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Chronicles from Kenya: part 2

Last week was devoted almost entirely to a workshop with a group of 20 informants from Marigat and Salabani (the area south of Lake Baringo) chosen by the Necofa’s colleagues. It was a very interesting and formative experience for us.



The goal of mapping the major biodiversity hotspots through the local community’s experience and knowledge has been achieved successfully. It was not immediate figuring out the best way to represent on a map the huge amount of data and knowledge provided by the group, since many of them have never worked in this way. Nevertheless, after half a day of patient work in close collaboration with Paul, Maggy, Dickson and Rongai – our informants - we succeeded in designing a map showing the most representative areas in terms of species importance.

From the resulting map emerged clearly an ecological corridor between Bogoria National Park and Ruko Reserve, southeast of the lake. This is a very interesting result, which will be the focus of our future field work. A similar work has been done for birds, although in this case we decided to map the most interesting hotspots directly, since the local species checklist was too long to use a monospecific approach. Also in this case the resulted map showed some interesting areas, particularly Lake 94 (south of Baringo ), where there are potentially exploitable points for tourism and birdwatching purposes. 

The workshops was not limited to the participatory mapping of the available species, but it was also an opportunity for a broader discussion on biodiversity and its ecological and economic importance. We talked about biology and ecology using more theoretical approach, while our local friends gave us concrete examples based on their direct experience.

Some of them were real experts. Wilson and David, passionate and brilliant birdwatchers, and Grace, a only apparent shy herbalist, have enchanted the audience with their stories about birds and local medicinal plants. We made also a 'school visit' to the Snake Park, which proved to be a real opportunity to directly observe some species of reptiles studied in the morning. Finally, the last day, a BBC film about the struggles between crocodiles and other species living in the savannah was the basis for a discussion on ecology and ethology of the animal world , as well as a nice way to end the workshop.



While our workshop progressed, the six camera-traps we hid in the bush last week did their job. Their recovery was far from simple, as several hours of walking in the hot sun and in the midst of a dense and thorny bush were needed. But the results paid off this effort; we captured zebras, hyenas, baboons, warthogs, mongooses, dik dik, as well as other unimportant subjects such as motorcycles, children and farmers appalled to see a mimetic object attached to a shaft.

The days in the bush accompanied by local experts have brought us a number of valuable pieces of information thanks to footprints, feces or accounts of recent sightings, extending the list of available species in the area: impala, kudu, warthog, buffalo, leopard, wild dog and even lion seem popular in this bush. A good result, which we hope will be able to confirm with photographic evidences. Whatever happens, there is a good consistency between the results emerged from the workshop and the ones from camera-traps, so the more we move eastward, the easier it is to meet species populating the ecological corridor.

This will be a week of field work, with a lot of walks and camping in the bush, as well as bird watching. It will be useful both to us, in order to deepen our knowledge of the area, and to the informants, who can get an idea of the places that we have identified that might be the spots where tourists, in the future, will go.