NOTES FROM THE FIELD

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ROBERT'S EFFORTS

In September 2021, Robert Comstock and his team traveled to the conservancies bordering the Maasai Mara of Kenya and the Mara itself. There they met with Vulture Liaison Officers who play an important role as first responders to apex predator kills. Lions, leopards, cheetahs and hyena are four top predators that prey on the herds of Masai shepherds. In retaliation for losing their livestock it is common for a Masai pastoralist to locate and poison dead carcasses to kill the predators that take away their livelihood. Not only do the predators die where pesticides are the most used poison, but a single carcass can take down a range of animals with particularly damaging effects on critically endangered vultures. Vultures play the most important role in the ecosystem and are becoming a disappearing buffer that protects many lifeforms, especially humans from increasing pathogens and diseases. Of the 8 species of vultures in Africa, 6 of them live in the Maasai Mara.

The small team of Vulture Liaison Officers with whom Robert and his team met and accompanied to kill sites assessed whether poison had been used. In cases where it has, they try to recover both predators and vultures. Lions are sometimes placed on driplines and vultures are forced to regurgitate the poison meat and are then transported to recovery facilities. The primary goal is to educate the pastoralist and his family on programs that restore lost animals if poison is not used. In addition, they help with building more secure bomas or corrals, installing Lion Lights, etc., to better protect remaining goats, calves, etc.


Robert Comstock's collaboration in the field with the first responders forged meaningful friendships and provided the team with insight into both sides of the conflict between humans and predators. Their intent is to spread awareness and help provide resources with ongoing involvement and future visits. The imagery of the Masai Mara and culture of the Masai are an important inspiration for Robert's designs in the coming seasons. We especially look forward to sharing the efforts of the courageous Vulture Liaison Officers on our site and future posts, we invite you to join us.

"Without conservation intervention, these species have very little chance of survival and may possibly go extinct within our lifetimes"

Dr. Munir Virani

LIVE NOTES FROM THE FIELD

WARNING

The following notes and corresponding photographs include wild animals terminated by poisoning and carcasses of livestock killed by apex predators. 

The graphic images contained herein may not be suitable for all viewers. 

April 2022

Valerie N. (4/5/22)

Three sheep were killed last night by a hyena and two injured inside a boma in Lekanka. I consoled the owner.

Tarayia (4/6/22)

A group of about 37 vulture feeding on s zebra carcass near kitengela river.

Valerie N. (4/7/22)

13 sheep were killed last night in Olkirieni in Maji Moto.I consoled the owner.

Bennie (3/9/22)

In patrols at Olaro Conservancy.

Kelvin (4/11/22)

Masai local radio station reports of 53 sheep and 3 cows killed by carnivores last night.

Simon T. (4/11/22)

Note the open boma...

Ralph B. (4/11/22)

Yes that is as ineffective as they come

Ibra (4/12/22)

I attended a cross border meeting at Kitenden conservancy and got an opportunity to advocate on vultures conservation and the importance of a rapid response to a poisoning incident.

Valerie N. (4/13/22)

36 goats were killed yesterday night by a leorpard in Empopongi,Ole Lepore boma.

Simon T. (4/13/22)

What does the boma look like?

Be really good if bomas were rated in terms of size...presence of solid walls...absence of solid walls...size...protruding overhang top wire...costs etc. Rate these against mortalities. 

In time this will reveal the effectiveness of different types of bomas.

Multiple deaths in one boma are often the result of crushing in one side. These too need to be accounted for separately. Etc.

You probably have this data. What I'm trying to do is get large ranches to invest in proper bomas....and they can learn from you guys a great deal

Bennie (4/13/22)

Today I was in patrol with rangers and we visited one active nesting sites. The guys seem to be in most of the nests.

Simon T. (4/14/22)

Cool shirt...

Where are these nests?

Good to ensure woodcutting doesnt disturb them of course. Consider building more nests. My guess is that the trees are too high for baboons...the singlemost threat to tree and cliff nesting raptors.

Bennie (4/15/22)

@Simon T.- These nests are at Lekuruki hills, beyond Losho.

The trees here are too high, the area is less disturbed. The site is a tributary to the sand river. It's also a foot to the proposed Olpua Conservancy.

Simon T. (4/15/22)

@Bennie- Somehow we neeď to collectively endorse Olpua conservancy as hosting a breeding group of critically endangered vultures. They need to include this in their management plan.


Bennie (4/15/22)

@Simon T.- Sure ,it will really be a good idea because the breeding site will be so secured.

Bennie (4/15/22)

Today I went to Olkeju Osur,one of the Sand River tributary. Many nests are active and many nests found along the river.

Nice captions today, I borrowed a camera 📷

Kelvin (4/16/22)

Nice pictures, such good clear cameras are essential in our work.

Valerie N. (4/18/22)

Today one lamb was killed by a jackal while grazing in Nkoilale, I consoled the owner. 

Bennie (4/20/22)

Today I visited a Boma, its small in size. The walls are solid made of wood. Leopard 🐆 can easily climb over. I was called by an informer to verify an incident of a leopard attack. It broke in and escape with a goat. Area name: Orindo Siana ward

Simon T. (4/20/22)

Good to get those details. Yes leopards even go through a roof if they have to. But these are habitual clever individuals. The majority are not so bold.

Bennie (4/20/22)

I advised them that in situations where you cannot afford the wire mesh predator proof, they better hang pieces of iron sheets on top of the wood so that they make some Wrattling noise.

@Simon T. - Leopards are very clever animals.

Valerie N. (4/21/22)

Two leopards attacked a boma and killed three cows yesterday night in Empopongi.The boma is large and they used wood but very short.

Kelvin (4/21/22)

Three sheep belonging to olenasenke at olkelunyet area were killed by a leopard.

I talked to him through a phone call to condole him.

Simon T. (4/21/22)

Do you sometimes doubt that 2 leopards kill and eat 3 cows? Do you collect other evidence such as...

Kelvin (4/21/22)

@Simon T. - No doubt at all we have lived with cows alongside carnivores....they are able to kill middle aged cows and calves.

Simon T. (4/21/22)

Good...but we often see claims that are not accurate. 

For data collection it is always necessary to have evidence gathered by impartial observers.

It adds to the strength of the study.

Valerie (4/21/22)

Yes.

Simon T. (4/21/22)

Valerie...yes that the kind of supportive evidence reports need.

Tarayia (4/24/22)

This is a carcass of a vulture. It has died on top of a tree and fall off it is a very old carcass. It possibly died of poisoning as there are no power lines. I was informed by hearders

Tarayia (4/24/22)

This bird got stuck in a mesh wire chicken house and was caught by the owner!he is hurt

Stratton H. (4/24/22)

Hi Isaac. Yes he is a Tawny. What is wrong with him? 

If he is hurt we need to make a plan to get him to Simon or Shiv today.

Tarayia (4/24/22)

@Stratton H. - He is got hurt by the mesh wire but not much. But it's not safe to let him go.he can't fly for long .he was not well handled well

Simon T. (4/24/22)

Ok lets get this to Naivasha asap.

Put in dark box immediately.

We will need a vehicle.

Does anyone have access to vehicles?

If in big dark box it should be ok for tonight. 

No stress is very important.

Tying feet together is unecessary. If it is with rubber inner tube the feet will die on 20 mins.

Isaac i am trying to phone you...

Can anyone in this group contact Isaac?

Personally i think it better to let it go now...

The way it is being handled...the stress...the hours of transport...may well destroy it.

If it has no broken bones let it go.

Tarayia (4/24/22)

@Simon T - I have already released the legs. It can't fly for long

Eric R. (4/24/22)

@Simon T - Have contacted him. He is checking if the conservancy can provide a car. He has also untied the bird.

Tarayia (4/24/22)

I have tried to release the bird but it can't fly. It actually can't get off the ground. I have consulted with Shiv and Simon and shiv have advised that I put the bird in a closed room and avoid any sort of stress and disturbance. I have. I am also buying a chicken and chinja it and place it in the room just incase it wants to feed. Hope it will be OK. The bird looks very weak and stressed.

Ralph B. (4/24/22)

Any updates?

Tarayia (4/24/22)

@Ralph B. - I have tried feeding the bird with a chicken by leaving it in the enclosure buy so far it hasn't fed on it. It is just very weak.

The tawny has died.

So sad. It could have gotten internal injuries or maybe has died of stress.

Stratton H. (4/24/22)

Pole Isaac. I know you worked hard trying to save that bird’s life.

Tarayia (4/24/22)

I really have tried but unfortunately!I wish it made it like the kori and hornbill.

Salisha (4/25/22)

Pole sana.

Bennie (4/25/22)

@Tarayia - Big loss, pongezi Isaac. You've tried

Kelvin (4/25/22)

@Tarayia - Sorry isaac, you tried your best

Ralph B. (4/25/22)

That’s a real pity. Thanks for trying to save this eagle Isaac

Tarayia (4/25/22)

Thanks Dr. Sad it didnt make it.

May 2022

Kelvin (5/3/22)

One cow was killed by hyenas last night, I managed to condole the owner who was very angry.

They said some cows were left behind while grazing and they were ambushed inside the forest.

I advised them to be more vigilant and accurate while herding.