Micato Musings


Posts Tagged ‘wildlife’

The Elusive Leopard Tells All

  • June 28th 2012

Elusive. That’s me. Solitary, secretive, nocturnal… notorious for my stealth: the life of a leopard is much like that of a reluctant member of the royal family. So why am I writing a blog post for Micato Safaris? Well, it’s primarily because I just want to be left alone, and the rest of the Big FiveElephant, Lion, Cape Buffalo and Rhino—would not stop bugging me until I wrote about myself and completed the collection. So to get a little peace and quiet, I agreed to spill my secrets.

They Also Call Me:

In East Africa, where they speak Swahili, I’m known as Chui. The Setswana speakers in Botswana call me Nkwe. In parts of South Africa and Zimbabwe the Zulu people call me Ingwe; in other parts of South Africa and Namibia, people who speak Afrikaans call me Jagluiperd. (Which is sort of a funny mix between jaguar and leopard, isn’t it? We’re actually closely related.) My family members make all sorts of noises when they want my attention, from roars to grunts, but we’re famous for our purrs, which sound like someone sawing.

Best Places to Find Me:

This may impress you: my family has the largest distribution of any wild cat—East, Southern and Central Africa are the places where I thrive most, even in weird habitats where other large cats have long since disappeared. You can find me in such disparate places as Mount Kenya and Kruger National Park, and everywhere in between: I love the savannah and the rainforest equally. However, we haven’t heard from any of the North African family members in a long time, and I’m sad to say that they’re probably extinct.

I even have family members in Asia, though that portion of my family is small and scattered. You can find us in India, Southeast Asia, and China. I even have cousins in Russia who live in temperate forests, which get as cold as -13◦F. They don’t mind a bit—they have the most privacy of all of us. My theory as to why leopards are everywhere? Because we need so much space. Male leopards generally have a home range between 12 and 30 square miles, and there is rarely ever any overlap. I’m a lady, thus I don’t have qualms about making my home territory on a piece of land that overlaps a male’s home—as long as he doesn’t crowd me.

How to Find Me

Despite my family’s favourable numbers we are, as I said, reclusive. And if you want to follow suit, here’s a tip: learn to climb. This ability is something I’m known for. I rest in trees, lick myself clean in trees, drag my food up into trees to eat, jump up to 10 feet to get up onto a tall branch of a tree, and can even climb down trees headfirst. The black rosettes on my fur look a lot like the shadows of leaves, and my gift is to blend right in.

If you really want to see me (and I know for some of you it’s an obsession), stay at a lodge or camp that has a leopard blind. These fine people have learned that I like to do my eating in trees, where I can get away from those pesky other animals, so they hang meat right where I can smell it. You see, there is a limit to my solitude—I suppose I’ll let you see me in exchange for a side of beef.

Most Embarrassing Facts:

Quite honestly, nothing. I’m an all-star athlete—great at hunting, climbing, swimming, and running—and there’s no denying that I’m gorgeous. My lovely silhouette has been used as an emblem for sports teams and coats of arms in Africa, and I’ve been depicted in the art of places where I used to live but haven’t visited in ages, such as Greece, Rome and even England. Some call me proud—the Cape Buffalo even calls me a snob—but really I’m not. I’m just realistic about my talents and looks. And modest.

Favourite Food:

I love the hunt. LOVE it. Thus I’ll eat anything from tiny dung beetles to 2,000 pound eland—whatever allows me to exercise one of my favourite skills: stalking my prey with complete silence, then pouncing at the very last minute. Day-to-day I eat mostly antelopes and monkeys, but I’ve been known to catch rodents, reptiles, birds, fish and even smaller predators, like jackals. I even had an uncle who caught and ate a crocodile. Seriously. Don’t mess with leopards.

Everything Else:

Type: Mammal

Diet: Carnivorous (these brilliant teeth aren’t just flair, you know)

Average life span in the wild: Twenty years

Size: Between four and six feet long, plus the tail, which can be up to four feet long!

Weight: For myself and the rest of the ladies, we’re small: between 50 and 130 pounds. Males are bigger—they can get up to 200 pounds. All told, though, we’re the smallest of the big cats in our genus (Panthera), the other three being tigers, lions and jaguars.

Protection status: We’re classified as “near threatened” which makes me nervous…

Group name: A leap! Because we’re so darn good at jumping up trees, at our prey, and away from poachers.

Secrets of the Rhinoceros

  • May 30th 2012

Sure, I heard that my fellow “five” were blogging for Micato. The lion, the elephant, and the Cape buffalo all had plenty to say—but like many rhinos, I seldom speak unless spoken to. However, the Cape buffalo pressured me (he is SUCH a bully), but by then I had already made up my mind to deliver Micato’s first ever blog post from a Rhino.

What They Also Call Me

In East Africa, where they speak Swahili, I’m known as Kifaru. In parts of South Africa and Zimbabwe the Zulu people call me Nkombe; in other parts of South Africa and Namibia, people who speak Afrikaans call me Renoster. The Setswana speakers in Botswana call me Tshukudu. I don’t usually answer to any of these names though—like I said, I usually keep to myself.

Best Places to Find Me

It depends on who you’re looking for. Personally, I’m a Black Rhino, and my family and I can be found in Tanzania, parts of Kenya, Namibia, Botswana and parts of South Africa. Although this sounds like an awful big range, there are still very few of us—about four thousand in the wild. You certainly have to look hard to find us, although if you visit a rhino conservancy you have a much higher chance, as those rangers monitor my whereabouts. I don’t like having so much to-do about things—it’s a little embarrassing—but I guess it’s what we have to do to stay alive these days.

My cousin, the White Rhino, has a bigger immediate family—about 17,000—which makes them the most numerous of all the rhinos in the world! They’re mostly in South Africa, though they can also be found in Namibia and Botswana. There is a subspecies of White Rhino called the Northern White Rhino, which is nearly extinct. Some humans have just reintroduced this rhino to the wild, in Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy. It seems like they’re doing ok so far—as long as they can keep poachers out.

What You’ll See Me Doing

Eating leaves or wallowing in mud, alone. As a male, I particularly like to keep to myself. The women and babies will sometimes gather together in groups, but only for short periods of time, until the babies are big enough to not get chomped by a croc. Adult rhinos have no natural predators and we don’t do any hunting, so there isn’t much need to gather in big groups. In fact, it’s probably best if we don’t. I’m…well…ok, I’m aggressive. I mean Incredible Hulk-style aggressive, to the degree that sometimes I attack trees or termite mounds for no reason at all. It’s no surprise then that Rhinos have the highest rate of mortal combat for any animal—50% of males and 30% of females die from fighting with each other. “Dysfunctional family” is an understatement for us.

Most Embarrassing Facts

Oh man. Can I tell you a secret? The reason I’m such a loner—and probably why I’m so aggressive too—is that EVERYTHING feels like an embarrassing fact.

First off, I’m an odd-toed ungulate. That means I have a hoof with an odd number of toes on it, like a horse. Secondly, I have a weight problem: I’m the second-largest mammal on the planet. The first-largest animal is the elephant, but she doesn’t need to be embarrassed because she’s nice and smart, which makes up for it. Me, on the other hand, I’ve got a really small brain. Seriously small. And bad eyesight. Also, no front teeth.

Gosh, I don’t even know if I can finish this blog post, I’m so embarrassed now. Oh, I’m almost done? Well, ok then, I guess I can go on.

Favourite Food

Leaves, branches, fruit—all that good stuff. This is why I have a pointy, prehensile lip, the better for stripping branches. The White Rhino, on the other hand, eats grass, and that’s why she has a long, flat lip—the better for clipping. That’s also why she’s called the White Rhino—it’s because English-speaking humans misunderstood her original Dutch name, which was Widj (Widj means wide, as in wide-lipped), and started calling her White Rhino. Which is silly, as anyone can see that her skin is grey just like mine.

Everything Else

Type: Mammal

Diet: Herbivorous

Average life span in the wild: 35-50 years—that’s assuming that I don’t get poached or killed in a fight with one of my brothers.

Size: I’m about five feet tall, and between 11 and 15 feet long. The White Rhino is the same length, but generally taller (around six feet). Like I said, we’re big.

Weight: 1,900 to 4,000 lbs, on average. The White Rhino, if you can believe it, gets even bigger—up to 10,000 pounds! That’s a lot to carry around

Protection status: It’s critical. The categorization differs for the different subspecies, but basically all rhinos need help. The problem is our horns. Certain people insist that they make good medicine—in many parts of Asia they grind rhino horns up and use the powder to reduce fevers and stop convulsions. But honestly, my horn is made of the same stuff as your fingernails and hair (keratin), and you don’t see anybody grinding up fingernail clipping for medicine, do you? NOT a good reason to hunt us, in my opinion.

Group name: A crash, which adequately describes what happens when we hang out—fighting, fighting and more fighting. And you wonder why I’m a loner?

A Few Minutes with a Cape Buffalo

  • May 24th 2012


People get all excited about the lion, Mr. King of the Jungle, and are SO impressed by the elephant, the world’s largest land mammal. But what about me? The Cape Buffalo? Hello? I’m one of the Big Five, too! So I asked Micato Safaris if I could do a guest blog post, and they generously obliged.

What They Also Call Me

In East Africa, where they speak Swahili, I’m known as Nyati. In parts of South Africa and Zimbabwe the Zulu people call me Inyathi; in other parts of South Africa and Namibia, people who speak Afrikaans call me Buffels. The Setswana speakers in Botswana call me Nare—they also have a separate name for my little son, the buffalo calf, who they call Natshana.

Now, when it comes to my family members, well…the herd is so close that we rarely need to speak, we usually just KNOW what the other buffalo is thinking. But when something specific needs to be expressed, I’ll usually hear about it via a bellow, grunt, honk or croak. People say it’s similar to how human males communicate at the gym.

Best Places to Find Me

We are everywhere in East and Southern Africa: Chyulu Hills, Serengeti, Samburu, Etosha, Okavango Delta… wherever there is grass to eat and wide-open plains to exercise in, seriously I’m not picky. My only caveat is that I need to stay close to water—have to hydrate every day!

What You’ll See Me Doing

Hanging out on the savannah with a bunch of big guys, because (ahem) in my family I’m in the sub-herd of high-ranking males, which means (a) I’m important (but you probably already knew that), and (b) I get first pick of the ladies in the herd. The ladies are, of course, the core of the herd, with their kids—I’m an old-fashioned, chivalrous kind of guy.

You can tell I’m important by the thickness of my horns, and I use those bad boys to fight off any other males who try to challenge me. You can catch me sparring with my horns a lot—either for play or in an actual battle for dominance (which I obviously always win.)

When not fighting or eating, I’m on the alert for any distress in my family. We’re tough, as you can tell, and not easy to hunt—taking down one adult buffalo requires the hunting prowess of multiple lions working together. However, our calves are more vulnerable, so we cluster around them whenever possible, and come to their defense as soon as we hear the call (as illustrated in the famous Battle of Kruger.) This is part of why we’re known for our altruism—it’s rare that any male in the wild would protect a calf that wasn’t his own.

Most Famous Admirer

Ernest Hemingway. As one of the Big Five—the five most dangerous and difficult animals to hunt—I posed a rare challenge to that great writer, who travelled to Africa in the bad old days when big game hunting wasn’t controlled, and my family constantly had to fight off hunters. Thank goodness things are more controlled now, although I still work out regularly, flexing my muscles and jogging the plains, just in case I have to charge someone to protect my family.

Like all big game hunters, Ernest loved and feared me in equal measure, and even wrote a whole story starring me, called “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.” I’m not sure how many copies it sold, but I hope not a lot—I mean, guys, I DIE at the end. Worst. Ending. Ever.

Most Embarrassing Facts

None.

Ok, ok, I’ll give you just one. My temper. When I feel threatened I am quick to go on the offensive: lions, leopards, crocodiles—I’ve attacked them all. Amongst African humans, I’m known as “Black Death” or “Widowmaker,” and they’re not joking. It’s an embarrassing personal trait, but also a useful one—it’s why I’m the only member of the exclusive Big Five club that isn’t classified as endangered or vulnerable.

Favourite Food

Mmmm, grass! That’s all I eat, and all I ever will. Tall, coarse grass is my favourite treat, which makes me a popular guy on the savannah, since my family and I act as lawnmowers, clipping down great swathes of dense grass and exposing the gentler green ground-cover below for the grazers with more delicate palates (ahem, antelopes—wimps!)

Everything Else

Type: Mammal

Diet: I’m a vegetarian, but that doesn’t make me nice, ok? I can wrassle with the best of them.

Average life span in the wild: About 18 to 20 years old

Size: My family members are all within the range of 5 to 11 feet long, and 3 to 5 feet tall—but don’t let my short legs fool you, I’m still fast… and pretty darn huge.

Weight: 1,100–2,000 pounds (gentlemen, like me, are larger than the ladies). For someone who’s about four feet tall, this is inarguably a lot. And that’s all muscle!

Protection status: According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, I am in the “Least Concern” category, which means that they were worried enough to check on me, but when they saw that my family and I were doing pretty well they decided they didn’t have to fret about us anymore. At least, for now—as long as there’s plenty of grass to eat, and those darn hunters stay off my back.

Group name: “Herd” is most common, although people also refer to us as “a gang” or “an obstinacy.” The last also means “a state of stubbornness,” which seems most appropriate. I dare you to argue with me about it!

Confessions of a Mama Elephant

  • May 17th 2012

Good morning everyone! Yes, I am a mama elephant. I asked the Micato Safaris writers to transcribe a blog post for me, as my flat feet are terrible for typing. After all, why should those vain lions get all the press?

They Also Call Me:

In East Africa, where they speak Swahili, I’m known as Tembo, or Ndovu (they like me so much, they named me twice!) In parts of South Africa and Zimbabwe the Zulu people call me Indlovu; in other parts of South Africa and Namibia, people who speak Afrikaans call me Oliphant. The Setswana speakers in Botswana call me Tlou. But when anyone in the family needs me, they usually just amble over and cuddle—I am a mom, after all.

Best Places to Find Me:

I ought to be clear about who I am, exactly. You see, there are smaller Asian elephants in India and Sri Lanka—I’m not one of them. There are also African forest elephants, who crash around the forests and jungles of West Africa—I’m also not one of them. I’m an African bush elephant, so my kids and I spend our days in the glorious parks of Southern and East Africa: Amboseli, Kruger, Maasai Mara, Serengeti, Samburu, Okavango Delta… if it’s savannah or bushveldt, I’m there.

What You’ll See Me Doing:

Usually you can find me eating, but I also love to bathe and swim, and if you want to hang out with me your best bet is to spend some time near the rivers and lakes of Southern and East Africa. Just be aware if you’re sitting in “the splash zone”: each of my kids can suck up to fourteen litres of water into their trunks at once, and they love to play…

How My Family Is Like Yours:

I’m always with my family, too, so if you visit me you’re sure to meet everyone. As a mama elephant, I spend my days with all the other ladies and their babies. They boys get a little feisty and controlling around age fourteen, so that’s when we kick them out on their own. Male elephants are loners—your typical cranky bachelors, always fighting with each other—though sometimes they’ll get together with other males and cruise for ladies up and down the savannah. But the women are very close; in fact some female elephants have died from loneliness in captivity. This is why human organizations like David Sheldrick’s Wildlife Trust are so important—orphaned baby elephants need special help, because they’re so used to having a big family around them.

I’m the matriarch of my family, which means I’m the oldest and biggest, and everyone follows me. If mama isn’t happy, nobody’s happy, and that’s the truth!

Most Embarrassing Facts:

Oh my goodness gracious, really? Well, ok, I suppose I can spill a few beans. Let’s see…

I’m the largest land animal in the world, which already is kind of embarrassing (though also impressive, you have to admit.) I somehow have to keep this giant body working and moving on an all-vegetarian diet, plus feed all my wee babies (ok, my 200-pound babies—they’re still wee to me). So for about sixteen hours a day, you can find me eating. In fact, I only sleep for about two hours a day… all the rest of my time is taken up by eating, bathing, and taking care of the kids.

Also, well, there’s another draw-back to being so gosh-darn big: I can’t run or jump. I pretty much just have two gaits: either I walk, or I walk fast. To be fair, when I get mad (and when you mess with my kids, I get furious!) this fast walk is certainly speedier than your run. In fact, humans have clocked me at 25 mph when I’m charging, which is not too shabby for a 6-ton mama, wouldn’t you agree?

And one more thing: thick skin. This actually doesn’t embarrass me—I’m proud of my one-inch thick flesh. Nothing really bothers me—not bugs or acacia thorns or sitting on a pokey log—because I’m so difficult to hurt. Hence, I’m a pretty mellow gal, unlike my excitable neighbors, the antelope. This is why some people call elephants pachyderms, which means “thick-skinned.”

Favourite Food:

Elephant grass. You have to love a food that’s named after you, don’t you think? And anyway, if I don’t like it, who will? Elephant grass is tough to eat and to digest, and with my crazy digestion system I’m one of the only animals on the savannah that can handle it. I know, I know, it’s very predictable—mom eats all the left-overs. I’m fine with that!

Just to keep this big ol’ body going, I have to eat 300-600 pounds of food a day, which means I can’t be all that picky anyway. I’ll eat acacia leaves, herbs, tall grass, fruit, shrubs… whatever I can get!

Everything Else:

Type: Mammal

Diet: Vegetarian (if I was a biologist, I’d say “herbivore”… but I’m an elephant, so I say whatever I want)

Average life span in the wild: 50-70 years (we’re the oldest animals on the savannah!)

Size: About 12 feet tall. It’s too bad we don’t have thumbs; we would have been great at basketball.

Weight: Don’t ask. I’ve broken every scale I’ve ever stood on! But people say that we range from 12,000-14,000 lbs (which is 6-7 tons). To put that into perspective, I weigh about the same as a hundred grown men, all piled up.

Protection status: Vulnerable. Our beauty is our curse, as my family members have been hunted for our gorgeous tusks for decades. Ivory, schmivory—doesn’t it look better on me?

Group name: “Herd” is most common, but I prefer the lesser-used “Parade”—because every day is a celebration when you’re in an elephant family.

Greetings from a Lion

  • May 3rd 2012

Jambo from Kenya! Today we have a special treat for you. One of our Safari Directors left his  laptop unattended out in the bush, and returned to find that the blog post that he’d been preparing to writea well-researched piece on lionshad already been written… by a lion! Read on to get a rare perspective on the king of the jungle, written with his own paws (we assumeunless he got a monkey to do the typing.)

Well hello everyone! Yes, it’s me—the King of the Jungle! Which is a bit of a misnomer, as I actually spend most of time in the savannah… but we’ll get to that.

They Also Call Me:

In East Africa, where they speak Swahili, I’m known as Simba (but of course, any Disney fan knows that). In parts of South Africa and Zimbabwe the Zulu people call me Imbube; in other parts of South Africa and in Namibia, people who speak Afrikaans call me Leeu. The Setswana speakers in Botswana call me Tau. At home, the kids call me “Raaawwwr!”

Best Places to Find Me:

Well, that’s easy—the best place to find me is near a Micato jeep! No kidding, it’s almost spooky how good those Micato guides are at figuring out where I am.

But if you want me to be a little more specific… well, at one point in history my cousins and I were found all over Africa and Asia; we even hung out in Greece for a while (there was some pretty yummy goat to be found there.) I’m sad to say that most of my northern cousins—lions subspecies quite similar to me—are now extinct, and there’s only a small group of them left in India’s Gir Forest. You can still come visit me, though, in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly east and southern Africa. I especially enjoy spending time in savannahs and bushveldt, so the Serengeti, Maasai Mara, and Kruger are some of my favourite places to set up shop.

My immediate family is pretty diverse. If you want to visit some of my favourite siblings, I’d recommend stopping by to see my sisters in Linyanti Plains, Botswana, who are known as “surfing lions” because they hunt hippos. Crazy girls, I tell you. There are also my shy brothers who hang out with me in Kruger National Park, the white lions—I don’t envy them the amount of grooming they have to do to keep their coats so white. And I have some tough brothers in Kalahari Game Reserve, who you’d know as the black-maned lions. You should definitely spend some time with them, if you have a chance.

We’re all night-owls, so you can find us on the move in the early morning on the way home or at dusk on the way out for a hunt. And I’ll admit it… in the daytime you might catch me sleeping under an acacia tree—it’s the best shade in the savannah.

Most Embarrassing Facts:

What? Well, ok, hmmm…

I’m pretty lazy, for starters. Usually I sleep for 18-20 hours a day, which doesn’t leave me much time for hobbies—kind of explains why you don’t know any lions who knit or play guitar.

Also, I have one of those voices that really carries. I can’t help it! When I get going and really let out a good roar, you can hear it up to five miles away. I’m the loudest of all the big cats, and I usually only roar at night, so if it wakes you up from your peaceful sleep, I’m sorry.

Sometimes I get teased because the lady lions do all the hunting, but that doesn’t actually embarrass me. Those women bring home delicious food, and I have to admit, I get pretty overheated if I do too much work, since I have this huge mane (which is useful for impressing girls and intimidating rivals.) I’m pretty satisfied with my gal bringing home the bacon—and speaking of bacon…

Favourite Food:

Broccoli.

Ha, just kidding! No way would I eat broccoli. I’m all meat, all day, baby. Some of my favourite meals are wildebeest, impalas, zebras, and buffalo. If I’m feeling peckish and just need a little snack, I’ll settle for springbok or Thompson’s gazelle. And man, I do love warthog—it’s savannah bacon!

 

Everything Else:

Type: Mammal

Diet: Carnivore (well, obviously)

Average life span in the wild: About 16 years

Size: We range from 5-7 feet long and 3-4 feet tall. The longest of my ancestors—we called him Grandpa Kubwa—was 12 feet long! He was, I’m sad to report, shot and killed in Angola in 1972.

Weight: Well that’s a rude question—oh, alright… we range from 300-550 pounds. My heaviest ancestor—Grandpa Nono—was almost 700 pounds! He passed on in 1936 in South Africa.

Protection status: Vulnerable (even though we look tough, we’re sensitive—lions need love too!)

Group name: Pride (which says it all, don’t you think?)

 

Kenya Creates a New National Park: Setting Aside Even More Land for Wildlife

  • December 8th 2011

Christmas has come early for Kenya’s wildlife. This year, the towering giraffes, lumbering elephants, leaping gazelles and sauntering big cats have been given the greatest gift that Kenya’s government could give them—its protection.

Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki affirmed the country’s commitment to conservation this past November, when he designated a 17,100 acre piece of land as Laikipia National Park. Top priority for this park? Opening relevant corridors to wildlife migration—a key piece of the conservation puzzle for grazing animals like wildebeest and Cape buffalo, as well as the predators that stalk them as they migrate.

This new park is a sparkling addition to Kenya’s already quite brilliant crown of national parks, from Amboseli and the Maasai Mara in the south to Mt Kenya and Samburu in the north. These parks are known for their magnificent and abundant game. Of course, wildlife has no borders—animals can be found roaming freely throughout Kenya. The downside of this is that sometimes migrating herds find themselves on the highways and byways of the populated portions of the country or worse: in the crosshairs of a poacher.

The need for proper migrating pathways is so pressing that the government even constructed an underpass just for migrating elephants, which opened almost exactly a year ago. The biggest land mammal in the world, a herd of migrating elephants presents a daunting challenge to city planners. The government hatched this conservation scheme, and the results were astounding: the elephants compliantly used the tunnel, and both villages and elephants were saved.

With the dedication of Laikipia National Park, Kenya is again asserting the country’s commitment to this one goal: that its people and wildlife coexist safely and harmoniously.

“The government is convinced and committed to wildlife conservation in the natural habitat,” asserted the President, assuring the press that Kenya has more than adequate land to protect its wildlife as well as house and feed its people.

Laikipia National Park is ideally situated between two of our favourite private reserves in Laikipia Plateau—Loisaba and Lewa Downs—and thus can act as a bridge of safe crossing for migrating animals. It’s also a stunning new destination for anyone staying at either adjacent private reserve. The land is breath-takingly beautiful, dotted with a mix of acacia and prickly-pear cactus and capped with a massive sky. The plateau is also at quite a high elevation, with views of Mt. Kenya, so the evenings in Laikipia are crisp and cool and the big sky is thick with stars. This is a magnificent place, and the government’s commitment to keeping it that way is truly admirable.

Flamingos Aplenty and Archaeology, Too: Why UNESCO Honours the Kenya Lake System

  • November 17th 2011

Four million Lesser Flamingos make the three lakes of the Kenya Lake System their home. To put that into perspective, that’s more flamingos than there are humans in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire, combined!

For most of the year, the flamingos move between Lake Bogoria, Lake Nakuru and Lake Elementaita, foraging in their shallow alkaline depths. When they move from one lake to another, they rise together to fly away in one great, pink sheet—like a living sunset.

As the Kenya Lake System is the single most important foraging spot for the Lesser Flamingo, there is truly nothing like this breathtaking spectacle anywhere in the world. And this is only one of many reasons why the Kenya Lake System was named a UNESCO site this year, and granted all the protection that entails.

The three lakes are treasures in and of themselves, as their high alkaline content (the reason why they’re called “soda lakes”) makes them perfect for the abundant growth of green algae, which in turn nurtures an astonishing diversity of wildlife.

Not only home to the flashy flamingo, the lakes are also vital nesting and breeding grounds for Great White Pelicans, and are home to over 100 species of migratory birds including the Black-Necked Grebe, African Spoonbill, Pied Avocet, Little Grebe, Yellow Billed Stork, Black Winged Stilt, Grey-Headed Gull and Gull Billed Tern.

Not a keen birder? That’s okay. “Diverse wildlife” really does mean diverse. Birds share this property with sizeable mammal populations, including black rhino, zebra, Rothschild’s giraffe, greater kudu, lion, cheetah and wild dogs. The simple life-giving presence of water and algae sustains an eco-system that encompasses fish, birds and all sorts of mammals, including, of course, humans.

In fact, as the lakes are nestled on the floor of the Great Rift Valley, the animals share this part of Africa with some of the greatest finds in archaeological history. This area was the birthplace of mankind, and when you’re there you can feel the truth of that. Standing next to a soda lake, watching a sheet of flamingos rise and a rhino lumber by, you’re transported to the earth of our first ancestors, born in this land of hot-springs and geysers, sheltered by the steep escarpment of the Rift Valley.