Baboon walking with Sisco



Early this morning, the interns headed out for a baboon-walk with Lale’enok’s baboon expert, Sisco. A typical walk with Sisco and the Empaleki troop, Lale’enok’s resident baboon troop, usually entails a short walk from one of the troop’s sleeping sites along the river to one of the feeding sites outside camp. Sisco knows every one of the 89 baboons in the Empaleki troop by name and can identify numerous different behaviors both by observation and by the sounds the baboons are making. Most walks include seeing the troop feed, play, and groom each other.

The interns were in for a big surprise today, however, when Sisco tracked the troop all the way across the Olkiramatian Road to a feeding site North of where the troop had ever traveled to before.

Sisco explained that Empaleki troop has a home range which they will defend from any neighboring baboon tribe. Within this home range are several sleeping sites where the troop can climb fig trees in which to spend the night. The home range allows access to the river to drink, and also has several food sources, such as Acacias, Fig trees, Tribulus, and Cordis. However, outside the home range are several feeding sites where the troop can feed on foods not found in the home range, such as the Mathenge tree and the Grewia ssp. These feeding sites are more precarious because they are far from the safety of the sleeping sites and are also in territory that is not formally held by the troop. This means they could potentially encounter other rival baboon troops. Nevertheless, the troop will sometimes travel the distance to these sites in order to access some of their favorite food sources that are not in the home range.

Today, the baboon troop ventured to a location that Sisco has never seen them go to before. By traveling to this new area, the Empaleki troop has expanded their range and incorporated a new feeding site into their repertoire.  Sisco explained that when the troop is considering using a new feeding site, they will send out emissaries, often young and fit members of the troop, to scout out potential locations. After the scouts identify an area with food, they will inform the troop and lead them to it. Today was the first time that the entire troop traveled to this new feeding site!

With Sisco’s extensive knowledge of the Empaleki troop, we were able to construct a map showing the troop’s home range, sleeping sites, normal feeding sites, and the newly accessed feeding site. Check it out below!

Baboon Range Final

On this morning walk, we also spotted James, one of the males of the troop. James lost a leg three weeks ago for unknown reasons, though Sisco suspects that he was speared. At first, James had a lot of difficulty keeping up with the troop when they went out to the feeding sites. He initially would hang back in the safety of the sleeping site and eat whatever food he could find there. However, three weeks since his injury, we saw James venture all the way to the new feeding site with the rest of the Empaleki troop. He appeared to be comfortable walking with his three legs and was engaged in social interactions with the rest of the troop. Though he will always be a bit slower and thus more susceptible to being caught by predators, Sisco believes that James will be able to adapt to having three legs and live a long life despite his injury. Sisco will continue to keep an eye out for James, and he is hopeful that people staying at the Lale’enok Resource Centre will be able to see James on baboon walks for many years to come.




New ‘Market Study’ to begin at the Centre

Recently here at the Lale’enok Resource Centre, the ecological monitoring team has started running a new study which is aimed at better understanding the livestock markets in the area. The team began this new research project because they believe that collecting comprehensive information on the prices of livestock may be useful to pastoralists in making decisions about their animals. Ideally, through doing this study, the ecological monitoring team will become able to share the most up-to-date information about the market with local community members, perhaps when they are out doing field work, or maybe even simply during social interactions. Additionally, by tracking fluctuations in the livestock market, the team may also be able to establish correlations to factors such as droughts and population growth, and thus try to learn how these dynamics are affecting the community’s economy over time. The data from the market study will also be a form of record keeping, as it will document some of the developing changes that are occurring in this community’s livestock market, such as a growing Tanzanian presence in the Shompole Market.

Every Tuesday, the Shompole Market is the epicenter for buying and selling livestock for many Maasai communities in the South Rift. Pastoralists travel for miles from Kenya and Tanzania both to sell their animals and to restock their herd, while businessmen from Nairobi buy livestock in bulk to send back to the city in lorries. On May 30, the team made a preliminary trip to the Shompole Market in order to gauge some of the logistical realities that would need to be considered in order to conduct a study. Afterwards, the team had a brainstorming meeting and decided on which data would be useful and realistic to measure. They decided that the best way to collect meaningful data is to spend the entire duration of market day standing outside the gates of the main boma and record information about each group of livestock that leaves.

Ultimately, the team decided to track the number of each type of animal that is for sale at the market, whether the animal was sold (and, if so, whether it is for restocking a pastoralist’s herd or for sale in a city), and whether the animal came from Tanzania or Kenya. Additionally, the team will obtain several samples of prices for different types of animals, which will then be averaged to generate a mean price (cow prices will be divided into three categories based on the size of the cow). Lastly, the team will also record the tax rates for the county and Shompole group ranch, as well as the prices of staples such as ugali, flour, and sugar. By working with all this data, the team can ascertain estimates for the total tax generated by the county and group ranch, as well as the total amount of money exchanged at the market (which can be subdivided into Kenyan and Tanzanian markets).

On June 6, the market study had its first trial and, aside from certain boxes being too small on the data sheet, it was a success. The ecological monitoring team and everyone at Lale’enok are excited to see the data from the new market study accumulate, and are hopeful that it will lead to useful and interesting insights down the road!

**Pictured in this post is Joel Meja, a member of the ecological monitoring team, in action, speaking to livestock vendors and counting shoats leaving the market!**

Brick Building

This past week at the Lale’enok Resource Centre has been an exciting one for the Reto Women for Olkiramatian Group, who, for the first time, has been using their new brick-making machine to construct bricks made out of soil and cement. The Group intends to make money both by selling bricks and by renting out the machine to the community. Using a 1:12 ratio of cement to soil, the Group was able to construct 70 bricks with 50 Kilograms of cement, 10 Liters of water, and 600 Kilograms of soil.
On Monday, the Women’s Group was given a presentation about how to use the machine. First, sand must be collected from the bush and filtered so that only fine-grain soil is mixed with the cement. The soil-cement blend is then rigorously mixed by hand as water is added. This continues until the mixture is broken down into only fine grains. The soil-cement combination is then shoveled into the machine where it is molded and condensed into a brick. The newly formed bricks are then left out to dry, after which they are usable. The Women’s Group went to work right away making bricks with the remaining cement!
These bricks are beneficial to the community in several ways. The Maasai have traditionally made fires by surrounding a small, open-air fire with three stones. However, the Group now has a new design for making fires with the bricks, with which they hope to replace the stone model. This brick design allows the fire to retain heat more efficiently, which means that less wood is required to generate the same amount of heat. This puts less pressure on the environment because it allows the community to use fewer trees for fires. Additionally, the design is built to heat up several pots at once, unlike the stone-method which can only heat one pot at a time. The brick model also heats up the pans more quickly. Lastly, the bricks produce less smoke than the stone-fire method, which offers extensive health benefits!
On Thursday, the Women’s Group used 15 of their bricks to construct a stove, which they will now use for cooking while at the Lale’enok Resource Centre. They created a perimeter of bricks and then placed four metal beams across it to create four slots for pots. They then sealed the design with mud.
Please check out the photos on this blog to see step by step how the Women’s Group turned soil and cement into a functional stove!

Getting a closer look at some of the animal residents at the Lale’enok camp

This past week, the interns set up a trail camera trap on the Lale’enok camp. This camera uses motion censors to detect and film any wildlife that passes by. In addition to several groups of happy humans heading down to the river for a dip, the camera also picked up the resident baboon tribe, vervet monkeys, a dik dik, and the incredibly rare spotted hyena. What a great reminder of all the cool wildlife we share our space with here in the South Rift!

Follow the link below to check out the highlights of what the camera captured!


Introducing the Interns

The two I-CAN interns from McGill arrived and have hit the ground running. They’ll be staying here with us at Lale’enok until August, and have already begun helping with a number of projects. While they’ll be explaining that more in depth in future blog posts, first I’d like to let them introduce themselves so you have an idea of who will be working with us this summer.

My name is Liam, and I’m a mac. I’m originally from Vancouver, Canada, but have been coming to Kenya my entire life. I spent four years in Nairobi attending high school, and have come back every opportunity since. Right now I’m living in Montréal, where I’m pursuing an honours degree in anthropology with minors in environment and social entrepreneurship at McGill University. Through working for SORALO, I want to learn more about traditional ecological knowledge, and the strategies the Maasai have used to ensure their sustainable existence within and as a key part of a complex ecological system. To quote Vox, “civilization is a collaboration with nature. A giant structure must sway with the wind and roll with the earthquakes, or else it will surely, quietly fall.” Oh, and I really want to work on my Swahili, but that doesn’t sound as academic.

My name is Daniel and I’m a PC. I grew up in upstate New York in the United States. I am currently pursuing a degree in Environmental studies with a minor in organismal biology at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. I am incredibly fascinated by the complexities of conservation here in the South Rift. There is growing consensus nowadays that the viability of wildlife conservation going forward will depend on the success of environmental management in areas outside of protected parks, such as the Maasai pastoral lands in Southern Kenya. After spending only a few days here with SORALO, I can already see that there is so much to learn (and emulate around the world) from this community about human-wildlife coexistence. On a more personal level, I really enjoy wildlife photography and being outdoors: two things which are very easily done here at the Lale’enok Resource Centre!

Olosean Camping for New Boma Mapping and Carnivore Information Gathering

At the end of last month the Ecological RAs and the carnivore RAs continued our work to expand monitoring beyond the core conservation areas, this is the a report from ecological Resource Assessor Joel Sumare

On  the 21st March 2017 both ecological and carnivore teams having prepared at Lale’enok Resource Centre, set off to Olosean which is within Shompole east location, Oloika sub location, to survey the area after reports of a lion that has been seen several times in that area.


We arrived at the area by 11:00 o’clock and our first stop was Olosean pre-school. The community had prior information that we were coming so they welcomed us with a lot of happiness and lead us to the site where we camped. After we set up our camp, one the elder lead us to last site where lion tracks had been seen. Here we took photos and GPS coordinates, noting down the information.sumare_olosean_2

On the following day we had a joint patrol with ecological monitoring team and carnivore teams, were we followed for few kilometers the direction of the lion tracks. We passed several bomas on the way and collected information for our boma mapping work. At this time the community mentioned that the biggest problem was a leopard that has been killing their shoats very day and they asked for help if possible from KWS.

We completed the job following this and had successfully mapped 30 bomas and recorded the incidences of human wildlife interactions.

Course Learning Report from Joel Sumare

Joel Somare, RA at Lale’enok, reports on his training last year in computer packages, funded under the SORALO internal scholarship program. 

At the beginning of March 2016, the SORALO scholarship program was introduced to help develop the capacity of our staff members. I applied because I was very interested in joining the Kenya professional study college to study computer packages.sumare_training_1

The packages that I studied included:

  1. Microsoft words
  2. Microsoft excel
  3. Microsoft power point
  4. Desktop publishing
  5. Internet email

Finally, I studied statistical data entry. Before the course started I was facing financial difficulties and therefore unable to pay my fees for the full study period. Based on my deprived financial condition, of which the whole expenses to my course it has cost me ksh 51,000/=. In the beginning of April I came to apply the SORALO scholarship program and I succeeded and was awarded ksh 50,000/=.

In the middle of April I came to join Kenya professional study college and started my classes for two weeks in every month, the other two weeks of the month I worked at Lale’enok doing my normal job as resource assessor in ecological department. The whole course took 3 months for me to complete my learning. The classes went well, although it’s not an easy task since I was doing this part-time, so it has required more time and energy to learn. In my fist day at school in classes I was worried about if I could manage to do all this classes in computer lab since most of my fellow student were not using part-time learning. The hardest part of the course was the statistical computing part, however I managed to complete it and received a certificate for the whole packages learnt.  The whole course has taken me 90 days to complete my 3 months starting in the middle of April 2016 and ended in the middle of September 2016.

The school has more facilities for learning at your own free time, I have been also interested by interacting with other students who are learning different coursers and sharing more ideas in the computer lab or practicing shooting video at the school video room.

This has helped with my computer skills to be used in the Lale’enok office for data entry, report writing and blog posts.

Lale'enok facilitates the advancement of community livelihoods, sustainable resource management and human-wildlife coexistence through the integration of research, livestock development, tourism, and other income generating community projects. As a physical place for information storage and sharing, the centre provides the community with a forum to engage partners in knowledge creation, dissemination and application.