May 21, 2011
Today was yet another full day of learning and awesome experiences. After breakfast, we were joined by Andy Hill, editor of SWARA Magazine. SWARA is one of the top conservation magazines in East Africa, informing locals and also international readers of the environmental changes and problems East Africa is experiencing. Andy led a session on media training, teaching us the crucial aspects of what the media wants from us as citizens, the inner workings of media, and the importance of advocacy in creating change. His discussion with us was very interesting and helpful, especially since Andy is experienced in many fields and knows exactly what you need to do to be a successful journalist.
Our day continued with a visit to Soysambu Conservancy, a privately owned conservancy, covering a total of 48,000 acres around Elementaita Lake. Turning off the main road onto a road that puts New England potholes to shame, we spotted an African Long-Crested Eagle which has large black feathers on the top of its head. It was quite a site, especially being so close to a raptor we have not seen yet. We were met at the conservancy by Juliet Barnes, a writer and native Kenyan, who has lived there for twelve years. “Is it four-wheel drive?” she asked, referring to our van, which was not. “Well, that means we’ll have to push!” she joked, followed by a quaint laugh. Juliet joined us in our van, telling us about the conservancy while we snapped photos of the beautiful landscape and wildlife.
Early in our adventure, Juliet spotted a dead pelican by the lake’s edge. The pelican showed no fatal wounds, which worried Juliet. Apparently there is a timber plant on the other side of the lake which seeps chemicals and toxins into the lake when the rains come. It’s not too hard to see that this seepage threatens the survival of many animals in Soysambu. Although deeply concerned by the image, Juliet was determined to show us the success of their conservation efforts. “Smell that. Green smell, isn’t it?” Juliet queried in the thick forest of Acacia trees. As we drove through the conservancy, we spotted impala, Lilac breasted rollers, flamingos, spoonbills, black-wing stilts, Augur buzzards, elands, water buffalo, southern ground horn-bills, water buck, crown-crested cranes, a black-shouldered kite, a silver-back jackal, and other species.
In the middle of the lake are islands known as Pelican Islands which, as expected, attract vast numbers of pelicans. The site was truly amazing, seeing so many pelicans condensed into little compact islands, while hundreds of other birds were swarming around and creating a constant “CAWW!” The immense amount of land the conservancy covers limited our ability to spot any Rothschild’s giraffes, one of the main species Soysambu is dedicated to protecting in their conservation efforts. With thunder looming in the background and the onset of rain, another day in Kenya came to a close.