Feeding time at the Daphne Sheldrick Wildlife Refuge, Nairobi
Mia and I got up at 5:30 this morning and took a van out to Nairobi National Park to catch a glimpse of some wildlife while Wangari Maathai was busy with Parliament. The Park is contiguous with Nairobi, so rather oddly you can see downtown skyscrapers and housing developments from the middle of what seems (in the other direction) to be endless plains and riparian oases.
Although the park has lions and rhinos (which we did not see), it has no elephants. Instead, Cape buffalo, whom we got remarkably and a little unnervingly close to, dominate, as do the egrets that feed on their tics. We also saw a few zebras, plenty of elands, impalas, and Thomson’s gazelles, a solitary warthog, numerous birds such as the widow and weaver birds, several hawks, a vulture, and an extraordinarily large owl. The highlights were: being surrounded by a troop of ten Rothschild giraffes (including one baby) who loped insouciantly toward and past our van; being confronted by several families of very aggressive baboons—even the babies had an attitude—who made their presence and demand for food felt at a rest stop; and being welcomed into a much calmer gathering of twenty ostriches, whom we joined as they hung out in the early morning sunshine.
After visiting the Park we went to the Daphne Sheldrick elephant orphanage and watched one baby rhino and about ten baby elephants feed and bathe in the mudhole, while their caretakers fed them with foliage, played soccer with them, and told us how the elephants had gotten there. One of the Sheldrick orphanage’s claims to fame is that these elephants, the victims of poaching, rejecting herds, or simple accidents (one had fallen down a large hole) are returned to health or nurtured to semi-maturity and returned to the wild. Many of the elephants have now been adopted by wild elephant families in Tsavo National Park. Unfortunately, there is a never-ending supply of orphan elephants, and the orphanage lost three to illness recently. But it was encouraging to see the babies playing and bonding and simply enjoying being elephants.
News from Kenya is that Nicholas Biwott, an MP who was one of the most notoriously corrupt members of the previous KANU government of Daniel arap Moi, and whose fingerprints were miraculously absent from a string of murders, claims of fraud, embezzlement, and generally unpleasant behavior rumored to be associated with him, is being tipped to return to the cabinet, in order to shore up the fragile government of Mwai Kibaki. This has everyone but Mr. Biwott’s constituents (who are well paid for their continuing support of their very wealthy member of parliament) in an uproar, and people are talking about a return to the bad old days of the kleptocracy and corruption of the Moi regime.
And it still hasn’t rained.