Dr. Siva Sundaresan

Friday, March 25, 2011

ah yes, the little guys...

It wouldn't be a well rounded or at all accurate blog about Kenya without proper recognition of the little wonders, insects and arachnids.   I have had relatively few interactions with them so far, relatively speaking as they are of course, everywhere, but there maybe was a strange invertebrate eblast that went out last night to all the local 6 and 8 legged friends because my housmate and I felt as we were under attack!  Beetles of all sizes, mosquitos in full force, large flying termites and an unidentified stinging wasp thing that found itself between my arm and my shirt- ouch.  These all were visitors to our porch, kitchen and bathroom as we tried to get ready for bed.

So, with the theme in mind, I hope you enjoy the picture below.  My housemate took its picture earlier with a macrolens.  We thought it was a very strange looking spider, with lots of odd shaped bumps on it's body.  When we looked at the picture on the computer later, we learned that the "bumps" were actually alive!!!!

The thing that I love about Africa, and travel in many parts of the developing world, is that it wakes you up.  Most people in the U.S. have a realitively comforatable life.  For many people here though, daily life is very different.  Not only do I feel inspired by nature and the resiliancy of the people, but I also feel more affirmed in my desire to live simply and minimize all the things that I don't really need. 

Tonight I fly home.  One more adventure as we travel to Nairobi and I will be back.  Graland students, I hope to see you all again soon- it has been a pleasure to blog with you all!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

School visits

Today I did office work- so I won't post those but am so happy to say we have a completed curriculm based on hours of planning work to identify the goals of this new and exciting program!!!  Horray!  Tonight I will relax and rest at the overlook knowing Ephantus and I have completed something very important for the new center.

Yesterday though, we went to 2 schools that LEWA conservency supports financially.  It is really wonderful to see when the beneficiaries of wildlife tourism are the local communities themselves.  LEWA is such a special place because they actually have 13 local schools that they support through the fees that tourists pay to come to LEWA, as well as from their amazing fundraising efforts.     The pictures speak louder than my words- but we had a wonderful time with the kids and teachers.
The schools were both very nice, and were the largest schools I have ever seen anywhere in Africa.  One had 600 students, and the other had 800!  Here is inside the nursery class (kindergarden)

The last picture for today is a sight that inspired me so much.  Conservation behaviors/projects are common in schools.  Whether that be catching water and collecting it, or composting, or in this school (the second one we went to) they have what is known as a kitchen garden.  This school has a 2 acre garden that the students take care of.  The food that is grown is prepared and by school staff and the students eat the food that they grow for lunch- such a wonderful and progressive idea!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Out in LEWA camp and school visits!

Yesterday was a really exciting day- for the first time I left the research camp and office area to see some of the reserve by car, as well as to visit two of the local schools that LEWA supports.  More on the schools later today....

For now I will start with a few of the best pictures from my first game drive yesterday....this male Grevy's posed so perfectly for us....and I thought this elephant picture really well demonstrated how big their ears are!!  Lastly, there are so many of the Crowned Cranes here- the same species we ahve a tthe Zoo.  It is so beautiful to see them fly- and when they do, they keep their legs perfectly straight behind them!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Day 4

Hi Graland!

It has been raining every day, which makes it very green and also smell really good.  Unfortunately, the rain means many things sort of halt because it is easy to get stuck in the mud so people tend not to go anywhere.  I am happy to say I am getting a lot of work done though, and am very excited to go to a platform tonight to see what animals come out into the clearing.  I promise to share what I see tomorrow.  I haven't posted that many animal pictures- but I haven't seen any others yet.  It has been surprizingly quiet at night too- no hyena or lion calls.  What I hear the most are African Crowned cranes (these are the same species that lives in Predator Ridge at the zoo).

Hopefully tonight, I will see some others to share with you tomorrow.  For now, here is a fuzzy picture of an olive baboon troop.  I heard their little um-um-um contact calls and had to do everything I could to stop myself from following them into the bush!  They are so interesting and this troop didn't mind my presence as long as I kept my distance.  The male here did yawn at me though- which means, stay back, I'm tough!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Day 3 continued...

Mostly over the last few days I have been meeting with people tha tare involved with the center and education program that LEWA is starting.  The teacher I am workign with is named Ephantus.  He is a Kenyan man that knows so much about wildlife and conservation.  We have had fun teaching and working together.

I wanted to share a few more pictures.  I am staying in a mud house (it stays nice and cool) with my own room.  The vervet monkeys come through each morning looking for food so we have to keep our eating area door shut at mealtimes!  They are quick and sneaky.

Oh, and last quesiton that I didn't get to in the last post- What does LEWA stand for?  I don't think that is stands for anything, it is a name, however it is always in capital letters.  I'll ask around Monday when everyone is back around and see if I can find out some background on the name.

Day 3

Sorry about no Day 2!  There was a huge rainstorm that kept me in my room and once it gets dark I can't walk to where there is internet due to lions and elephant.  Those are two really good reasons I think!   Here is an impala that rose early with me as I watched the sunrise...

So I want to answer the questions first and thank everyone for comments....
1.  What animals have I seen so far?  Olive baboons, vervet monkeys, Grevys Zebra, elephant, impala

2. Do most Grevy's zebras have collars?  No, not that many do.  Collaring is expensive and also can be stressful for the animal as they must be darted with a sedative drug to make them sleep for a short time.   The largest population of Grevy's in the world lives here at LEWA (about 400) keep in mind that there are only about 1700 total!!

3. How many animals do I plan to see?  That is a good question, I have no plans because you never know what, if anything, you will see here.  In movies I think it gives the impression that animals are around every corner, but believe it or not, you can be in the bush hours and see nothing at all!  I hope to see eland, rhino, and maybe even cheetah (these I have never seen in the wild!)

4. Am I doing anything else besides studying Grevy's Zebra?  Yes, definately.  Siva studies the Grevy's zebra, but I am working with the education program here at LEWA.  I am workign with the teacher of the new center to develop the program itself.  Its exciting to create it from the very beginning!

5. Are the kids I mentioned African children that have not seen wildlife?  Where do they live?  Yes, in many parts of Africa, not just Kenya, children living there may have never seen the wildlife that lives here in person.  This can be for many reasons, but around LEWA it is due to the fact that the communities that are surrounded by farmland, or cattle grazing land, do not ahve wildlife living there because the food resources for the wildlife are not present there.  In conservencies and reserves there are these resources for the animals, however some students have not yet been inside.  That is why the education program that I am working on is so exciting, we will be bussing in kids from the commu nities to show them their animals, their national heritage.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

DAY 1 continued...

After an hour or so, we landed in LEWA (they have a wonderful website if you want to know more about the conservency)  http://www.lewa.org/

...as we drove to the research camp, we saw wildlife right away.  I'm happy to say that the first animal I saw this trip was a Grevy's zebra (above).  LEWA has a very important population of Grevy's and is a magical place for sure.  They also work very closly with the communities that live nearby.  I think that is why I love it so much.  I'm here to work with LEWA's new education officer, who teaches environmental eduation on the conservency with visiting school kids.  Some kids have never seen wildlife in person and thankfully, LEWA brings kids here so that they can.  The rain just stopped, and I will try to post again, but the internet turns off at 5pm each day with the generator...I will post as often as I can, and answer as many questions as I can too.