Cattle, endangered antelopes, lions in Kenya


This 2014 video says about itself:

Jackson’s Hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus jacksoni)

There are only two easily accessible places in Africa with opportunity to see this subspecies – Kidepo Valley and Murchison Falls in Uganda.

From the University of Wyoming in the USA:

Cattle ranching could help conserve rare African antelope, lions

May 3, 2019

Summary: Ranch managers’ placement of cattle corrals away from Jackson’s hartebeest likely would allow the antelope species to increase, with lions focused on the zebras that congregate at the resulting glades in central Kenya.

Endangered African antelope and the lions that prey on them may benefit from certain cattle ranching practices in Kenya, according to newly published research led by a 2017 University of Wyoming Ph.D. graduate.

Caroline Ng’weno, who conducted the research during her UW graduate studies, is one of the first — if not the first — Kenyan women to have earned a Ph.D. working as a field biologist in Kenya. Ng’weno now heads the Pride of Meru program for the Born Free Foundation, an organization dedicated to research and protection of lions in central Kenya. Her work has provided new insights into the interaction among Jackson’s hartebeest, a species of conservation concern; other wild ungulates; cattle; and lions in Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy, which is managed for both wildlife conservation and cattle ranching.

As detailed in the scientific journals Ecology and Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, Jackson’s hartebeest — a large antelope that can weigh over 400 pounds — has been in significant decline in that part of Kenya since the reintroduction of lions in the late 1980s. That’s primarily because hartebeest share savanna habitat with zebras, the primary prey of the approximately 70 lions comprising five prides in the conservancy.

“Predation risk for hartebeest was elevated in association with zebra, implying that apparent competition with zebra may negatively impact hartebeest populations”, Ng’weno and fellow researchers wrote in Ecology. That’s in line with previous research that shows secondary prey such as hartebeest can suffer significant population declines when large carnivores are restored to an ecosystem after a long absence.

Restoration of lions to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy and elsewhere in central Kenya resulted from greater tolerance by ranch managers, following decades of shooting and poisoning of the top predators. That’s because ranch managers are increasingly recognizing that tourism resulting from abundant wildlife populations can help them sustain their livestock operations in drought years and other lean times. However, the decline of hartebeest numbers has led some ranch managers to considering reimplementing lethal control of lions.

According to Ng’weno’s research, the ranchers could hold the key to maintaining both the lion and hartebeest populations.

It turns out that abandoned cattle corrals create nutrient hotspots called glades that attract zebras, and therefore lions — but not hartebeest. And the researchers showed that survival of hartebeest in areas without glades was more than twice as high as in areas with glades.

So, ranch managers’ placement of cattle corrals away from hartebeest likely would allow the antelope species to increase, with lions focused on the zebras that congregate at the resulting glades.

“In our study system, spatial separation between zebra and hartebeest improved survival rates of hartebeest, probably by reducing encounters with lions hunting in areas with high zebra densities,” they wrote. “Strategic placement of glades, therefore, offers a promising approach to creating refuges for hartebeest and perhaps other species of secondary prey.”

While some might argue that eliminating glades through reduction of cattle production might be an option for hartebeest conservation, the researchers say that’s not practical. That’s because ranchers are unlikely to reduce cattle numbers voluntarily; and reducing cattle numbers would likely boost zebra numbers, along with lions, as cattle and zebra diets overlap. The researchers note that predation by lions on cattle is rare compared to predation on zebras.

“Alternative conservation interventions are required for the long-term persistence of lions and their prey not only on Ol Pejeta Conservancy, but more widely in (Kenya’s) Laikipia County and the whole of sub-Saharan Africa,” they wrote.

The research involved capturing and placing GPS collars on lions in five different prides representing 70 individuals; identification and tracking of 179 hartebeest; and analysis of 246 sites where lions killed animals. The scientists also studied lion predation on buffalo, zebras, impala and warthogs. Notably, they found that the proximity of buffalo to zebras reduced the risk of predation on buffalo, contrary to the relative risk for hartebeest.

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Big prehistoric carnivore discovered in Kenyan museum


This 18 April 2019 video is called Newly Discovered Ancient Carnivore Was Bigger Than a Polar Bear.

From Ohio University in the USA:

Fossils found in museum drawer in Kenya belong to gigantic carnivore

Paleontologists say mammal was larger than a polar bear

April 18, 2019

Paleontologists at Ohio University have discovered a new species of meat-eating mammal larger than any big cat stalking the world today. Larger than a polar bear, with a skull as large as that of a rhinoceros and enormous piercing canine teeth, this massive carnivore would have been an intimidating part of the eastern African ecosystems occupied by early apes and monkeys.

In a new study published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, the researchers name Simbakubwa kutokaafrika, a gigantic carnivore known from most of its jaw, portions of its skull, and parts of its skeleton. The 22-million-year-old fossils were unearthed in Kenya decades ago as researchers canvassed the region searching for evidence of ancient apes. Specimens were placed in a drawer at the National Museums of Kenya and not given a great deal of attention until Ohio University researchers Dr. Nancy Stevens and Dr. Matthew Borths rediscovered them, recognizing their significance.

“Opening a museum drawer, we saw a row of gigantic meat-eating teeth, clearly belonging to a species new to science,” says study lead author Borths. Borths was a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow with Stevens in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at Ohio University when the research was conducted, and is now Curator of the Division of Fossil Primates at the Duke Lemur Center at Duke University.

Simbakubwa is Swahili for “big lion” because the animal was likely at the top of the food chain in Africa, as lions are in modern African ecosystems. Yet Simbakubwa was not closely related to big cats or any other mammalian carnivore alive today. Instead, the creature belonged to an extinct group of mammals called hyaenodonts.

Hyaenodonts were the first mammalian carnivores in Africa. For about 45 million years after the extinction of the non-avian dinosaurs, hyaenodonts were the apex predators in Africa. Then, after millions of years of near-isolation, tectonic movements of the Earth’s plates connected Africa with the northern continents, allowing floral and faunal exchange between landmasses. Around the time of Simbakubwa, the relatives of cats, hyenas, and dogs began to arrive in Africa from Eurasia.

As the relatives of cats and dogs were going south, the relatives of Simbakubwa were going north. “It’s a fascinating time in biological history,” Borths says. “Lineages that had never encountered each other begin to appear together in the fossil record.”

The species name, kutokaafrika, is Swahili for “coming from Africa” because Simbakubwa is the oldest of the gigantic hyaenodonts, suggesting this lineage of giant carnivores likely originated on the African continent and moved northward to flourish for millions of years.

Ultimately, hyaenodonts worldwide went extinct. Global ecosystems were changing between 18 and 15 million years ago as grasslands replaced forests and new mammalian lineages diversified. “We don’t know exactly what drove hyaenodonts to extinction, but ecosystems were changing quickly as the global climate became drier. The gigantic relatives of Simbakubwa were among the last hyaenodonts on the planet,” remarks Borths.

“This is a pivotal fossil, demonstrating the significance of museum collections for understanding evolutionary history,” notes Stevens, Professor in the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine at Ohio University and co-author of the study. “Simbakubwa is a window into a bygone era. As ecosystems shifted, a key predator disappeared, heralding Cenozoic faunal transitions that eventually led to the evolution of the modern African fauna.”

This study was funded by grants from the National Science Foundation (EAR/IF-0933619; BCS-1127164; BCS-1313679; EAR-1349825; BCS-1638796; DBI-1612062), The Leakey Foundation, National Geographic Society (CRE), Ohio University Research Council, Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, SICB and The Explorers Club.

This discovery underscores both the importance of supporting innovative uses of fossil collections, as well as the importance of supporting the research and professional development of talented young postdoctoral scientists like Dr. Borths,” said Daniel Marenda, a program director at the National Science Foundation, which funded this research. “This work has the potential to help us understand how species adapt — or fail to adapt in this case — to a rapidly changing global climate.”

Superb starlings, other wildlife research in Kenya


This video says about itself:

In April, 2018, I — Christopher Sayers — and a team of three other Cornell students — Facundo Fernandez-Duque, Rachael Mady, and Sarah Toner — traveled to the Mpala Research Centre in central Kenya on an Ivy Expedition. Our mission was to collect photographs, videos, and audio recordings of species underrepresented in the Cornell Lab’s Macaulay Library.

During the 10-day expedition, we interviewed Shailee Shah ‘14 — an alumna of Cornell who is conducting her Ph.D. research at Mpala on the breeding ecology of Superb Starlings.

Our team filmed Shailee throughout several days of data collection in the field with the ultimate goal of creating a short film about her work. One of the most challenging parts of the filming process was actually getting high quality footage of Superb Starlings — the focal species of the film!

Whenever we would finish setting up the camera and tripod to start recording, the flock of starlings would immediately fly out of frame. It was almost as if they knew we were trying to film them!

After returning to the US, producers in the Cornell Lab’s Multimedia department were gracious enough to mentor me as I worked to bring this piece to life. I practiced using robust video editing software and bolstered my skill set in multimedia productions; I hope to keep improving these skills as I move forward in life. As an emerging scientist myself, I hope to show my audience about the wonders of pursuing field research, and aim to inspire young scientists to follow in Shailee’s footsteps.

Carnivorous mammals and humans in Africa


This video says about itself:

Travel video I made after my trip to Kenya this summer 2017. This is the Masai Mara National Park, a beautiful animal reserve: the most famous one in Kenya.

Shot with a Sony a58, Canon 70D and some action cameras.

From Michigan State University in the USA:

More humans always mean fewer African carnivores, right? Nope

March 1, 2019

African carnivores face numerous threats from humans. So, it’s a fair assumption that the presence of more humans automatically equates to decreases across the board for carnivores.

New research led by Michigan State University and published in the current issue of Ecological Applications, however, shows that’s not always the case. The truth is some species decrease while others increase, which reveals how varying conservation and management policies can impact carnivores.

Matthew Farr, MSU quantitative ecologist and lead author of the study, sought to evaluate how a community of carnivores in Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve were influenced by human disturbance and differential management. The Kenyan reserve is divided into two sections by the Mara River. On the western side, known as the Mara Triangle, stricter enforcement policies result in low levels of human disturbance, which work to keep the area relatively pristine. A subsection of the eastern side, known as the Talek region, however, experiences many human incursions, from cattle herders to throngs of tourists. The stark differences are captured by Google Earth, which shows multiple trails carved into the Talek region where cattle commute to graze.

Lions have responded negatively to the increased human activity, and sightings have decreased in the Talek region”, Farr said. “On the other hand, hyenas are thriving in disturbed Talek. We were interested in understanding how other species may be responding to these anthropogenic changes and how the carnivore community as a whole is faring.”

Farr teamed up with MSU scientists Elise Zipkin, Kay Holekamp, Gary Roloff and David Green (now at Oregon State University), to examine how human disturbance influences the carnivore community. The team observed nine other carnivores, including banded mongooses, bat-eared foxes, black-backed jackals, cheetahs, slender mongooses, leopards, caracals, servals and side-striped jackals, in addition to lions and hyenas.

“Analyzing data for a full community is tricky,” Zipkin said. “Many carnivore species are rare and difficult to detect, but we wanted to use all the information we had to get a full picture of the effects of human disturbance.”

Using records from all observations, the team created a model, linking abundance data for each species. The shared information across the carnivore community helped inform the model for the rarer animals, where data are sparse. It was this model, in fact, that confirmed the discrepancies between individual species’ responses to human disturbance.

“Our model indicated that passive enforcement of wildlife regulations and policies in the Talek region is having adverse effects on many of the carnivores,” Farr said. “Specifically, bat-eared foxes, leopards, lions and servals are suffering when compared to the active-enforcement approach within the Mara Triangle.”

However, the model also showed that carnivores don’t react uniformly to blanket conservation policy. Hyenas and black-backed jackals are thriving in the Talek region in the face of high human disturbance.

“By taking a community-wide approach rather than focusing on a single species, we avoided overlooking important intra-community variability that showed some carnivores benefiting from lax management.” Farr said. “However, even if some species increase in response to anthropogenic disturbance, that may not necessarily be a good thing as there might be other unintended consequences to the ecosystem.”

Land managers now have important information on how management practices can differentially affect carnivores. The results from this research will help drive conservation efforts in the Talek region, which are already improving due to changes in management. The number of cattle grazing has been drastically reduced, and the lions are starting to return to the region.

African black panther photographed, first in 110 years


This 11 February 2019 video says about itself:

San Diego Zoo Global researchers have confirmed the presence of rare black leopards living in Laikipia County, Kenya. Sometimes called black panthers, the melanistic leopards were filmed in Lorok, Laikipia County, Kenya on remote cameras that were set up as part of a large-scale study aimed at understanding the population dynamics of leopards in Mpala and Loisaba Conservancies.

Black panthers were the inspiration for the Black Panther Party in the USA; and later for similar groups in, eg, Israel and Greece.

Unfortunately, I found out today that the site Moorbey’z Blog, with much posts on, eg, the Black Panthers, has been deleted.

This 10 February 2019 video says about itself:

My quest to photograph a melanistic African Leopard (Black Panther) using Camtraptions camera traps.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Black leopard photographed for the first time in over one hundred years

For the first time since 1909 a black leopard has been photographed. That happened in a Kenyan nature reserve. Researchers confirm in the African Journal of Ecology that it is the rare animal indeed.

The black leopard has special fur through melanism, the opposite of albinism. As a result, the pelt colours black during the day and other colours can be seen at night.

The British photographer Will Burrard-Lucas photographed the animal in the Kenyan Laikipia Wilderness Camp, where the animal was spotted several times. The photographer spoke with residents, followed the footprints and placed a camera with a motion sensor.

Dream come true

After a few days he saw the black leopard on his images. “I stared at the picture, a pair of eyes surrounded by inky darkness … the black leopard. I could not believe it and it took a few days before I realized that my dream had come true”, he writes on his website.

Zoologists also react enthusiastically to the photos. “We always heard about black leopards in this region and this is the first confirmed photo of it in more than a hundred years”, says researcher Nicholas Pilfold to USA Today. The only previous confirmed photo of a black leopard was taken in Ethiopia, in 1909.

According to Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad today (translated):

The [black] female was spotted once in the presence of a fellow leopard with normal fur. The researchers suspect that this is possibly the mother of the dark individual.

Wildlife crime and medicine


This 21 January 2019 video says about itself:

Wildlife crime fighters, episode 3: Medicinal powders

Wildlife crime fighter Ann Mauwra [from Kenya] studies medicinal powders! Wait what? Yes, at Naturalis Science we study traditional medicines. Learn more in the third episode of our series regarding wildlife crime.

How Not to Wake Up a Lioness


This 29 January 2019 video from Kenya says about itself:

Watch a massive male lion’s intense creep up to a sleeping lioness. Just as you think he is going to lie down next to her, he ends up waking her up in the absolute worst way possible!

This was filmed by 32-year-old safari guide, Joshua Loonkushu, on an evening game drive near the river. Joshua tells LatestSightings.com the story: “On the previous day, we had spotted this pride of lions that had just killed a wildebeest within the banks of the Sand River in Maasai Mara. I decided to head over there the next day to try and track them down. Luckily I managed to find them!