loosing sleep to keep the Milgis alive!!

gardinia.JPG Gardenia dew!..

one of my favorite places.JPG Serpent??

poi shadow.JPG Poi in the mist!

song and dance.JPG Celebration of life!.. Red billed hornbills..

camel train.JPG ON Safari! (You might come across a very nice article written by Lucia Van Der Post in the Tatler Travel mag., but I am sure Hugo did not choose the pictures for the article.. This is my favorite of that safari!!..)

special spots.JPG self taken again… This angle OK???!

Eleys love views.JPG Who said elephants don’t climb mountains!! We climbed this very steep hill for a sundowner to find that our Friends had enjoyed several sundowners, and bitings (no trees left) before us! THEY LOVE VIEWS!!

the oldest pl.JPG Cycad.. Endemic to this region.. This is what the Matthews Range and Ndotos Mountains are famous for? Yes its one of the oldest plants in the world, but its not all these exquisite mountains have to offer…

pointing up.JPG Equal pointers!

warrior!.JPG Cave drawings…

We three kings know where we are going.!!.. the three boys-1.JPG

ratel track.JPG Ratel track…

Elephant xsing (7).JPG Eleys and Shadows… Beckoning us into the new year!.. How does it go?.. .. ‘Come all ye faithfull’ to the Wilderness..GET IN LINE AND LETS GO!

Our aim for the Milgis is to keep these beautiful animals safe, calm, and living harmoniously with the proud and cool Samburu people… LONG MAY MAN AND ANIMAL LIVE IN TUNE WITH EACH OTHER!!!! http://milgistrustkenya.com

HAPPY DAYS TO YOU ALL… AND THANKYOU!!!..