Thursday, August 31, 2017

On to the Next Great Thing

Well a year has come and gone for this Fisi camper and what a ride it has been.  It has been an incredible privilege to work in the Mara for an entire year studying one of the most under appreciated and misunderstood large carnivores in the world.  It truly has been a pleasure to get to watch hyenas (and all the other wildlife) day in and day out, becoming intricately faceted into a small portion of their lives - something that frankly you cannot put any sort of tangible value on.  While I would simply love to live and breath in the Mara for the rest of my life, it is time for me to depart from this land and start some new adventures.  Before I do however, I'd like to thank everyone who got me here and supported me along the way.  There's no other place to start than with Dr. Holekamp, who saw fit to ordain me with this wonderful opportunity to begin with.  To her credit, this is the most professional and technically sound project I've worked on in my short field career and that can only be seen as a testament to her leadership, patience, and endurance.  To Philimon and Moses, my heroes of the year.  Without them cooking our meals, washing the dishes, doing our laundry, and generally making sure camp operated in an orderly and efficient fashion, there would simply be no way to go out on obs and collect the data on the hyenas.  There will be never enough thanks and praise that I can send their way.  To my Serena Lodge family that welcomed me with open arms on my first day in the Mara, gave me the comfort of a home, and sent me off with tears and hugs, I will never forget your compassion.  To the Mara Conservancy and all of the rangers who risk their lives on a daily basis to protect us and all of the magical wildlife contained within the borders of the Mara Triangle, this would've never been possible without your sacrifice and all of those who served before you.  To the hyenas of North, South, and Happy Zebra clans for your nonstop cacophony of entertainment.  Thanks for making the year as entertaining as it was educating. And last but not certainly least, to mom, because you always need to thank mom.  Without further adieu, so long Maasai Mara! Hopefully we will meet again in another life!
Above, we have a glorious silverback lounging in the montane forests of Virunga National Park, DRC. Below, a curious baby eyes his new visitors warily.
 On my way back to the land of the free and the home of the brave, I ran into some fuzzy friends in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the shadow of the mountains of Virunga National Park.  There are only 880 mountain gorillas remaining in the wild and they are under constant threat from poaching, habitat loss, and wildlife trafficking.  Seeing gorillas in the wild has always been a dream of mine since I was just a wee tot watching Nature on PBS on Sunday nights.  I've finally been able to make this dream a reality and there is simply no way to describe how surreal, humbling, and astonishing this experience was - you guys will just have to do it yourselves one day!
Welcome to Mount Nyirangongo, also located in Virunga NP.  The world's largest lava lake rests here, measuring in at over 300m in diameter.  The rangers told me it would be cold at the top, but not so much with the assistance of grandest campfire of them all. Fun Fact: This is the precise location where Frodo threw the Ring of Power into the fires of Mt. Doom.  If you don't believe me you can ask the hobbit yourself!
 Next up on the docket, the adventure known colloquially as life has me running off to the Bahamas and more specifically Forfar Field Station.  I'll be working there as an environmental educator and telling all the little kiddos about all the fishies in the sea so if you find yourselves rowing past Andros Island feel free to give a holler and don't be a stranger.  Until then, safari njema as the Kenyans like to say.
A quite beautiful sunrise at Forfar Field Station (©International Field Studies, Inc.)

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