Artists for Conservation


Artists for Conservation

Dec 4th - Today was our planned visit to Nakuru National Park. Akeley was one of the first to document with photography, the spectacle of thousands of flamingos at Lake Nakuru , so I , once again, was anxious to follow in his foot steps. After purchasing more food and supplies in nearby Nakuru town, the fastest growing city in all of Kenya, we entered the park. The park is noted for it's efforts in desperately trying to protect the last remaining rhinoceroses in East Africa. One Black Rhino's horns are worth $350 thousand US dollars on the black market. Most of the illegal horn is going to Asia for, so-called, medicinal use, and Yemen for dagger handles. With that high a bounty on their head, the animals are struggling to survive against local poachers, and also highly organized black market hunters that hunt the animals by helicopter. It's an uphill battle both for the rhinos and those who are working to protect and save them for the future. The group Rhino Rescue is working to surround the entirety of Nakuru National Park so the rhinos can be policed and the poaching prevented. We searched for rhinos through the day and, finally, late in the day we found a female Black Rhino with a calf in the distance. Though in the distance the look was magnificent. Black Rhinos are my favorite of all African animals. They look like they've just stepped out of a prehistoric world. If we destroy them it would be a tragedy comparable to losing the greatest art or literature of the world. Biologically, it would be a greater tragedy. They are a natural treasure and a living masterpiece of form and power. The female stood in protection over her calf in the shadow of a yellow acacia tree. Standing courageously, not only against the daily and nightly natural threats to it's young one, but standing against a cultural world that, without the noble efforts of those who risk their lives to protect her and her calf, would snuff out her and her young life one for a preposterous mythical potion and a senseless male status symbol. How will we explain this loss of life and biodiversity and our squandering of resources to our children, if we allow this to happen in our generation. Will we hand down such a depleted world that, based on their experience of the "nature" we leave, they will not know, care, understand or remember what it was before we destroyed it? Presently, the world population of Black Rhinos is approximately 3,000!!! Only 3,000 left!!!! They are slipping away without a concern, save the heroic efforts of those on the front lines working with our financial support. The clock is ticking and we can't let time run out for such magnificent creatures like Black Rhinos, Mountain Gorillas, and others. The time for passive nature study is past. We cannot say we love nature and not support (with action and financial contributions) those who are actively trying to save it. The consequences of passively standing by are just too great and tragic.

After sighting the two Black Rhinos we headed out to the lake to see the birds. The rains have been good so the lake is high and the salinity was diluted. For this reason the number of flamingos were low. They love the aquatic life that is generated by the salty waters of these rift soda lakes. That being said, the flamingoes were in the hundreds verses thousands. When I last visited the lake was pink with them. Now they were likely in numbers out a Lake Natron. But the bird species were abundant, especially the Eurasian shorebirds. Flocks of Ruff, Greenshank, Wood and Green Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper, Little Plover, Kentish Plover, Temmincks and Little Stints and thousands of them! These lakes are so important to these long distance flyers. This is another reason why Kat and Guy Combes efforts to protect Soysambu and Lake Elementiata as well is so important. Without this chain of rift valley lakes and the natural areas connecting them these birds would not make it to their southern wintering grounds and back north to nest. The native birds were equally abundant at Nakuru - African White Pelicans, Greater Flamingo, Lesser Flamingo, Black-winged Stilts, Cape Teal, Red-billed Ducks, Yellow Billed Ducks, Black Rail, Little Grebe and more. While searching for birds we noticed what looked like a giant boulder on the muddy shoreline of the lake. As we approached it turned into a magnificent White Rhinoceros napping in the cool mud by the lakeside. As he was sound asleep he allowed us a close approach which gave me a wonderful chance to sketch him. Rhinos are fun to draw as they look like sculpture themselves with wonderful shadows and highlites to use to creat form out of a two dimensional page of drawing paper. He was the perfect model, holding a full ten minute pose without moving. When he did move, he rolled over on his back in the cool mud in what appeared to be rhino ecstacy. White Rhinos do not naturally occur in Nakuru National Park or Kenya for that matter. They have been transplanted here, by Rhino Rescue with the Black Rhino in a desperate effort to keep them safe in an area that is regularly patrolled.

After our visit to Lake Nakuru we returned for dinner then headed out for another "sundowner". This time Guy brought us to a breathtaking site where the sun set over a vast plain with a marshy lake in the foreground reflecting the glorious colors of the evening sky. We found leopard, zebra, cape buffalo, hyaena and Impala tracks at he muddy edge of the pond indicating it was a favored waterhole. The spot guy selected was slightly elevated lava rock and as darkness closed we all laid on our backs on the flat rock, warmed by the day's hot sun, and watched the stars appear. Murray's landcruiser had a CD player so Guy opened the doors of the truck parked nearby and played Beethoven's Missa Solemnis while we lay back and gazed in awe at the night sky and listened to the majesty of Beethoven's piece. When I get home I need to research to see if Beethoven ever went on safari to East Africa as this piece seemed in perfect synch with the African night sky and surroundings.  I will never forget that night and the perfect unity of music and the night surrounding us.

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