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Home again from a two week trip to the Mara, Kenya. The rains have turned the planes into a green meadow, resembling a golf course. Although the big migration has moved on to the Serengeti, there was plenty of game left to see. We had some great sightings. A cheetah with four cubs, amazing lions, beautiful sunsets and massive thunderstorms. One afternoon we saw The Big Five within 30 minutes after leaving the camp. And the good thing was that we did not have to share what we saw with lots of other cars. The advantage of being in the Mara off-season. We took some great pictures, some of which we will post on the Wild Picha Facebook page and on our website in the coming weeks.
Last fall we visited Samburu National Reserve in Kenya to research the new Tata&Squack elephant adventure. We were in awe of the majestic animals. Touched by the caring they display for each other. Amazed by the stories how elephants grieve their dead and yet have the courage to turn the page and get on with life. There are lots of things they still can teach us humans. Therefore I am sad to read that between December and January, 21 elephants have been killed in the Samburu area only. The last elephant to be killed being Phyllo, a 20-year old male, felled with six bullets, his face and tusks gone.
But there is hope for change. The elephant expert Iain Douglas-Hamilton and his wife, Oria, welcomed yet another Chinese goodwill ambassador at the Elephant Watch Camp. In 1993 the Douglas-Hamiltons, established the Save the Elephants organization to promote better understanding and preservation of the world’s largest land mammal. Li Bingbing, a Chinese actress is launching a new campaign in China with UNEP and Save the Elephants to stop the illegal ivory trade. Stepping up to the challenge, Li wants to raise awareness how the demand in China is fueling the killing of elephants in Africa. Like many people in China, Li asserts that ignorance in consumer countries is the enemy of elephants. The world can no longer ignore the reality that elephants may be gone within decades, unless something drastic happens to stop the slaughter.
The story behind the elephant picture which was used for our christmas card is a family story. When we visited Samburu National Reserve in Kenya, last October, we witnessed this beautiful scene on the river on an evening game drive. Most elephant families come down to drink and cool off in the river around midday. Therefore we were thrilled to witness this event in the beautiful evening light. This family had been feeding in an area far away from the river. They were covered in red dust when we saw them approaching peacefully in a long red line through the bush. The knowledgeable guides of Elephant Watch knew exactly which path they would take and where it would lead them. We were able to position ourselves at exactly the right spot along the river, to take these beautiful shots. The whole family splashed into the water, clearly enjoying it’s coolness. We witnessed again how gentle and social these giants are. They greeted each other, the little ones played and were closely watched over by the adults. Gentle giants in the river…
We just returned from a great safari to Kenya, where we gathered exciting new raw material for future books! “5.30, good morning, tea is ready”, does not sound like holiday for many people. For us it does, but I also call it our field office. Get up early to catch the morning light. Beat the dust and bumpy roads. Be patient and wait for things to happen. Hope for animals to behave in a certain way, take pictures, download, backup, keyword, edit,… hard work, but we love it.
This trip we went to Amboseli, where we took pictures of elephant herds on the dried lakebed. We even got out of the car, to shoot from a lower angle. It makes your heart race, when the elephants do come close! In the Masai Mara we were lucky to see the migration of the wildebeest, just before they crossed the border into Tanzania, for ever following the rain. The last week was a “Big Cat Week” with Jonathan Scott and Warren Samuels. It was great to hear some of the inside stories about the different prides and to follow cats around, knowing beforehand, what they might be up to. We hope to put some pictures online soon!