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Kenya's Savannas and Wildlife

Guest Post by Gloria Teimuge

Gloria is a public health practitioner and consultant, photojournalist and writer living in Nairobi, Kenya. She is a long-time friend of Spirit in Action.

Aaah...wildlife. You probably know so much about Africa’s wildlife already. There are so many wild animals to mention! I’ll let the internet assist you on that. During a safari, what you see for miles and miles are silhouettes of giraffes feeding on acacia trees in the vast savanna grasslands. Wild animals in Kenya typically stay and live in the wild; some are protected in parks and reserves.

Since reserves characteristically aren’t fenced (because they are hectares and hectares of land), it’s not uncommon to come across people grazing their livestock alongside wildlife. Risaf, (our lingo for reserve), also known as the countryside, is an area where animals and humans have coexisted with little to no problems for centuries.

It’s brilliant how most of the towns and villages in Kenya are named after inhabiting wildlife or the environment. They are named how the villagers see fit. Emsea is from the words emmet-ab seat, which means ‘home of seaat’ (a tree species). Kipchebos means a place that is bald implicating bareness; seasonally, the area becomes arid and bare.

Monkeys are agile, tree hopping primates of the forest. In risaf like Kapsoo, Kessup and Nandi, they can be such a nuisance especially during the maize maturing season. They love to eat maize, the premature cobs with milky kernels.

If not careful, monkeys can demolish an entire plantation in a week! So, the villagers have to be up by 5am during that season to shoo them away. They carry drums and empty buckets, sling shots and sticks to try and wad them off. Very cheeky and fast, the monkeys can keep one running around the entire day.

The colobus monkey, the vervet, and baboons are some of the most commonly seen species of monkeys. My parents tell us their experiences about this very important responsibility growing up, and we crack up laughing at the mischievousness of the monkeys. It is a difficult job. We still watch out for monkeys in the farm in Kerio Valley.

I remember in high school (boarding school) during the dry seasons, when it was too hot outside and the vegetations were all dried up, the monkeys would come into our dormitories to look for food. If someone left the window open, a surprise of mess and clatter would be waiting after class in the evening. So we learnt to be observant of seasons.

Photos provided by Gloria Teimuge

Long before urban centers swelled in population, giraffes could be seen walking around. Even now, on rare occasions, giraffes can be seen in the Ngong area. There are signs on the road for Giraffe-crossing. Animals seen relaxing in recreational parks and along major highways are baboons, warthogs, antelopes and zebras. Quick question: Are Zebras black with white stripes or white with black stripes?

There are thousands of bird species in Kenya. Some of them are migratory birds that migrate to and within Kenya yearly because of the favorable weather conditions for feeding, breeding, and thriving. My brother, Kigen, is a bird enthusiast and has taught me how fascinating an activity bird watching can be.

Lilac-breasted Roller
Photo by Adam John Bourke

The Lilac-breasted roller and the Rooster are Kenya’s national birds. Two birds you wonder? Kindly consult with the Luhya community in Kenya. There is no way we would have a national bird that isn’t a chicken. We love our kienyeji chicken (free-range), perfect meal for any occasion. Poultry farming is a commonly practiced activity in Kenya.

The roller on the other hand is a colorful bird endemic to Africa. It has a plumage of purple, azure, olive, black and brown shades with white streaks. The rooster crows while the roller has a distinct vocalization and also sings!

Still more to come about the semi-arid grasslands of Kenya.

Until then, take care.

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