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The Peregrine Fund Notes From The Field

"Notes from the Field" provides frequent updates and pictures from our biologists and students who are working in the field or at our headquarters, the World Center for Birds of Prey.

•  Complete Egyptian Vulture data on GRIN

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Amazing Ethiopia

Darcy Ogada — in East Africa Project

‘This is our Grand Keenyan’ explained the entrepreneurial young Ethiopian guide, describing the magnificent cliffs and views below us.In the second that followed I tried to think how he knew I had come from Kenya.Then my brain fully engaged and I realized he was actually talking about the Grand Canyon.

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Find more articles about Egyptian Vulture, Peregrine Falcon, Tawny Eagle, Africa


An historic meeting at Kwenia-Olorgesailie that aims to conserve this unique ecosystem and benefit Masai communities

Munir Virani — in East Africa Project

Every journey begins with a small step. Over the last nine years my colleague Simon Thomsett and I have been monitoring populations of Rüppell’s Vultures at the Kwenia cliffs in Kajiado district, about a three and a half hour drive south of Nairobi. This colony is the largest breeding colony of the species in southern Kenya and should be considered a national asset. Unfortunately, Kwenia has no conservation status whatsoever. The surrounding areas of Olorgesailie, Kilonito, and Oldonyo Nyoike also have no conservation status. These regions are harsh, arid and water deficient. In contrast, and by virtue of being in the southern Rift Valley, the region also contains some of the most diverse species of vertebrates on earth. Notwithstanding the importance of this very important vulture colony, other species such as Lesser Kudu, Gerenuk, Wild Dogs, Cheetah, Hyena and a myriad of raptors and other prolific birds abound. Olorgesailie is also an important prehistoric site, recognized globally as one of the places where early hominids used hand axes. Hominid fossils go back nearly nine hundred thousand years based on work conducted by Dr Rick Potts and his colleagues from the Smithsonian Institution. The species of animals unearthed at Olorgesailie and other locations in southern Kenya changed over time as environmental conditions shifted time and again. Species of baboons, elephant, zebra, pigs, and hippopotamuses that had been very abundant in the region went extinct. They were replaced by closely related species that still survive in East Africa today.

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Find more articles about Egyptian Vulture, Rüppell's Vulture, Africa


From Temples to Tigers: Monitoring Vultures in India

Yeray Seminario — in Asian Vulture Crisis

Namaste!

The Asian Vultures Crisis, as it came to be known, is one of the most compelling stories in wildlife conservation. Vultures in South Asia were dying off by the thousands and entire populations were plummeting. Finally, it was proven that a drug called Diclofenac, widely used to treat cattle and other livestock at the end of the last century, was inadvertently causing the death of these vultures. The Peregrine Fund solved the mystery and now the drug is banned in India, Nepal and Pakistan. To this day, The Peregrine Fund keeps monitoring the vulture populations in India.

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Find more articles about Aplomado Falcon, California Condor, Egyptian Vulture, Long-billed Vulture, Pallas's Fish Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Asia-Pacific


Lions, lions, and more lions

Corinne Kendall — in East Africa Project

lion yawnIt has been a week of lions. Everywhere we turned we saw one or the other. Unlike last week’s scrawny injured lioness, the big cats we have seen the last few days have been healthy and well-fed. A 12-member pride with two adult males, a juvenile male, and a female that resembles “Scar” from The Lion King (thanks to a warthog tusk that nearly removed her eye) sat happily with a buffalo kill. Then we saw a lioness with three large cubs – two girls and a boy. We stopped to watch them as they slept along the road. The male cub decided to cross right behind the car and I had a moment of panic as I absorbed the fact that I was only a few feet from such an impressively large animal with the windows open. He stopped just to the right of the car and lied down in the road. With the roof popped open, I stood staring into his deep yellow eyes while snapping a few shots. He yawned – big and I got a nice look at his teeth. When he finally went to join the girls on the other side of the road, his affectionate head rub was welcomed with a snarl from one of the other cubs as he collapsed onto his side for a further nap.

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Find more articles about Egyptian Vulture, Hooded Vulture, Africa


The Chambal River Sanctuary in Rajasthan India

Munir Virani — in Asian Vulture Crisis

Counting vultures on the Chambal River can be quite an ambivalent experience. We are on the boat from dawn to dusk with an opportunity to see some of the most fascinating wildlife in India. However, it is usually hot and one does end up with a sore behind at the end of the day. The Chambal is one of the only rivers in India that flows from south to north. I was accompanied by Dr Patrick Benson, who has been studying Cape Vultures in South Africa for nearly 30 years and Shiv Kapila, one of my students supported by The Peregrine Fund, who successfully completed a Masters degree at the University College of London. I have been very fortunate to have Pat regularly help me over the last seven years that we have been observing vultures in India. He has a wealth of knowledge and I have benefited tremendously from his vast experience.

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Find more articles about Black Kite, Egyptian Vulture, Long-billed Vulture, Peregrine Falcon, Asia-Pacific


East Africa’s Vultures—Unsung Heroes

Munir Virani — in East Africa Project

Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve is unequivocally rated as one of the world’s premier wildlife destinations. Every year between July and September, approximately 1.2 million grunting wildebeest cross over into the Mara from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. The wildebeest provide an unparalleled culinary feast to crocodiles, lions, and a myriad of other predators that prowl the Mara’s magical plains. However for one group of animals, the wildebeest migration in the Mara becomes a prolonged period of festivity—these are the vultures—nature’s unsung heroes. I’d like to think of them however as Africa’s most efficient clean-up crew.

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Find more articles about Egyptian Vulture, Lappet-faced Vulture, Africa


The Magic of Kwenia

Munir Virani — in East Africa Project

Nestled in the heart of the Kedong Valley is Kwenia—ome to the largest and most important colony of Ruppell’s Vultures in southern Kenya. My friend and partner in raptor conservation studies, Simon Thomsett discovered this spectacular site in 2002 during a helicopter flight to the Gol Mountains in northern Tanzania. Ruppell’s Vultures, along with four other species of vultures in East Africa have been placed in the World Conservation Union’s (IUCN) Red Data List. This means that their populations need to be closely monitored to ascertain whether they will either (barely) survive or become extinct in the not-so-distant future. Lammergeyers or Bearded Vultures have almost completely disappeared from Kenya while Egyptian Vultures are listed as endangered species. The White-headed and Lappet-faced Vultures are only confined to the big game areas while there have been noticeable declines in numbers of the two species of Gyps vultures—African White-backed and Ruppell’s.
Kwenia cliffs (Photo by Munir Virani)
Kwenia cliffs (Photo by Munir Virani)

I have previously written about my hair-raising flight to Kwenia and have since then visited the site every year with Simon to monitor population trends and reproductive success of these near-threatened species. During that first visit, Simon and I made a gentleman’s pact whereby we pledged not to write extensively about this magnificent site but more importantly not to reveal its exact location. Every field biologist has his or her “secret spot” where they share their fieldwork, experiences, passion and enthusiasm with close and like-minded friends. Kwenia is one of those “secret spots”. While I will not reveal the location of the site, I would like to share with you my experience at Kwenia.

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Find more articles about Egyptian Vulture, Lappet-faced Vulture, Rüppell's Vulture, Africa


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