Counting mammals….or should I say dik diks?


Louise Bell International Intern

Date Published

After four days at camp slowly working through the first elephant in the collaring data for my project, I headed out into the field with three of the STE team to find some elephants (this is the best medicine for square eyes from staring at an excel spreadsheet all day I can assure you). We found the first herd including Resilience; a fairly newly collared female and around 11 other elephants quietly browsing across the other side of the river. We watched from a distance and if you didn’t have good elephant spotting eyes like the four pairs in our truck you could have easily missed them. Following the recording of the elephant’s data in the Long Term Monitoring (LTM) file we commenced the ‘Samburu North’ route on the Mammal census. This research, a long term project running alongside the LTM elephant project to assess the number of mammals in the area, involves the team driving through set routes numerous times a week and counting all mammals seen. I am sure this research should be renamed ‘the great dik dik count’ as we see many dik dik, that’s for sure, still they are wild animals all the same. As we followed the route, I was amazed at the beautiful scenery that Samburu had to offer. Although I have over 400 photos to tell the story, you simply cannot captivate what wilderness nature has created. It is truly outstanding.

Deep into the mammal count, we saw two reticulated giraffe, one quite clumsily but also elegantly drinking, a lone stallion Grevys zebra and many more dik diks. Following this we were lucky enough to come across the Butterflies family with their tuskless matriarch, Butterfly and her 8 strong herd. On the opposite side of the road slowly moving on parallel to the Butterflies we saw a large female followed by 12 others including a tiny calf approximately two weeks old. This was a new group not yet known to the project which is very encouraging considering the deep-rooted threat of poaching outside of the protected areas. It seemed almost that the Butterfly herd were showing the new herd where to find the best food and water in the safe haven of the reserve. Let’s just hope so! As we headed back to camp we came across the American Indians, a group we met on Saturday on our way from the airstrip. No matter how many herds you see, and I am hopefully still in my infancy, you cannot grasp the serenity and calmness of the close-knit family bond that moves peacefully past you. Needless to say these sightings scored a great big tick on the mammal recording sheet!