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The Peregrine Fund Notes From The Field
Hidden treasures
Corinne Kendall — in East Africa Project    Share

I’m sitting on the veranda by the dining tent, looking out at the Mara. The rolling hills of green can be seen in the distance merging with the golden yellow of the tall grass plains below. The Talek river babbles slowly beneath me, the rains have slowed, though not quite stopped and the river still manages to flow around the rocks. It is cool and calm this morning, though the sun is up and soon its warm rays will warm the earth.

This week the Mara has shared with me many of its hidden treasures, even as I zip around almost ignoring the wildlife to see the vultures (sort of like missing the forest through the trees, I guess). On Friday, a leopard crept out into the road in front of our car. There was no one else around and big male seemed startled to be found. He moved quickly into the bushes and growled as I tried for a photo. Then as two tourist vehicles joined us he made a break for it, leaping effortlessly across a small stream and vanishing into the dense vegetation – probably not to be seen for several more weeks even with hundreds of people looking for him.

chameleonOn Saturday, we stopped for a chameleon who was crossing the road. In yellow and green he wiggled back and forth before each step trying to keep the fascade of being a leaf (blowing in the wind) going even as I stood next to him. When I bent down it was a different story. He hauled it to the nearest bushes, black spots appearing across his body as he flashed his rage in color. Then slowly he returned to a dark green as he entered the bushes.

On Sunday, we saw one appears to be one of the last small groups of White storks. These migratory birds, which had overrun the place for the last month, are finally moving on. (It has been amazing to see the “other” migration, not of wildebeest, but of all the migratory birds that travel through Masai Mara this time of year). After having seen flocks in the hundreds blacked the sky in synchronized motion, this group of twenty seemed pitiful. Then one bird leaped in excitement its yellow beak flashing as it lifted a three-foot snake into the air. It flew with it trying to escape its hungry neighbors and stood for a while as if unsure how to consume its unusual prey.

On Monday, we would see a similar display but perhaps from a less ackward predator, as a Tawny eagle ripped a small snake into pieces along the side of the road.

On Tuesday, I saw the female lioness, who I have come to know so well. She stood wobbling next to the road. It wasn’t just her paw that was injured anymore. That injury had cost her dearly and the once healthy lioness that I had seen so many times as deteriorated into a skeleton of cat, ribs jutting against her skin and hips exposed and sagging. Her pain seemed to have extended as she was not only limping now, but also staggering, perhaps stiff from all her lying around. I wondered how long it will be before the predator falls prey to the scavengers and the vultures return her to the ground.

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