When Kathleen and I first went to Africa in the early 1970s we were warned about mosquito-born diseases like malaria, but there were few other dreaded diseases. AIDS wasn’t yet known. Cholera seemed to be confined to the slums of Asia and South America.
Cholera has broken out in Nairobi. The first 30 or so cases were not found where you would expect to find a hard-to-transmit but deadly disease: in the slums. More than 400 cases have been confirmed and many in two of the most upscale areas of the city, Karen and Westlands. What’s going on?
For the first time in a number of years, the great wildebeest migration seems to be “on track.” This means when I return to Africa in a few weeks that I should be able to show my clients a dramatic river crossing in The Mara.
This year the weather was fairly “normal” as defined by the mean of the last twenty years. Parts of Tanzania suffered a mini-drought, and the lands of the wilde were a bit dryer than “normal” but all within the margin of “normal.” But does “normal” mean anything, any more?
Politics are changing lightning fast and climate is changing lightning fast, and now it seems that wild animal behavior is also seriously changing.
I’ve written about the catastrophic decline of lions, but recently we learned of one of the weirdest wild animal behaviors ever: inter-species nursing! Combined with several years ago, when a lionness adopted an oryx (!) in Samburu, I think we’re seeing nature desperately trying to evolve as fast as earth’s temperatures warm.
South Africans delightedly use Trump as a global explanation for their own Jacob Zuma, but if we get distracted by colorful individuals at the helm of complex political systems imploding all around us, we’ll have created nothing to fill the vacuum that follows their recklessness.
Wasting time trying to pin sophisticated crimes on the “orange doofus” (as South Africans describe Trump) will fatally delay fixing the system.
After elephants “terrified” a Kenyan politician campaigning near Tsavo National Park, the candidate told supporters the government has done “Very little… to make sure human-wildlife conflict is addressed.”
A few weeks earlier Kenya’s proud new SGR train plowed into a cow in the same area because elephants had torn down the fence along the rail line.
In the last few months I’ve seen first-hand the increasing human/wildlife conflict. It’s not a pretty scene.
Last night Trump took a “fun trip” to a “ a dystopian land of terror… a city so, so, so out of control, so dangerous.” “France is no longer France,” Trump recently pronounced.
It’s hard to believe that someone who confuses WWI with WWII and can’t even name the advisories of either one is joining the centennial celebrations of WWI. What’s behind this meeting?
The neo-cons controlling Trump. Africa is the reason for this meeting. Let me explain.
Trump is expected to lift sanctions on The Sudan today, in place for 20 years and indeed a complex policy with a checkered history. Trump’s move is bereft of any ideology intended simply to get government out of business. There’s oil there, you know.
Whether this ideology-free policy, business first, policy will have any value except to increase the bottom line of ExxonMobil is unlikely. Appropriately, the lifting will be announced by Tillerson, ExxonMobil’s former CEO.
Why are professionals from zoo directors to scientists – much less you! – less interested in the lion decline than the elephant decline? Why are you donating to Save The Elephants but not Save the Lions?
Lions-Wild estimates there were more than 100,000 lion living in the wild when I started my career. Today there are 15-20,000. That decline is greater and much more alarming than that of rhino or elephant. Worse yet the world’s most important lion researchers say another 50% decline will occur in just the next few years? Why is there so much less interest in the lion decline? I think I know the answer.
In this upended world even long-standing beliefs about extinction are being contested by a public ready to do anything so long as it’s different.
Rhino haven’t survived in the wild for decades, but since the 1980s they’ve been so well protected in fenced reserves that their numbers actually increased. That’s changing: Poaching inside fences is exploding, courts are freeing poachers, breeders are defying international bans and regimes like Trump’s are rescinding years of safeguards.
African governments thumb their noses at tourists and tourists flounder in the irony of their wealth. What a story!
Safari fees are increasing fast and furiously, and the blame has begun to fly. Following Rwanda’s decision to double a mountain gorilla fee from $750 to $1500 per hour, Tanzania nearly doubled tourist fees Friday night.
Social media is aghast. Tourist platforms like TripAdvisor are fanning the flames as distorted facts are amplified. Let’s try to sort it all out:
Today is one of America’s most important holidays of the year, Independence Day. It comes on an odd day-of-the-week, because most Americans will be docked a day’s pay if they also took off Monday. So it’s likely that long distance celebrations with relatives — a trademark of the 4th of July — might occur less this year.
America’s Independence Day holiday has lost much of its context over the last 220 years. Unlike many African countries, for example, there is no living memory of independence, just what the books tell us.
Yet it remains one of the most universally celebrated holidays on the calendar. It’s summer in America, perfect for parades, games and … baseball, the national sport! And from my earliest memories as a a child what I continue to associate the holiday with most are fireworks!
I will be in Nairobi for its next election on August 8. According to the popular global business group, Quartz, Kenya’s is one of four elections this year that will determine world-wide the direction of democracy.
Worldwide? How on earth will Kenya’s election effect US business, much less its own political fabric?
Yesterday I returned from 50 days on safari, fifty days of not talking politics, pointing out mistakes, lies and misrepresentations that we’re drowning in. All I wrote about was the leopard in the tree and the wild dog nipping the hyaena and the massive Luangwa flowing into the sunset. I felt guilty. It wasn’t easy.
So anxiously I’m about to read Jeffrey Gettleman’s new book, “Love, Africa.” I want him to tell me why it’s OK to talk about game viewing when Trump is about to blow up the world.
The middle of sub-Saharan Africa, about a million square miles, includes the “sand river” big game wildlife parks. We’ve just finished 16 days exploring these less visited areas, and we had a ball and some incredible successes game viewing.
This entire swath of Africa, roughly from mid-Tanzania south to the Zambezi River, is mostly vast, sandy scrubland that reminds many Americans of the midveld near the “Four Corners” where Colorado, Arizona, Utah and New Mexico meet. The big difference with Four Corners and this area is its namesake, the great sand rivers that drain so much of the continent.
Here’s a quick summary of our trip:
Finishing our first extraordinary dinner on the banks of the Luangwa River, the best of South African wines were still pouring into our glasses. Hurricane lamps lit our elegantly set table and the southern cross with a million other twinkling stars bounced off the river like fireflies.
The robust conversation ebbed with the last of the chocolate-laced profiteroles washed down with still more Shiraz, and the African symphony which of course had never abated took over the night.