Stephen Quinn
December 9, 2010 share
Artists for Conservation

Dec 2nd - After an early breakfast and some shopping for food and supplies for the week, we drove out of town and started our descent into East Africa's Great Rift Valley, vast valley plain and volcanic region created by the slow spreading of plates in the earth's crust over millions of years . This was the same route that Akeley would have taken in 1926, during his last trip to, what was then, British East Africa. He writes in his journal how disturbed he was with the dissapearance of game during his visit way back then. The primary reason for his race to complete the African Hall at AMNH then was to capture and record the natural splendor of Africa before it was lost. I wonder what he would think about the tarmack road thath now descends into the vast open valley below and the streaming traffic on it between Nakuru and Niarobi. During this last expedition he had a few rugged vehicles but most of his expedition party traveled on foot. We now raced down the valley escarpment in Murray's landcruiser. Akeley's party, no doubt, gazed off into the vast open valley and witnessed one of the grandest views of untouched African wilderness. Though our view was no less splendid, farms, buildings, and roads were evident everywhere in the valley below. It was no longer wilderness.

Guy and Murray were taking us to a place dear to their hearts. Soysambu Conservancy on the Delemere Estate. It surrounds the beautiful Lake Elementaita just north of Lake Niavasha and South of Lake Nakuru. It is a critical north -south seasonal game corridor and important migratory path for Palearctic migratory birds traveling from Eurasia to tropical Africa. It spans a vast region in this part of the rift valley and is still owned by the ancestors of Lord Delemere, a British Lord who came from England and settled in colonial British East Africa back in the 1880s. Guy and Murray's Grandfather had come, as well, from England to Soysambu to manage Lord Delemere's cattle ranch just after World War ll. Both Guy and Murray had grown up here and were now, along with Kat Combes,the late Simon Combes widow, working to assure the estate be properly mananged as a wildlife preserve. It wasn't soon after entering the Conservatory that we were soon surrounded sizable herds of game all living in harmony with the dairy and beef cattle on the estate lands. Burchell's Zebra were everywhere as well as Thompson's Gazelle, Grant's Gazelle, Defassa Waterbuck, Impala, and the largest herds of Eland I have ever seen. The herds of hoved animals are, of course, attended by predators and we noted Black-backed Jackals and Spotted Hyaena on our long drive into the grazing lands to the ranch. The use of the lands for cattle production compliments it's maintenance as a wildlife preserve and the Combes are working to increase biodiversity and improve wildlife habitat. Their ultimate goal is to reintroduce Black Rhino onto the ranch to assist in their management, conservation and protection.

Arriving at the ranch, we were greeted by Kat Combes, wife of Guy's late father and noted wildlife artist and conservationist, Simon Combes. Simon was also a founding member of Artist's for Conservation. Kat now manages the Conservancy . We had a wonderful dinner waiting for us, during which, as it got dark , the sounds of Africa drifted up from the vast plan and surrounded us on the veranda as we dined. Zebra's brayed, jackels sang, and hyaena's laughed in the distance. I was amazed at how similar Jackals sound like our Coyotes in the States. After dinner we were shown to our rooms . It was a great priviledge to be here.



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