What you need to know:
- I am also pleased to see a Stripped hyena – again, the first time I am seeing one.
Being nocturnal and incredibly shy creatures, I’m going to make it a point to keep vigil at night when on safari next time.
The East African Wildlife Society recently organised a family tour of the Nairobi Animal Orphanage for members. The Society is the voice of conservation in Africa and celebrating its 60th anniversary.
The orphanage has a long history, with famous icons like Sebastian the chimp who liked to eat ice cream out of a cup, using a spoon. Extremely vain, he loved looking at his reflection in a silver tray and showing off his acrobatic skills to the orphanage visitors. He was sometimes allowed to go on game drives in Nairobi Park. He’d sit in the passenger seat of the warden’s car and hoot at the animals he especially enjoyed watching. He was found dead of old age in his cage on the morning of July 19, 1996.
Chimps aren’t indigenous to Kenya, but people have kept them as pets in the past. Sebastian had been hand-reared and when he was about eight years old he was given to the orphanage shortly after it opened to the public on November 11, 1963. I’m happy not to see any chimps in a cage – hopefully an indication that the brutal trade in chimpanzee for pets is gone. For every chimp baby captured in the wild, a whole family is slaughtered. Like human families, children are closely guarded.
I’m over the moon to see an African wild dog in the wild at the orphanage. I’ve been everywhere in Kenya where they are seen – Samburu, Laikipia, Kajiado – and never seen it. This poor creature had such bad press in the early 1900s that it was shot on sight by farmers – to the extent that the species nearly went extinct.
It was only when wildlife researchers began watching their behaviour that they recorded that the wild dogs were efficient pack hunters and very caring parents. Their soft, playful side was captured by Karl Ammann, the wildlife photographer. Their numbers are increasing but I yet have to see one in the wild.
I am also pleased to see a Stripped hyena – again, the first time I am seeing one. Being nocturnal and incredibly shy creatures, I’m going to make it a point to keep vigil at night when on safari next time.
A little girl stands by the young lions rescued as cubs near the park. She’s been standing there for 10 minutes when she’s called by her parents. She runs along the fence and the lion does the same – it became a race. The cheetah cubs watching the girl and lion running up and down join in – it’s enchanting watching a little girl sandwiched between two big cats in a game that started so spontaneously. When the girl stops, panting, so do the cats that have really enjoyed the exercise.
“I like to see the children come to the animal orphanage. They learn about these animals and the challenges they face today and hopefully conserve them,” comments Julius Kipsang who has worked at the orphanage for 13 years. “I would like to see more children visit – especially from Kibera (the slum) neighbouring us. It would encourage them to learn more about wildlife. It would be nice if we could have a free day for them.”
That’s how most of us city-bred grown-ups started our encounters with the wild – at the Nairobi National Park and the Animal Orphanage.