Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Today's obs were pretty standard; lots of following around of hyenas; a beautiful sunrise; no big cats today though. During the afternoon hours after morning obs, we went to the Masai market in Talek where I bought sandals, cloth, and a necklace; we also talked to a guy named Mitchell Kaplan that apparently grew up in Roslyn Heights, Long Island, where my mom also grew up. Nothing else too exciting, so I am going to write about the research camp itself, as I don't think I've adequately described it.

To start off, the first question I was asked today (by Steph) was, "So, did you hear the elephants last night?" I responded in the negative; apparently, though I have a really hard time getting to sleep if there are any disturbances (light, noise), I stay asleep pretty well; I once slept through a fire alarm at Amherst (though I did have earplugs in, but still). Anyway, apparently last night, a herd of about 10 elephants wandered through camp, waking up everyone else (to varying degrees) except me with their breaking of branches, thumping around, etc. This is apparently not an infrequent occurence. The camp itself is situated on the edge of the Masai Mara, right by the Talek River, which forms the border in this area between the Mara and the Masai lands. So, though the tents are situated in relatively dense brush and trees, there is nothing physically separating us from the rest of the wildlife in the Mara.

The camp is made up of about 10-12 semi-permanent tents, connected via dirt and rock pathways (I believe the camp has been around for about 20 years). The 2 closest tents to me are about 20 yards away each; Tracy's tent is about 50 yards away (everyone is within earshot). There is also a kitchen tent, a lab tent where the lab stuff is kept and where the eating table is (that's the general meeting point of the camp), as well as tarps strung up around a toilet (it's a big hole in the ground with a plastic toilet on top of it). I'm not a great judge of size, but the overall radius of the camp is probably on the order of a few hundred yards.

When we got back from evening obs tonight, I was headed to my tent when one of our Masai guards stopped me on the path. There was something that he was shining his light at, but he didn't know the word in English for whatever the threat was; I tried but couldn't quite make it out. Finally, I thought maybe I saw something snake-like on the ground, but I wasn't sure. He took me a different route to my tent, then walked me back to the lab tent where someone translated that there was indeed a snake. I thought I had seen something light tan with reddish-brown squares or diamonds, which Steph said sounded like a puff adder; however, the guard seemed to think it had been a black mamba, so perhaps I had been looking at the wrong thing. (Both are highly venemous; a bite would require immediate emergency airlift to Nairobi, and apparently a puff adder bite usually results in the loss of whatever extremity has been bitten).

Readers who know me may know that I like snakes a lot. I have been planning to get a corn snake as a pet for quite a while, and was stopped from doing so my senior year of school by Gabi and Tracy, who vehemently objected (especially Gabi). So here's the funny part: while I am discussing at the dinner table how terrified I am of this snake, Tracy's treating it like no big deal: "Whatever, there are snakes all around. It's fine." (Don't worry, I still want a pet snake).

Going to head to bed now (having thoroughly checked all the corners of my tent for any possible snake entrances).

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