Tarangire Park in Tanzania is home to a young giraffe with an almost-white coat, according to the Wild Nature Institute, a wildlife organization doing scientific work in Tanzania.
“This giraffe [is] not albino, but leucistic. Leucism is when some or all pigment cells (that make color) fail to develop during differentiation, so part or all of the body surface lacks cells capable of making pigment,” the institute explained in a blog post last April a few months after its scientists first “spotted” her.
Scientists from the institute saw her again in January of this year.
The 15-month-old female giraffe is known by area guides as “Omo” after a local brand of detergent. While much of her hair is white or very pale, she has an orange mane, and coloring below her knees makes it look like she’s wearing orange-dotted knee socks.
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In other giraffe news, have you ever wondered how they get water up their long throats when they bend down to slurp water from a pool or river? Scientists may have figured the physics of it out.
To help the endangered Rothschild giraffe, African Fund for Endangered Wildlife Kenya was founded in 1979 by the late Jock and Betty Leslie-Melvile. A Kenyan citizen, Jock wanted to create an educational institution in conjunction while also actively increasing the Rothschild’s population.
To that end, the new organization opened the Giraffe Centre in Nairobi. Still going strong, the center educates thousands of local school children each year about their nation’s natural heritage, raising a new generation of Kenyan conservationists. It also breeds, rehabilitates and releases Rothschilds to protected wildlife areas in various parts of Kenya.
When AFEW started, only 120 Rothschild giraffes lived in the wild. Through breeding and conservation, the Giraffe Centre has helped raise this number to 300 giraffes in five groups across Kenya.
Anthropologist Kathleen A. Galvin and Robin Reid, director of the Center for Collaborative Conservation at Colorado State University, recently published a fascinating article in The Huffington Post about the growth of private conservancies in Kenya and the benefits that they’re bringing to wildlife and humans.
Unlike parks and reserves, which are managed by local governments and the Kenya Wildlife Service, conservancies are privately owned land set aside for conservation purposes. The land is usually owned cooperatively by local pastoralists or a nonprofit corporation, and they manage the land so that it can support both wild animals and grazing herds. Conservancies typically receive income for land and wildlife management through visitor fees and rent paid by lodges located on the land.
Conservancies are great conservation model because residents benefit in tangible ways from protecting wildlife. They are less likely to view wildlife as a hassle or as a threat to their livestock and prosperity. Instead of being pushed off of their land to make way for wild animals, they are able to stay in their homes and steward the land.
Interested in visiting or wildlife conservancy? There are over 200 in Kenya alone, and many more in other parts of Africa. The Mara North Conservancy in the Masai Mara region has proven to be a favorite destination among Ujuzi’s travelers to Kenya. Contact me for more information.
Bill Starr has jumped out of airplanes. Every year, he goes fishing in Alaska among wild bears. But he says no experience compares to a balloon ride over the Serengeti: “There were animals as far as the eye could see – wildebeest, zebra, ostrich, hyenas. Nothing tops that. I could tell you about that balloon ride until the cows come home, but you really have to see it to believe it.”
Starr, who lives in Billings, Montana, went on an Ujuzi safari to Tanzania with his wife and six friends in February. It was his first trip to Africa, and he’d spent much of the previous year reading about Tanzania and its wildlife to get ready. “But nothing can prepare you for it,” he says. “The trip was beyond my expectations. It’s one thing to look at pictures of animals. It’s another thing to be standing there with them right next to you.”
In Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a male lion walked right up to his group’s slowly moving vehicle to inspect it. At Tarangire National Park, they came upon a pack of 27 African wild dogs – a sight so unusual that even their guide was over the moon at the encounter.
While staying at Kikoti Safari Camp, located on a scenic hill outside of Tarangire National Park, the group took a morning hike in the camp’s wilderness reserve. They saw baboons, impala and even a Cape buffalo. A guide carried a spear in case any of the wildlife became hostile, but all of their encounters were peaceful thanks to the guides’ experience in wilderness treks and reading the body language of animals.
Starr’s group also took a night game drive, allowing them to see many animals rarely seen during the day. These included bush babies, tiny nocturnal primates with huge eyes and a baby-like cry; and springhares, rodents that look like a cross between a kangaroo and a rabbit but are not directly related to either.
Staying at a mobile tented camp called Zebra Camp was an integral part of what made the safari so memorable, says Starr. The camp moves with the wildebeest migration, and Starr’s group spent three nights there while visiting the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and Serengeti. “The Zebra Camp was outstanding. There is nothing that can top living next to the Serengeti in a tent, and the service was excellent.”
Even though the camp moves frequently, it was incredibly comfortable – with real beds, showers with hot water, chemical toilets that were cleaned out daily, and electricity from a generator. Even though it was in the middle of the wilderness, the service and incredible food were on par with with a luxury hotel’s. “We had a fantastic chef,” he says, recalling the sculptures that the kitchen staff would carve out of the melons they served at breakfast.
Starr says he would recommend Ujuzi “to anyone planning a safari to Tanzania. It was the finest trip of my life. We saw every animal that we desired up close and personal. And our guides, Modi and Amini, were excellent. We felt like they were family by the end of the safari. ”
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Thank you to Bill’s friend John Traeger for allowing us to share some of his photos from the trip!
Enjoy this music video of highlights from my recent trip to Tanzania! It was tough narrowing hours of video down to just a couple of minutes, but somehow we managed to get dozens of animals and five national parks in there. I think my favorite capture is the cheetah stalking and chasing its prey in the Serengeti. What’s your favorite footage?