Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Relief in Meru Park

30 October 2017

Categories: Homepage News, Kenya News

Simiyu Newtone, Research Officer - simiyu[at]

Five months. It has been five long, dreary months since a single drop fell over the vast Meru Park. Worse, it’s been a year since Meru received some good rains. To survive, the wildlife concentrated along the drying rivers and swampy areas. Temperatures sometimes soared above 35 degrees Celsius. The earth lay bare and patchy in some areas, and the wind would raise fine reddish dust giving us and the wildlife a new hue. A herd of elephants invaded the Park’s staff quarters at Murera and made it their home, bringing down most of the combretum and acacia trees for their daily nourishment.

Until last week. Then suddenly a heavily, pregnant cloud loomed over the Nyambene Hills and quickly spread above the Park. And when the heavens opened up, They showered us with 126mm of rain in 12 hours. A welcome relief for all!

But not so for some waterbucks who got the rough end of the stick. As its name indicates, the antelope with a ring around its butt inhabits areas that are close to water in savanna grasslands, forests and riverine woodlands. Such habitats are not only good for sustenance, but also the long grasses and wetlands provide cover from predators. One would think the heavy rains would be a godsend for waterbucks. 

The rainstorm came with drastic change in temperatures – from extremely hot and dry to cold and wet. As we were monitoring lions the morning after the downpour, we found two lifeless waterbucks about 20 metres apart. On closer look, they both had deep tears on the hind part and their fetuses aborted and missing. The rest of the carcasses were intact with no signs of attack from a predator. However, we did sight lion spoors. We also came across several other waterbucks in the nearby bushes, looking restless and stressed. The deaths and intact carcasses remain a puzzle.

We hope the rains, if sustained, will soon reduce the high incidences of conflict between wildlife and the communities; that the Park would get the much-needed break for the pasture to regenerate; and that the temperatures would lower a tad little bit giving much joy to the animals and people.

Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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