Protecting Kenya’s Wildlife at the Maasai Olympics

The Maasai Olympics is a biennial event in Kenya that started in 2012. Last year saw the second olympics and we are very excited for the next one in 2016. So in the lead up to the next event, we have a look at what it is all about.

Big Life Foundation and Lion Guardians work closely with the Maasai communities in the region surrounding Amboseli and Tsavo National Parks in southern Kenya to hold this event. The Maasai traditional initiation rite was to hunt and kill a lion. But a few years ago, in 2008, the elders of the area recognised the practice as unsustainable and approached Big Life Foundation to assist in setting up a different way to prove the manhood of the Maasai. And so the Maasai Olympics were born, to educate the communities and gain their commitment to conserving wildlife and habitat for the future and to recognise that this is their only sustainable way of life.

The Olympics consists of five events: rungu throwing, spear throwing, high jump, 200-metre sprint and five-kilometre run. A rungu is a club that most Maasai men carry (you often see it tucked into their belt) and the throwing competition tests accuracy while the spear-throwing competition tests distance. The high jump is not the standard high jump we think of in the west. The Maasai traditional dance involves a lot of jumping where the men simply stand on the spot and jump as high as they can, staying as rigid as a pole. Trophies, cash and even a prize bull are up for grabs for the winners. The two winners of the five-kilometre run in 2014 even received a sponsored trip to the 2015 New York Marathon!

Changing the tide to conserve lions (and other animals) is vital for the survival of Kenya’s delicate eco-system. The initiative taken by the Maasai elders a few years ago is admirable and the Maasai Olympics stands as an example to other communities to work towards conservation and education of their youth. More information can be found on Big Life Foundation’s website.

The Maasai Olympics takes place every two years in December usually somewhere in the Amboseli-Tsavo eco-system. If you would like to be join OTA’s safari in Kenya which includes attending the event, please contact us on [email protected] and we will add you to the list and let you know as more information becomes available.

Wildlife of Treasure Island Florida

Treasure Island, Florida is a beautiful beach teeming with wide variety of wildlife. From the sea life to the reptiles, there is an abundance of creatures for the nature-lover to enjoy. Whether you are in the mood to simply view the beach's animal community or want to hook some of the local fish, Treasure Island is a great place to feed your desires. Many of the species can be observed without ever having to leave the shore, but those who venture out on boats run into an even wider range of amazing creatures.

Fish – With Treasure Island being a beach community, there are obviously quite a variety of species lurking around the waters. The Gulf of Mexico is one of the best places to spend a day either snorkeling and looking at all the underwater creatures or sitting with your pole catching some of these delicious fish. Some of the species of fish that are normally found in these waters include:

  • Grouper
  • Snapper
  • Kingfish
  • Cobia
  • Permit
  • Flounder
  • Pompano
  • Tarpon
  • Barracuda
  • Blacktip Sharks
  • Spanish Mackeral

Mammals – There are much more than just fish roaming around the Treasure Island area. There are a variety of mammals that call this lovely beach community their home as well. Many people love to come to St Pete to catch a glimpse of the beautiful dolphins and manatees. Dolphins are one of the most sought after attractions of many tourists visiting the area. The good part is that most of the tourists are in luck because catching a view of a dolphin around Treasure Island is extremely easy. The dolphins love the play and show off in the water and are usually even easy to spot from the beach. When out on a boat in the summer months, it is not unusual for a pod of dolphins to swim behind your boat. Manatees are another creature that people always love to fit into their sightseeing. While slightly more elusive than the dolphin, it is not rare to catch a glimpse of one of these "sea cows".

Reptiles – There are a wide variety of reptiles that call this area of ​​Florida home. There are upwards of 45 different species of snakes in the state of Florida, both venomous and non-venomous. Florida is also home to a few varieties of sea turtles, the most common of which is the Loggerhead Turtle. Florida beaches are home to 80% of the Loggerheads in the US and as many as 68,000 nests can be found in Florida each year!

With an abundance of wildlife around the state, Florida can be a wonderful place to observe nature. Treasure Island and the Gulf Coast have a unique group of animals and no one who loves nature should miss these beautiful creatures. Always remember not to disturb the wildlife and allow them to live and breed naturally, so many generations in the future can enjoy their beauty.

Common Wildlife in Residential Areas

The Mid-west and Eastern parts of the United States is widely known across the country for its farms, crops, race cars, and football, but this region actually has a lot more to offer. With each season, homeowners witness magnificent changes in the beautiful flora and fauna in their surrounding environments, a characteristic commonly overlooked in our towns.

The fall and winter seasons bring new color and snow, and animals that are covered in fur. Then the spring and summer rolls in, bringing out the sun and hibernating animals from their dens. The animals here in these regions are fascinating and fun to learn about. Let’s briefly discuss the most common forest wildlife spotted among residential communities, and how they live.

Squirrels

Squirrels are recognized in the medium-sized rodent category. They are slender-bodied animals, covered in a thick fur. They have a long bushy tail, great vision, and strong claws for climbing and grasping their food. They make their homes in trees where they nest their young as well. They typically feed on foods rich in protein and fat, such as: nuts, seeds, tree buds, small insects, conifer cones, fruits, and fungi. They are widely seen in forests and woods, as well as, residential and urban areas.

Raccoons

Raccoons are a medium-sized mammal often seen in areas with mixed deciduous trees. They have black stripes on their long tails, and their bodies are covered in a dense and coarse fur. This fur allows them to survive in harsh weather conditions, by staying cool in the hot seasons and warm in the cold ones.

One signature trait raccoons share is a mask-like black patch over their eyes, making them look like bandits. This, along with their mischievous behavior in residential areas, has coined them the nickname, “bandits”. Although mischievous, they are very intelligent and have dexterous hands that allow easy gripping and climbing; and they create dens for their homes where they breed and feed their offspring.

Deer

Deer are seen all over rural areas of the country. They live in forest, woods, meadows, and protected nature parks. There are different species of deer, all similar and not-so-similar to each other. Deer breed and produce offspring called fawns. The female deer is a doe and the males are called bucks. Male deer are characterized the most by their long and powerful antlers.

A doe does not have antlers, and are sometimes lighter in coat color. This allows them to blend better to their natural surroundings and keep out of the sight of predators. Deer are a wonderful and tasty source of meat for many families in North America and around the world.

Wildlife Preservation

The wildlife in our country is certainly a wonderful, yet commonly overlooked asset. Animals in the forests and wooded areas should stay protected by respecting their habitats and not over using their resources. There are circumstances when wildlife may lose their way, or be forced into urban and residential areas. In this case, it is important to contact a wildlife removal expert to safely and humanely remove and relocate wild animals from your property.

Wildlife Conservation in Action – Cheetah – The Fastest Cat Alive Albeit a Slow Breeder

Yes, the Cheetah is the fastest running animal alive clocking in at 70 miles per hour. No you can't get away, even if you tried, you need a car going down the freeway to get out of dodge if one is chasing you. And these wild cats learn to run at a very early age, even the cubs are fast, agile, and high-energy.

Cheetahs are also very social and make all sorts of sounds, this is their form of communication. They use it when hunting, lounging around, playing, and some of those sounds are mating calls – which evoke biological responses as well.

There was just a terrific article on this in a publication put out by the Zoological Society of San Diego "ZooNooz" in their December 2009 issue titled; "Do You Hear What I Hear: New Breeding Protocol for Cheetahs," by Karyl Carmignani (a staff writer) along with outstanding up close pictures by award winning zoo keeper and photographer Ken Bohn of the San Diego Zoo.

According to his article the zoo keepers keep track of the sounds Cheetahs make, and they know when a male and a female are ready to mate. Indeed, they've now recorded these sounds along with the others. And there are many according to the article; "purr, chirp, growl, snarl, hiss, cough, moan" but it is the chirping which excites the female and "triggers her biological functions to drop eggs" into her female parts and start her reproductive system in full-swing.

This is fascinating, and it's great that the San Diego Zoo can use these sounds and speakers to help this process along so that there are many healthy offspring born at exactly the right time even in captivity. It's amazing the science of zoology is saving endangered species. Perhaps, these techniques can be used to help other animals in the animal kingdom do the same thing?

Wildlife conservation is very important for species which are having a tough go of it in the wild, some due to mankind's encroachment, and / or hunting – and the damage caused to the food chain from human activity. Indeed, I hope you will please consider all this when you think about wildlife conservation.