‘Wow! Samburu is so green!’ I remember thinking on the morning after my arrival at the Save the Elephants research camp found inside Samburu National Reserve. ‘You are lucky to be here at this time. It’s a paradise’, said Davido, the assistant researcher for Long Term Monitoring as we went on my very first LTM adventure. I couldn’t agree more. A normally dry and dusty Samburu is now green and lush. Plants and animals in the reserve are now flourishing. You see, this is Kenya’s rainy season. The rains are a welcome relief in Kenya, more so in Samburu which experiences long periods of drought where the land becomes dry and perched and food is scarce for both man and animal. He tells me it has not rained like this for many many years.
This year’s heavy rains have started unusually early, in March as opposed to April. Growing up in Kenya, heavy rainfall was always traditionally expected at this time of year. Changing global patterns have made transitions between rainy and dry seasons unpredictable. Droughts last longer than they have done before, and floods are becoming more and more common.
Being here during the rainy season, I have witnessed large gatherings of animals coming to feast on the newly revived vegetation. I came to realize how truly lucky I was when one day while doing LTM, which involves recording all elephants seen in the park daily, we came across a huge group of elephants 300 individuals strong. This happens only during the rainy season when the vegetation can support this behaviour. They were gathered on the banks of the now gushing Ewaso Ng’iro River which only a few months back was bone dry in some parts. We weaved in and out of smaller groups, recording each individual we saw using their assigned codes. We observed their behaviour. They fed, played in the mud and rested under trees taking a break from the hot midday sun. Even with such a large gathering, there was a peaceful silence broken only by the occasional rumbling, trumpeting and breaking of branches. After a few short hours we left them, knowing that they would soon break away from each other and revert to their smaller family groups until the next gathering. It is truly a rare delight to be able to witness this.