Solar Spectacle

Rare solar eclipse in the cradle of mankind

wildlifeThousands of astronomy enthusiasts thronged a remote part of northern Kenya to view a spectacular event in the skies. On 3 November 2013 they viewed a 15-second solar eclipse at Alia Bay in Sibiloi National Park on the eastern shores of Lake Turkana, the world’s greatest desert lake, measuring 300km long and 32km wide. The lake, also known as the Jade Sea, is Africa’s most important breeding site for the Nile crocodile. The 1570 sq km park’s clear skies provided one of the best locations in the world to view the rare astronomical occurrence. This solar eclipse was unusual in that it was ‘hybrid’, switching between annular and total eclipse. In total eclipse, the moon completely covers the sun, while an annular eclipse occurs when the moon is at its farthest from the earth and does not block the sun completely, leaving a halo of sunlight still visible around the Moon. In the lead-up to the phenomenon, tour operators had positioned the experience as a rediscovery and reconnection with human origins by returning to the ‘cradle of mankind’ and watching a spectacle. The park in Marsabit County was gazetted in 1973 and gained UNESCO World Heritage Status in 1997 due to its richness in biodiversity and fossils. In 1972 a 2-million-year-old fossilised skull was discovered in the park by paleontologist Dr Richard Leakey and his team. Consequently, Sibiloi is referred to as the cradle of mankind. Other archaeological sites found in the park include fossils of the elephant, crocodile, tortoise and petrified remains of primeval forests.

Microchips for Rhino Protection

As part of ongoing efforts to curb poaching and rhino horn smuggling, all rhinos in Kenya are to be fitted with trackable microchips. By implanting tiny microchips the KWS will not only be able to track and recover poached horns, but also connect the evidence to suspected poachers in courts of law. International conservation organisation WWF-Kenya donated the 1000 microchips and five scanners to strengthen Kenya’s rhino monitoring and rhino stockpile audits as well as support anti-trafficking efforts. The systems combined with DNA technology will allow for 100 per cent traceability of every rhino.

Under pressure

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has formed a National Giraffe Conservation Task Force to guide conservation and management of the three giraffe sub-species found in Kenya. To many people, giraffes may not seem to be in need of focused conservation attention. However, giraffes are facing increasing pressures that have adversely affected their numbers and distribution in Kenya and other places in Africa. The continent has nine sub-species, with Kenya hosting three of them, namely the Maasai, Rothschild’s and reticulated giraffes. Over the past decade the giraffe population in Africa has dropped by 30 per cent as a result of habitat loss, severe poaching and increase in human populations.