Above: Playful young chimpanzee in Gombe National Park on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. Copyright Rupi Mangat
When l heard Dr Jane Goodall talk in Nairobi about her ground-breaking pioneering chimpanzee research in Gombe it became my mission to get there in search of our closest relative whose DNA is 98 per cent like ours. It was Goodall who first documented chimpanzees using tools for a purpose – inserting sticks in a termite mound to fish out the insects for a snack – that made Louis Leakey the Kenyan paleoanthropologist quote famously, “Now we must redefine tool, redefine Man, or accept chimpanzees as humans” Continue reading “To Tanganyika”→
Safaricom Marathoners support Kenya’s rugged northern-scape
Published In The East African,Nation media 20-26 May 2017
From the high glades of Mount Kenya down to the flatlands of Samburu, past the Ewaso Nyiro River that is the life-lung of the arid lands and the iconic loaf-shaped mountain Ololokwe, a high peak pops 8,000 feet high above the plains. It’s the Warges of the Mathews Range that the local Samburu call Ol-doinyo Lenkiyieu stretching 80 kilometers north.
Since 2015 four of the eight species of vultures in Kenya have been listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This means they are one step short of becoming extinct.
This April 8, 2017 Pre-translocation ecological assessment of Mount Kenya Guereza and the habitats of Soysambu Conservancy. resulted in an accelerated human-guereza conflict as the groups crop raid to supplement the meager wild food.
To save this population, 142 individuals were successfully translocated to Karura forest in 2016 and over 200 individuals still remain in the fragmented private riverine habitats of Kipipiri. Urgent translocation efforts are therefore, required to safe these groups from being exterminated in the near future. Such an effort however, requires identification of a suitable habitat with enough food, cover, security and away from human habitation and especially the agricultural community to minimize human-colobus conflicts in the sink habitat.
Handling live venomous snakes is an extra-ordinary noble but extremely dangerous profession.
One reason for handling venomous snakes is to milk them – which is the only way to obtain snake venom to produce supplies of anti-venom. Without anti-venom being readily available and administered, a bite from any venomous snake can be deadly. Ironically, anti-venom can only be produced from ample supplies of venom from live venomous snakes. And it takes some dexterity to do that.
Diana Barr keeping a keen eye on her students as they perform venom extraction from a Papuan taipan under her instruction at the Charles Campbell Toxinology Centre in Papua New Guinea. (Left: Owen Paiva, right Benjamin Wawagu Bande). The venom is sent to the Instituto Clodomiro Picado in Costa Rica where it is used to produce lifesaving antivenom. This highly venomous snake has a nervous temperament which coupled with its speed and agility make it an extremely dangerous snake to work with. It is responsible for around one thousand deaths per year in Papua New Guinea. Picture courtesy: Barr
Diana Barr working with an Indian cobra. This beautiful snake is one of India’s ‘Big Four’ and is responsible for thousands of deaths every year in India. Picture courtesy: Barr
Young and dynamic, Barr’s job as technical support officer at the Australian Venom Research Unit at the University of Melbourne and Global Snakebite Initiative, an Australian non-profit organisation working to reduce snakebite deaths and disability around the world, puts her in very close contact with the most venomous snakes in the world.