November news – ol Donyo Lodge, Kenya

A pair of cheeky visitors to the ol Donyo pool! (Photo: Laurence Claerhout)

November has been an extraordinary month. We started it on tenterhooks: will the short rains that we so desperately need come? With the clouds building expectantly, it made for wonderful lighting, and we were treated to spectacular views of Mount Kilimanjaro!

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A perfect Kilimanjaro sunset

There has been great excitement over both the coalition of three male cheetahs and the female with her four very grown up cubs still with her, that seem to be making the Chyulu Hills a more permanent hunting ground. We have had some fantastic sightings including on fresh kills, both from horseback and the game drive vehicles. Long may these amazing cats stay in our area.

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Four of the brilliantly camouflaged cheetah family making an appearance in the Chyulus – Acinonyx jubatus (Photo: Jackson Lemayian)

At the beginning of the month, the elephants in the ecosystem were having a tough time finding water and consequently the rate of human wildlife conflict was very high as people and animals were rubbing shoulders over water resources. The brilliant Big Life Foundation ranger teams, the guardians of our precious ecosystem, worked round the clock to protect both the elephants and the local farms, and in total they successfully treated 2 wounded elephants in the first two weeks of November alone.

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An arrow head removed by a Kenya Wildlife Service vet from a wounded elephant on Imbirikani Group Ranch

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The treated elephant up and ready to go!

As we patiently waited for rain, disaster struck. A huge fire raged down through the whistling thorn towards the plains. Every member of staff was galvanized into action as vehicles sped down to start fighting the growing inferno. A full 12 hours later they returned, tired and sooty but successful. They had stopped the fire from spreading out across the whole plains – another great piece of teamwork from the ODL staff.

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Fire spreading fast in the dry conditions

Thankfully, a week later the rains finally came… And what a difference they have made. Where the fire burnt is the most beautiful expanse of fresh green grass, wildflowers are poking through and we have an abundance of plains game that have arrived, tempted by the new more palatable and nutritious forage. There is the most amazing feeling of freshness and energy in the air. Out on the plains at this time often gives one the most impressive display, as some of the Thompson’s Gazelle are “stotting” or “pronking” – leaping off the ground with all four legs held stiff and straight. This is thought to be a display of their fitness and well being, showing the predator how great the animal is feeling and so saying “Look how fit I am, don’t even bother trying to chase me!”

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The swathe of bright green in the foreground is the burnt area rejuvenated!

And so we are looking forward with great anticipation to the festive season, with all sorts of fun and surprises planned for those joining us here in the Chyulu Hills. With any luck Mount Kilimanjaro will stay in her current glorious state and we’ll have our very own Kenyan white Christmas!

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