Newsletter – February 2008


The International Livestock Resarch Institute(ILRI) was invited to give a presentation on its ‘Reto-0-Reto Project’, affecting pastoral livelihoods and wildlife conservation, keeping land open for people, livestock and wildlife. In the Maa language, ‘Reto-o-Reto’ means ‘I help you, you help me.’ A collaborative research programme of over 50 institutions, facilitated by ILRI, Reto-o-Reto is working in five pastoral regions in Kenya and Tanzania to support communities to develop more prosperous and sustainable futures. Reto-o-Reto community facilitators enable the Maasai communities in Kitengela, Amboseli and Mara in Kenya, and Tarangire-Simanjiro in Tanzania, to make better decisions on the use of their land and other resources to safeguard their future.

People and wildlife have lived together in East Africa since human first evolved. Today, Kenya’s famed savanna wildlife owes its survival largely to the fact that Maasai communities keep livestock and respect wild animals. Maasai tradition does not include bushmeat, significant agriculture or fencing of individual plots.

This wildlife is now the main draw for the 1.4m visitors to Kenya each year. Tourism is the nation’s top earner of foreign exchange, providing 500,000 jobs. But whether wildlife and wildlife related earnings persist in the 21st centure and beyond will depend largely on the goodwill of pastoral communities as well as policies on land use and tenure.

Even in wildlife rich East Africa, the Athi-Kaputei ecosystem stands out. A century ago, observers noted that Athi-Kaputei featured the ‘most spectacular concentration of wildlife’ in all of East Africa. The ecosystem still supports a long-distance migration of large numbers of wildlife – all the more remarkable since a mere fence separates the animals from burgeoning Nairobi.

There is an urgent need for effective policies. Strong policy on land use and planning is necessary to counter enormously negative trends.


‘The young are God’s answer for tomorrow – kesho!’

On Saturday, 26 Jan, 2008, the Sikand’s began their safari to Nairobi National Park, entering by the Main Gate at 5:00 pm. No sooner had they turned towards Hyena Dam, they spotted a mother lioness with two cubs resting under some shrubs. In classic style, the mother was licking her paws, and her drowsy cubs were enjoying the shade in the late afternoon. Travelling southwards, the Park was truly splendid, with large numbers of buffalo, zebra, and eland. There were at least two pairs of crested crane. The Park that day was truly astounding. At Oloonjua Ridge, there was a group of nine lions, of different ages, from adolescent to adult. They were grunting and passing each other along the road. These lions were all healthy looking, rather dark. Returning to the Main Gate at 6:15 pm, ascending Impala Observation Point, another mother lioness appeared with a set of two cubs, darker than the first family. In this safari, a total of 11 lions and 4 cubs were sighted.

LION, Panthera leo, samba –

The largest of cats, ranging in colour, from nearly white to deep ochre-brown. Tawny yellow is common, but males can have ash grey body colour. Facial features are distinct. Males develop thick woolly manes that vary individually in colour, length and extent. It is common for females in a pride to come into oestrus simultaneously, resulting in a large number of similarly aged cubs. Although females will suckle one another’s cubs, stragglers or weaklings are often left to their own devices, and mortality among cubs is very high. Deaths include killings by newly arrived males. Gestation is around 100 days with two to six born in a thicket, long grass or among rocks. The rate at which cubs develop and grow varies greatly and ‘runts’ are frequent. Eyes open between 3 and11 days; the cubs become mobile at about 1 month; they begin to follow adults at two months; are weaned by 8 months; and are independent by 18 months. The yound make are sharp yip contact call, while mothers grunt at their young. A low, hooting ‘woof’ (often uttered down at the ground) signifies alarm and can send cubs scurrying for cover. A bold pattern of leopard-like rosettes is characteristic of the young but this fades and disappears as the animals mature. The lion is fully mature by 5 years old.

With wild grazers progressively being replaced by domesticated ones, the lion has had to be eliminated. This century has seen continuous extermination across tropical Africa, with rapidly accelerating decline in the last two decades.

(The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals, Kingdon, J., Academic Press, 1997, reprinted 2001)

FoNNaP wishes to thank Dr. Keith Sones, former FoNNaP Chairman, for his kind assistance in the sale and distribution of Christmas cards.

Friends of Nairobi national park Congratulates Dr. Julius Kipng’etich on his reappointment as Director of the Kenya Wildlife Service. We pray and wish him every success to achieve far reaching protections and policies in conservation.


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