Friday, July 10, 2009
Posted by Kay Holekamp at 11:14 PM
Here's a dilemma: as two of our 4-wheel drive bush vehicles are REALLY on their last legs these days, awhile back I asked our program officer at the National Science Foundation, the federal agency that supports most of our hyena work, whether we might be able to get a supplement to our current grant large enough to allow us to replace one of our ancient decrepit cars with a new one. The program officer wrote back today to say that they can give us some money toward a new car, but that all they have available right now is $15,000. Well, that's problematic because we need about three times that much to purchase a car that can hold up under bush conditions. And since our university, like most universities these days, is in the midst of a financial crisis, I figured I might as well ask the readers of this blog whether they have any ideas how we might raise the funds to supplement those NSF is offering us right now. The rub is that, if we don't figure out how to supplement the NSF offer by 15 July, we are likely to lose even the $15,000 they are offering us right now. Unfortunately at this point, that's probably the likeliest scenario.
Why do we need a new car so badly? Well, because once you leave the major cities, most roads here are pitted with ruts and potholes so deep that driving into one at any speed higher than about 10 mph can break your axle. And those roads beat cars up pretty badly over time. Two of our current cars (see photo) are so old that they now cost us a fortune to keep running. I bought one of them in 1995 and the other in 1999. That means parts for those cars are not only expensive, but also hard to find. Although we do weekly maintenance and small repairs on all our vehicles, these old cars keep breaking down with problems so severe that we can't fix them ourselves. To get your car towed from the remote Kenyan bush back to Nairobi costs us $500 each time it happens. And these cars are so old that this is happening a lot these days. The other day we broke down near our striped hyena study site in Shompole and had to be towed all the way back to the capital. That took all day and cost 29,000 Kenya shillings! Most importantly, because we study larege carnivores that would find any of us to be a delicious suppertime treat, we need to monitor them from inside cars, and those cars really need to work well!
So, if you miraculously happen to have some cash lying around that you want to donate to a good cause, please consider giving it to us (and soon!) so we can avoid losing the NSF funds and get ourselves a car that will allow us to do our work without having to spend endless hours diagnosing car problems every day.