An extremely hot and dusty road leads us northwards along the Kenya-Uganda border. We are in West Pokot District, central western Kenya. Despite what appears suitable habitat, no warthog (Phacochoerus sp.) will expose itself to us in this heat, and neither will the Guenter’s dik-dik (Madoqua guentheri), olive baboon (Papio anubis) or any other mammal that we hope to encounter in the region….
We have trained eyes for detecting primates, but it took a little while for us to realize that we were looking at a group of olive baboons (scientific name: Papio anubis, Kiswahili name: nyani). The setting here, between the eastern shore of Lake Turkana and the western edge of the Chalbi Desert, is new to us. On a distant rocky hill, surrounded by expansive black lava plains with a sparse cover of thorny acacia (Acacia species) and commiphora (Commiphora species) bush and badly damaged toothbrush trees (Salvadora persica), a group of olive baboons is resting…all eyes fixed on us…..
When you are lucky enough to spot a cheetah (scientific name: Acinonyx jubatus raineyi;Kiswahili name: duma), you typically see a ‘little’ head (well……for a cat of that size ‘little’) sticking out of tall yellow grass under a shady acacia or balanites tree. If you are really lucky, there is a second ‘little’ head sticking out nearby. While conducting our desert warthog survey on the edge of Kenya’s remote Chalbi Desert we had a very different encounter with the majestic cheetah…..
During our research to better define the geographical range of the desert warthog in northern Kenya, we use every opportunity to collect data on other taxa present in this dry and relatively poorly known region. The nights, in particular, provide new and interesting findings…and, this time, we are not talking ‘pigs’ (see our two earlier blogs).
In our search for warthogs in central northern Kenya, we drive from Marsabit, across the Koroli and Chalbi Deserts to Sibiloi National Park (just south of the Kenya – Ethiopian border). It is the end of the dry season in a region where the annual rainfall averages just 250 mm per year (and in some parts it may not rain for several years).