March 29th 2009, from high above the cliff opposite the famous landmark, Fischers tower, when looking straight down, a strange tan rock like object with four, spindly and narrow branch like appendages extending from the right side lay motionless on the plain below. Could it be a carcass? The position and overall appearance of the object looked far too obscure to be one. Perhaps it is just a rock.
A couple of hours later driving in the park, my friend and I stopped the car on the track closest to a conspicuous fig tree with roots anchored between a large boulder, splitting the once complete mass into segments. The object we could see from the cliff turned out to be a hartebeest carcass, nothing unusual there except when you are standing right above it. A thick wire was wrapped several times around one horn and extended outward, the entire length of the carcass. The bizarre, contorted position of the hartebeest could now be explained by the presence of the wire. The carcass was so far decomposed, that all that was left was the hide. There was no evidence of the internal contents.
Perturbed by the sight of what looked to be a snare and the obvious neglect of the park authorities and rangers we walked closer toward the rocky outcrop facing the magnificent fig tree. Why hadn’t the park rangers taken the carcass for analysis, what was it doing lying out in plain sight of all the park tourists, right next to a track? What had happened to the hartebeest? If it was snared for bushmeat why was it still left there?
There was litter lying around on the rock, graffiti and someone had painstakingly chipped off a portion of the granite from the top. Our confusion quickly progressed into anger at careless and disrespectful tourists for defacing the park and the lack of supervision by the park authorities.
Further to the carcass lying out on the plain, I stumbled upon a tree adjacent to the rock with the graffiti, where another hartebeest carcass had been intentionally wrapped around the trunk of the tree with the same kind of wire attached to the first carcass. Frantically looking around the site for some kind of explanation I saw some used and filthy gloves anchored by a rock, acting as a weight. The gloves were on a rocky outcrop directly in front of the tree. It must have taken more than one person to accomplish securing a full size hartebeest carcass to a tree. At the base of the tree was a severed hartebeest head and it did not come from either of the two wire entangled ones, as each had the head attached. Neither of us could understand what was going on. It was most bizarre, to say the least. Was this some kind of research? What kind of research would be so twisted? Are the park authorities aware that there is something so disturbing in plain view of anyone who visits the park? What sort of an impression is this creating?
The ranger or warden at the gate could not tell us what was going on. He looked at the photos and repeatedly confirmed the location where we encountered this was the ‘green tree’. He did not know of any research groups working around that area. It was quite a miserable effort on the parks behalf to assure us that someone was going to look into it. His manner was rather nonchalant.
I asked some of my colleagues at WildlifeDirect for their interpretation of the photographs. It seems like leopard baiting is the most plausible. Whether for research conducted by scientists or poachers, it is unclear. If it were for research, how were the hartebeest carcasses obtained? Were they killed by someone for this purpose or did the hartebeest die of natural causes and their carcasses used as bait? By whom? Does KWS know? Have they consented to such research, if it is indeed the reason? I want some answers. There is no procedure I am aware off where a visitor to any Kenyan National Park can file a formal complaint that is documented and given a response to. It seems to be upon the discretion of park visitors to report any incidences witnessed inside KWS protected areas. So much information is lost that way. There were also illegal cattle grazing at the southern end of the park on the far end of buffalo circuit, something I have seen year upon year but no action seems to be taken against such activities. They have been reported informally at the gate several times.
What do you think the hartebeest scenario looks like? Some answers and/or explanations to this would be welcome.