Wildlife in Tanzania and Kenya – mammals

While I was in Tanzania and Kenya I saw so many breathtaking sights, but one of the highlights of the trip for me was the incredible wildlife. Even just around camp we discovered some amazing creatures, but a day on safari in Tarangire National Park took it to another level!

Our guide for the day was really awesome; his name was Ben and he knew so much about everything we saw. There was another boy in my group who shared my interest for birds so it became a bit of a joke that we were calling for the truck to stop every few minutes for them, and nobody else was that bothered about them…

This blog post however will focus on mammals.

Some of the first creatures we saw on the day were mongooses – there were stripy-backed mongoose running around near the entrance and further along some dwarf mongoose perched on a mound of earth.

We then saw warthogs – Ben told us that the mongooses often follow the warthogs as the two species have a mutualistic relationship: when the warthogs lie down, the mongooses groom them and remove ticks and parasites which they then eat.

We saw several herds of zebra throughout the day; most of them seemed unphased by the safari trucks but some cantered away and then stood in pairs nose to tail – this is a defensive behaviour. It means that the two zebras have eyes in all directions (there are effectively no blind spots) and they are less vulnerable to attack when standing together with hind hooves at either end. Unfortunately I didn’t actually manage to snap any pictures of this behaviour.

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Where we stopped to eat lunch there were a few Vervet monkeys sat on the railings and tables – we were warned to be careful as they had sharp teeth and claws, but our poor team leader had her lunch snatched from her – before she had chance to react the monkey had torn open the box and run off with her sandwiches and banana. Everyone was very wary after that as the monkeys sat in a tree above our heads watching us carefully as we ate.

My personal favourite out of all of the mammals we saw was the elephants. On the safari day in Tanzania we did see some standing together quietly and also watched a group crossing a river, but nothing prepared me for what I was going to observe in Kenya.

On one of our rest days we visited a restaurant by a waterhole and to our amazement six herds of elephants passed through while we were there!

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This was a fantastic opportunity for me to actually watch for a decent length of time as previously we had had to move on fairly quickly. It was fascinating to see the elephants enjoying the water and interacting with each other.

One of the elephants went right into the middle of the water hole and actually lay down – I hadn’t realised how dusty the elephants were until this – this particular elephant came out a completely different colour!

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There was a huge female elephant (she looked to be one of the oldest there) with a calf following her, and when she walked underneath the platform we were standing on we realised that she was already pregnant again.

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When new herds arrived, some of them mingled and appeared to be greeting each other whereas others seemed to have staring matches before one group slowly moved away.

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This experience has definitely fuelled my interest for animal behaviour and I hope to travel to Africa again in the future.

On a side note, I have just moved to Manchester where I will be studying for a degree in zoology. This means that the focus of my blog posts may change slightly; there will be a couple more about Africa and then perhaps something slightly different to the usual write-ups – but fear not, it will still revolve around animals!

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Community work in Africa

A couple of years ago I had an amazing opportunity presented to me: an organisation called Camps International came into my school to talk about their expeditions around the world. I was easily persuaded and set about raising the money I needed to go – this included having a part-time job, running a dog show and a Christmas themed coffee morning in aid of the cause.

Finally after months of building excitement and trepidation, I set off and spent a month in Tanzania and Kenya with nineteen other students from various schools in England.

One of the main aims of us going was to do voluntary work in the communities. It wasn’t until I was out there that I truly realised how important this work was – there were times when it really hit me how lucky I am and it changed my perspective on a lot of things.

Our first project was on the coast of Tanzania near Tanga – we spent three days working on a house for a lady who was living with her brother; her children had died and she had thought that the house would never be built. In the time that we were there we took down existing walls that were unstable and put up new ones. We made a framework with branches tied in a grid and then filled the spaces with mud – our team worked well together and we had some people mixing mud, some carrying it and some working on the walls.

The groups which worked there after us continued the project and it is now finished and ready for the lady to move in – she really appreciated this as living in her own house would give her a lot of independence.

Our next project was in Moshi, a town near to Mount Kilimanjaro. We went to a school and built some steps outside a classroom – it sounds like a fairly small task but it was actually more strenuous than the work on the house in my opinion! To make the cement we had to carry heavy buckets of sand, gravel and water and then shovel them constantly until they were thoroughly mixed. Then some people started to create the steps whilst the rest of us toiled to keep the cement from drying out in the heat.

Unfortunately I didn’t get any photos of the finished step but got some of it in progress…

We then moved to Kenya – our camp was in between Tsavo East National Park and Tsavo West National Park and while we were there we took part in a variety of different projects which Camps International were running in the area.

The first of these was de-worming goats in the communities – people brought them out to us and we had to catch them and stick a medicine-filled syringe in their mouths. I had actually done this before so I found it quite an easy task, and also de-wormed a calf while I was there as well!

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On the same day we built elephant deterrent fencing. The aim of this is to keep elephants away from the settlements and reduce human-wildlife conflict – therefore protecting the elephants and reducing the likelihood of them being killed. We cut up sheets of corrugated metal and strung the strips on wire, which was then suspended between wooden posts. The sound of the metal clattering in the wind and the way it reflects the sunlight (and moonlight too) frightens the elephants away.

In Kenya we also visited the Marungu Tree Nursery and helped to mix soil with animal manure, which we then placed into small black bags and planted seeds in. Our team was known for beating records previously set by other teams and this day was no exception – by the end of it we had planted around 1350 seeds!

When the trees are older they will be planted on the surrounding hills – they are a huge benefit to the farmers as many of them have nitrogen-fixing properties and they reduce soil erosion.

I will be posting more about my journey to Tanzania and Kenya, so stay tuned!