A trip down memory lane in Hell’s Gate National Park
Munir Virani— 22 April 2010 — in East Africa Project ShareLast year, when Chris Parish, The Peregine Fund’s California Condor Director wrote to me about Evan Buechley (a staff member on the California Condor Project) wishing to volunteer in Kenya, I jumped at the opportunity. Having worked on Augur Buzzards in the south Lake Naivasha area for my PhD in the mid 1990s, I revisited these sites in 2005 and documented marked declines in Augur Buzzard territories that ranged from 18 to 50% over different land-use areas. The southern Lake Naivasha area is the hub of Kenya’s horticultural industry with annual revenue close to five hundred million US dollars a year. Naturally, with the prolific growth of the horticultural industry, comes loss of foraging ground for the Augur Buzzards. Also, the human population has increased fifty fold from 7,000 people in 1969 to nearly 300,000 people presently. Given the changes that have taken place in Kenya especially over the last five years, I was interested to know whether the species has further declined or remained stable.
Because I am currently involved in a myriad of raptor projects in East Africa as well as in South Asia, it was virtually impossible for me to spend a large chunk of time to re-visit all the Augur Buzzard territories. This is where I thought Evan would be perfect to help identify and mark all the pairs that I worked on earlier. Evan had just come from Spain where he had spent three months tracking and monitoring Bearded Vultures, a species that is also in jeopardy in Africa. Fortunately, Evan arrived on the very last flight after which Europe’s airspace was shut down because of the Icelandic volcanic eruption and ash over the skies of Europe.
After spending a week with me, I finally took Evan down to Naivasha yesterday to show him my Augur Buzzard pairs and nest locations at Hell’s Gate (we had made a trip last Friday where I introduced him to some of the land-owners of the south Lake Naivasha area). It was really a trip down memory lane for me. Hell’s Gate National Park looked lush green as the towering cliffs displayed their golden sheen in the morning.
We dropped Evan at the Elsamere Field Study Center where he will be based for a period of about three months. The Elsa Trust Ltd has been a wonderful collaborator over the years and continues to help support our raptor projects at Lake Naivasha. It has been 15 years since I did my Augur Buzzard and African Fish Eagle work at Lake Naivasha, and I am really excited to have Evan be there to help evaluate the current status of Augur Buzzards in the South Lake Naivasha area. Watch out for updates from him.
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