Amboseli Count Diary
The 2015 field study course for the Princeton and Columbia Universities has just concluded at the Amboseli national park. Dr Paula Kahumbu hosts and lectures the students for about one week. For this year, the students, who were also joined by WildlifeDirect staff, elephant expert Soila Saiyalel and comic book writer Chief Nyamweya, the course revolved around testing the new software IBEIS – Image Based Ecological Information System- through taking thousands of pictures at the of zebra, giraffe and elephants at the Amboseli National park and feeding the [pictures into a database which, using the IBEIS software, distinguish various animals using their identifiable stripes, spots or wrinkles. This system has a multitude of applications, majorly in the creation of an image database of endangered wildlife such as elephants, leopards and cheetah in Kenya’s protected areas.
The course also included visits to conservancies around the Amboseli park as well as visits to the community, especially schools and women’s group around the Amboseli ecosystem.
Throughout their stay, the group was joined by Soila Saiyalel, who has been studying the Amboseli elephants for 30 years.
Students meet Elerai Conservancy chairman
The team of students and WildlifeDirect staff had a lot to do; They first had a meeting with the Chairman of Elerai Conservancy in Amboseli, Mr. Peter Pernut
They wanted to know what the conservancy does for wildlife conservation. The chairman took time to talk about the conservancy from its administrative structure to some of the economic activities it is engaging in.
Later in the day, they listened to a presentation from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) researcher. The researcher made a presentation on the efforts IFAW in conjunction with Kenya Wildlife Service and other organisations are doing in to protect the wildlife in the entire Amboseli ecosystem.
Students visit Big Life Foundation and Meet CEO Richard Bonham
The students from Princeton and Columbia University and the Wildlifedirect team led by Paula Kahumbu met Big Life CEO Richard Bonham at the organization’s office. Also present was Soila Saiyalel who has been studying Amboseli elephants for about 30 years.
Big Life is a non-governmental organization that is helping in wildlife conservation, particularly the elephants in Amboseli, and other parts the country. The organization uses GPS to monitor the movement of elephants in the park and employs game scouts who patrol the entire Amboseli National Park to help identify any poaching activities.
Big Life has a control room stationed in one of the organizations’ offices with an officer in charge where they monitors the movement of game scouts in the park using GPS.
The students were here to explain the IBEIS program to the Richard Bonham and his team and how it can help them in their conservation work.
The students also met the officer in charge of compensation at Big Life who took them through some data and information on how compensation is done in case of human wildlife conflict. This information was important to the students to help them work on their projects.
After the Big Life visit, the students spent the rest of the day visiting women’s groups in Imbirikani area of Amboseli. The women groups included Siana, Osiram and Makutano. They welcomed the students with song and dance, and later, the women engaged the visitors, talking about the different economic activities they’re involved in, including bee keeping, livestock farming, water projects and beading.
Despite a heavy downpour the students managed to meet the women from the different groups. They introduced the IBEIS software to the women, explaining how they can participate in building its database and how its applications can benefit them.
Kimana Girls School Join in the Great Zebra Count at Amboseli
Students from Kimana Girls high School joined the US university students and the Wildlifedirect team for the zebra count in Amboseli National Park.
The 55 students from the school’s wildlife end environment clubs had been invited to take part in the IBEIS citizen science project where they would help in taking photos of different animals at the Park.
Widlifedirect CEO Paula Kahumbu welcomed the students and also introduced them to the university students.
The Kenya Wildlife Service gave the students a waiver with each student paying Kshs.100 instead of the usual Ksh.200.
The students spent hours in the park taking pictures of zebras, giraffes and elephants.
At the end of the game drive, the Kimana school students had taken thousands of pictures s which will go into the growing database and will eventually be used to determine the population of the different species in Amboseli National Park using the IBEIS program.
Before returning to school, the students were lucky to receive copies of a comic book on poaching, from its creator , Chief Nywamweya.
For more information and pictures, please see this link here:
WildlifeDirect wishes to thank the following for making the Amboseli count of Zebras, giraffes and elephants – as well as the entire field study course with the US students – a huge success. They are;
The Kenya Wildlife Service
Dr Paula Kahumbu
Kimana Girls High School