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Author: Brooke Squires
My biggest adventures with wildlife in Melako Conservancy Kenya usually involve a hyena. I seem to attract them like flies. And yes, at first you do only think about how unattractive they are. Until you see them hunting, or spending time at the edge of camp, and can’t help but gain an appreciation for the importance of their role in nature…that ’s what I tell myself anyway!
Some of my most memorable wildlife encounters have been with the hyena at Oryx camp in Melako. We once had an old goat carcass that we’d decided not to bury. We plonked it on the bonnet of the Landcruiser and drove to the nearby airstrip. We put the carcass on the ground, turned off the engine and waited for the hyena to arrive. It was breath-holding stuff. After about a minute, we heard the whooping call from one member of the pack to another. All of a sudden they came out of nowhere, grabbed the carcass and were gone in a flash. Amazing.
We also have a night vision camera set up at the river bed and that is where you see the big kids come out to play. The scouts started using the motion sensor night vision camera last year when they were digging water wells in the river bed for wildlife. No one really knew which animals were using the wells. To everyone’s surprise the cameras captured images of hyena, elephant, big herds of Grevy’s zebra, one very awkward giraffe and loads of small carnivores such as genets and civets, even a porcupine ( brave soul). I think my favourite set of images is when a particular hyena (yes hyena trouble again) came up to the camera, had a good sniff, a bit of a nibble then dismantled one very expensive piece of equipment...with his teeth, I am sure he thought it was a great joke!!
It is great fun setting up the cameras. You will be helping us on the trip; you might be surprised about who hangs around camp when we are sound asleep…
Melako is home to some incredible rangeland wildlife; these are the tough animals, the ones who can go for long periods of time without water, the ones who can travel huge distances to access food, the ones who are truly wild. I have seen cheetah, elephants, lots of very fat giraffe, Grevy’s zebra, gerenuk and ostrich, but my very favourite is the Beisa Oryx. These desert antelope are exquisite, big brown eyes, elegantly curved horns, almost fawn in colour and so very shy. Some of the larger herds are in Melako, existing where there is no livestock, as they have the ability to go without water for long periods of time. When you see an oryx, it is like finding gold.... they are so precious. That is why RAW Africa Ecotours named our campsite after them and why the oryx is on our logo, we think they are perfect and we want you all to know it! Part of the reason why RAW Africa Ecotours is so passionate about enterprise development is because of the oryx...and the people of course. By providing alternative sources of income, such as through ecotourism, the community members do not have to rely on livestock alone to be able to pay for food, school fees etc, Less livestock in Melako means more grazing and room for oryx and allows communities to diversify their income, so win- win really.
And the best way that you can help Beisa Oryx is by coming on the trip with me, and supporting community ecotourism and local enterprises by purchasing some of the incredible items that the community have made especially for you. Even better is meeting the person who made it...but that’s a whole other story for a whole other blog.
Brooke Squires has worked in zoos, national parks and conservation areas around the world. These days, she divides her time between her beloved rhinos at Werribee Open Range Zoo, Victoria, where she is a rhino keeper, and the International Conservation Partnerships for Zoos Victoria.
Ph: +61 (0) 423 393 836