Find out what our organization has been doing to change the face of conservation on and off the Maasai Steppe. Our latest issue of the Carnivore Chronicle is now on our website! Happy Holidays!
The African People and Wildlife Fund’s Noloholo Environmental Scholars program started in 2010. Since then, we’ve sent 16 students from the Maasai Steppe to a private secondary school in Monduli. The six-year scholarship allows these motivated boys and girls to have access to many opportunities and experiences that they might not get in their hometowns. We are very proud of our scholars and what they represent for the futures of their communities and the environment.
Hussein Maricha was helping APW’s environmental education staff grade exams for the Noloholo Environmental Summer Camps. He has just finished his first term as a scholar but bravely comes forward for the interview, eager to practice his English.
African People and Wildlife Fund: Hussein, how are you?
Hussein Maricha: I am very well thanks. I have been very happy.
APW: What have you been happy about?
HM: I am happy because I enjoy being home. I get to relax and rest. It is nice to relax after being at school and working hard.
He squints as the sun comes out from behind some clouds. On the balcony at the Noloholo Environmental Center, he glances towards the plains of Tarangire National Park.
APW: What do you like to study in school?
HM: I love all the science subjects, but my favorite subject is biology. I would like to be an animal biologist one day.
APW: What makes you want to be a biologist?
HM: I think animals are very interesting. Last year I went to Tarangire National Park (with APW), and I saw so many animals. It was my first time seeing so many animals. It would be great to study them.
APW: What animal do you want to study?
HM: I am not sure yet, but my favorite animals are lions. I think they are very proud and beautiful.
I imagine Dr. Lichtenfeld has found her protégé in this charismatic, outgoing young man. Although he has only been studying English for a little while, he isn’t shy or quiet. He dives into our conversation with confidence and understanding, unafraid to make mistakes in spite of the unfamiliarity.
APW: How old are you?
HM: I’m 17 years old and I am in Form One.
APW: Do you like your school?
HM: Yes, I love it. There are so many great teachers and beautiful buildings.
Hussein is the youngest of two boys, living with his parents in Loibor Siret. His father is the English and Mathematics teacher at his old school, Loibor Siret Primary School. Although he says he prefers his school in Monduli, he credits his father with teaching him how to be a diligent student.
HM: My father has always been supportive of me, and he has taught me many things about being a good student.
APW: Is your brother also in school?
HM: Yes, he will be going into Form 5. He hopes to become a physician.
APW: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
HM: I like playing football with my friends on my school team. I also like watching football. My favorite team is Chelsea Football Club. My favorite player is Oscar.
APW: How has your experience been as a scholar?
HM: I feel very lucky to be a scholar. My family is very happy for me and supportive, and I feel successful.
We wish Hussein the best of luck as he continues on his journey to become a biologist! We are there to help!
If you would like to help support a Noloholo Environmental Scholar,
you can donate at www.afrpw.org/donate or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yohana Lojumbutwa has been living in his boma for eighteen years. He used to protect his seventy head of cattle with the dry, feeble thorn bushes used by the majority of Maasai pastoralists. But recently, he installed the last component of his new Living Wall.
APW designed its Living Walls to protect big cats, people and livestock while preserving the environment. Since our first installation in 2008, they have done just that.
Cloaked in his bright blue shuka, Yohana greets us warmly at his boma with his sons and nephews. Around the cattle corral, newly planted Commiphora africana poles are ready for binding with chain-link fencing. It took Yohana three weeks to cut the branches of mature Commiphora trees, find a tractor to haul them to his boma and wait for the branches to dry before planting them around his boma. This may seem like a long time, but he won’t have to do it again for at least another 25 years.
“Prior to my Living Wall, I had to replace the thorn bushes around my corral every three months. It takes three weeks just to get enough thorns because all the bushes in the area are gone,” Yohana said. Like many other Maasai households, Yohana’s wives and the elders at his boma are responsible for replacing the thorny bush fences. As time passes, the women and elders have to travel farther and farther to get the bushes because the closest ones were cut long ago – a classic case of deforestation.
The Commiphora trees used to reinforce the chain-link fencing for Living Walls are branches or cuttings from mature trees. The “parent” tree isn’t cut down or killed in the process. Our technique helps to prevent habitat loss and further deforestation, in fact we are increasing the number of trees on the Steppe. Livestock owners dry the Commiphora branches for about a week and then plant them around the boma.
“It’s extremely hard work cutting the thorns for traditional bomas,” Yohana said. Remarking on his new Living Wall, he adds, “Not only are the women happy, but I am happy too because now the cattle can’t break out of the boma and I don’t have to collect them when they do.” Yohana isn’t sure how many times carnivores attacked his cattle over the years. But, he says the majority of the attacks happen when the cattle break out of the boma and run off into the open fields and grasslands. Earlier in the year, he lost two cows to lions that had attacked the herd after they had escaped from the boma.
“There isn’t anyone who doesn’t want a Living Wall. Everyone with a boma wants a wall,” Yohana said with a wide grin as the last foot of chain-link was nailed into a commiphora post.
Living in the bush has its ups and downs, but one of the biggest ups (or perhaps downs to some) is being able to expect to find a new friend – furry, scaly, or otherwise – almost every day. This summer, we have been very lucky to receive visits from a variety of the local inhabitants from every part of the food chain, including a few shy ones that seem to have worked up the courage to say hi!
It seems to be a very sssweet summer for the snakes here at Noloholo because they have been popping up in some curious places. It can get pretty hot out when the sun is high in a cloudless sky up here on our hill, and ectotherms like snakes have to physically move themselves into warmer or colder locations to regulate their body temperatures. Our first visitor was a beautiful young puff adder who decided that the best place for shade was our environmental centre one afternoon during a visit with Dr. Sarah Durant of the Serengeti Cheetah Project and the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative. The snake appeared in almost surreal clarity, as if sharpened to perfection. In the sun, each scale – olive, gold, and brown – was visible in full detail. If you ever get the chance to see one in the wild, you will be sure to be struck by its beauty, along with some amount of fear depending on how ophidiophobic you are. They are, after all, responsible for a large chunk of the snake-related fatalities in Africa.
Speaking of ophidiophobia, the fear of snakes, would you go for a run knowing that one of the deadliest snakes in the world was hanging around? The black mamba is named not for its skin colour, but for its mouth, which starts to resemble death itself if you stare into the seemingly endless black hole for long enough. The silhouette of a rising mamba, which can easily lift two-thirds of its muscular body off the ground, is enough to strike fear into even the bravest warrior, let alone a new father taking his daughter for a stroll.
Then, there was the central African rock python. The biggest snake in Africa, and it snuck into our environmental centre (which seems to be a popular place) without any trouble. What’s more, it managed to climb just above the doorway for a quick nap without anyone noticing until an intern with a keen eye for snakes noticed its sleeping figure. Luckily, our wildlife intern had some experience with snake handling, and after a little bit of MacGyvering, a lot of manoeuvering, and a few pictures, she was able to set the snake out into a more suitable place for a nap. It was only a baby, after all.
On the Maasai Steppe, the night brings a cacophony of noises, and no night is exactly the same. The strangely harmonious hollow call of the hyena and the distant (or sometimes not-so-distant) moans of a lion pride are truly unique and magical experiences when you’re sleeping under a billion shining stars. One of the most haunting sounds, however, is the sound of a herd of frightened zebra whooping loudly as they run from a pride of lions. The scattered calls are sure to echo in your mind for years afterwards. Especially when, the next morning, the reason for the night chorus becomes apparent with the body of a young zebra sitting next to the staff fire pit. Those moments ensure that the circle of life, both the concept and the song, still sit in the back of your mind.
As old Murphy (as well as all the data on big cat vs. snake densities) would have it, the number of times we saw snakes this summer outnumbers the number of times we saw lions in camp. However, the lions continue to remind us of their presence with their nighttime taunts. It’s funny how many animals you can see when you’re not studying them.
Nothing brings people together like a Serbian military lorry – especially when the seats are removed to accommodate huge cement moraines. The APW camera-trapping vehicle of choice, affectionately called “Tammy”, can only be described as a green beast: a glorious and practical green beast, but a beast nonetheless. Standing four feet tall atop its six wheels, and ten feet at its full height, Tammy can withstand even the deepest potholes, which are often more like small chasms here. You would never think to describe such a machine as practical unless you lived in Tanzania.
This past week, our Warriors for Wildlife were busy setting up camera traps in local korongos (riverbeds) with Dennis Minja, APW’s wildlife monitoring program officer. Don’t let the word “local” fool you – after all, this is not the suburbs. A two-mile trip usually involves navigating through a herd of cattle, multiple winding detours due to the lack of roads, and one or two close calls with the acacia thorn. After five full days of hard work, the team managed to set up 16 cameras at 8 different locations, with two facing cameras per trap.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the procedures involved in camera trapping, you should note that it does not require any actual trapping of animals – just pictures. It does, however, require a lot of planning, a lot of manual labour, and a whole lot of patience. And like life, you always have to account for the fact that things don’t always work out the way you plan.
First of all, the moraines that are used to hold the cameras are probably about as heavy as a baby elephant, and not nearly as cute. In essence, they are metal boxes attached to metal poles, which in turn are embedded rather unceremoniously into a large block of concrete. If that doesn’t sound appealing, try lifting one (or 16) over your shoulders a few times over.
Secondly, we had a bit of a warm spell this week – thank you climate change – and the warriors’ uniforms are made for protection, not for breathability. After a couple of hours in those things under the “jua kali” (harsh sun), fatigue and dehydration come fast. And in Tammy’s open-air rear, with the dry season air virtually vacuuming water out of your body, it is hard to avoid.
Finally, it takes a surprising amount of strategy to choose a camera location within a korongo. To be effective for identification purposes, the camera must capture the maximum surface area of the maximum number of animals passing across the designated area, all the while maintaining view of the opposing camera. The cameras are placed in locations that will allow us to monitor the impacts of our conservation programs over time by giving us estimates of animal densities, individual health, and population statuses. To do that, it’s best to ensure that you’re going to get a good view of most animals passing through in order to be able to identify individuals. This involves clearing any brush that may obstruct the shot, which can be hard in a place where everything has evolved to defend itself. There are many things to keep in mind, from varying animal heights to direction of travel. To test shot quality, each game scout took a turn as the hyena throughout the day, trying to create the best impression in gait and call, with both impressive and hilarious results. Why a hyena, I couldn’t tell you, but perhaps it is due to the healing powers of laughter.
We will be checking the traps in the next few weeks, and hopefully we’ll be able to show you what our friendly neighborhood predators are up to. Keep track of our Facebook page for updates, and remember to keep in mind what it takes to get those photos, because it’s a bit more than a walk in the park!
Today, The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) announced our own Elvis Kisimir as one of this year’s Disney Conservation Heroes. Elvis was recognized for his passion and dedication to protecting wildlife and wild places in Tanzania, East Africa.
Elvis was nominated by the organization for his role in the prevention of lion – livestock conflict on the Maasai Steppe. As the head program officer for our big cats conflict prevention team, he successfully leads several programs that benefit the lives of community members and the local wildlife. Due to Elvis’s hard work, especially with our unique Living Walls program, livestock depredation in the area has decreased steadily since 2010, and lion numbers are starting to recover. He is one of only fourteen award recipients this year. As a recipient, he will receive a medal, a certificate, and a cash award to be shared between himself and the organization.
Our executive director, Laly Lichtenfeld, commented, saying “Elvis is a true community-based conservationist. Over the years, I have watched him grow from a young apprentice to a skilled and confident leader of our big cats conflict prevention program. I am very proud of him today,” Elvis’s award will play a key role in the advancement of our big cats conflict prevention programs, currently expanding to the northwest of Tarangire National Park.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank Elvis for his incredible achievements, his attitude, and his unwavering determination to protect lions and people alike. It is people like you that make our work meaningful, and we could not be where we are today without you.
About the African People & Wildlife Fund
The African People & Wildlife Fund is a U.S. nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of wildlife and important natural habitats in Africa through a community-based approach. APW builds the capacity of rural communities to engage in environmental conservation and sustainable livelihood strategies that promote the dual objectives of biodiversity conservation and poverty alleviation for the mutual benefit of both people and wildlife. The African People & Wildlife Fund’s regional headquarters, the Noloholo Environmental Center, is located on the Maasai Steppe of northern Tanzania, just east of Tarangire National Park. For more information, visit www.afrpw.org.
The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund works to save species and habitats and to connect kids to nature to help develop lifelong conservation values. To date, DWCF has granted more than $20 million to support conservation programs in 112 countries. Projects chosen for funding must address a critical conservation need, contribute solid field science and incorporate community conservation education and engagement. The DWCF annually invites non-profit organizations who have received conservation funding in the past to nominate individuals in communities around the world for their incredible conservation efforts. Since 2004, Disney has honored 85 Conservation Heroes. To learn more visit disney.com/conservation.
Last week Tuesday, 89 women from the sub-villages of Loibor Siret gathered at the Noloholo Environmental Center to officially launch the Loibor Siret Women’s Association. The association is the brainchild of our Conservation Enterprise and Development program officer, Joyce Ndakaru, along with the Maasai women in the community.
The association will act as the basis of support, bringing together individual women and the members of the women’s groups from Loibor Siret. Through the association, members will be able to receive tips, advice and help from the various groups and individual members. The association will also allow our organization to communicate efficiently with the various women that live across several communities in Loibor Siret.
The women discussed the intended division, mission, objectives and structure of the association. Five women were elected for executive positions and two women from the six sub-villages were elected as the committee representatives. The women are determined to have a positive impact on their communities and their families.
As members of the association, the women will be provided with microloans from our organization. The association will vote on which women get the loans, with 70 percent of the women agreeing, to come to a final decision. This week the committee representatives are meeting to discuss leadership and the application for the loans. The committee representatives will share the information with the other members of the association in the next week.
The microloans will be used to help fund environmentally friendly entrepreneurship. Some of the women have already started brainstorming ideas such as beekeeping and honey harvesting. The microloans will range from 50,000 Tanzanian shillings to 500,000 shillings, depending on the project and whether it is a collaboration or individual work.
We are so pleased with the drive and motivation these women have to start working towards a better environment through successful entrepreneurship. They will be supporting their families and communities, but also supporting our mission to ensure a better future for the wildlife and environment of the Maasai Steppe.
Find out what our organization has been doing both on and off the Maasai Steppe for big cat conservation. Our latest issue of the Carnivore Chronicle is now on our website!
Teachers at Loibor Siret Primary Schools have started teaching their students how to use the laptop computer that was donated to the school through APW’ s connections with the National Geographic Big Cat Initiative.
Until a few weeks ago, the computer had never been used by anyone at the school. Our environmental education intern, Talia Calnek-Sugin worked on the curriculum for the lessons over the course of six weeks. Talia started teaching the teachers in the middle of July and started teaching the students shortly after. The teachers have now started teaching the many students at the primary school. This is the only computer at a government school in the region and for many, the only computer they will ever see.
We are so pleased that the children will finally reap the benefits of the computer and the many possibilities it can provide. These children will have a great advantage over many children in the area, as most would probably never have access to a computer, even after matriculating to secondary school.
Some of the computer lessons include detailed instructions with graphs and pictures to aid in visual communication. The comprehensive curriculum ranges from a lesson on turning the computer on and off, to doing a variety of tasks and projects on Microsoft Word. The computer will be used primarily by the teachers but the students will have access to it with special supervision and permission. We hope that as the students and teachers become more familiar with the computer works, it will be a useful tool in helping to provide information and further education in the area and the village of Loibor Siret.
Ninety-four women from sub-villages all over Loibor Siret attended a meeting on Thursday to discuss the formation of an association of women. The meeting was hosted by our conservation enterprise and development program officer, Joyce Ndakaro, along with our assistant environmental education officer, Revocatus Magayane.
Dressed in their brightest kangas, the women came ready to listen to the details that Joyce had outlined for the formation of the association. Earlier this year, some of the women formed their own women’s groups to support each other in the establishing of environmentally favorable businesses. Three or four women from each of the thirty women’s groups attended the meeting. As well as individuals outside of the groups who are still interested in joining the association.
“The purpose of the meeting was to solicit the interest of the women, gather ideas and answer any of the questions they might have,” Joyce said.
The meeting began with a short introduction on the idea for the association. The idea came from APW—facing the challenge of how to reach the women together—and from the women themselves, through the entrepreneurship training they had at Noloholo. The association will help us communicate and connect with the women as one unit. The association will also serve as an outlet for the women to share thoughts, ideas and experiences, as they develop their small businesses through the micro-loans that APW will supply.
Three women from each group will serve as representatives in the association for their respective groups. On Monday, Joyce collected a list of the names of the women that had been chosen to represent their groups as the presidents, the treasurers and the third additional representatives. We believe by giving women on the Maasai Steppe a chance to lead and contribute to their households, we can empower them to influence others to protect and defend the environment.
Men in the community have already been influenced by the unity of the women in Loibor Siret. A few men’s groups have been formed, and some groups even allow some men to attend their meetings, however no men will be allowed to join the association.
“It is very important to the women, that they are making contributions to their households and their children. It creates better relationships for women, men and children in the communities,” Joyce said.