My Adventure at the Foot of Sagalla Hill
Report by Kenyan Intern, Gloria Mugo
Every individual creates a virtual world in their mind, in anticipation of something new. I was no different when Dr Lucy King took me on for an internship with the Elephants and Bees project in June this year. I had never heard of Save the Elephants(STE), much as I was so attracted to the use of GIS (Geospatial Information Systems) in tracking collared elephants. All I knew of before STE, was what Kenyan media divulged on their wildlife features. But, the feeling that engulfed me in the moment’s realization of who did this, and what they did, and that I was going to be one o them will stay with me a long time!! So…Elephants and Bees it was! My name is Gloria Mugo, and this is my story.
All I had ever imagined in my mind to be camp life setting was bluff in comparison to the Elephants and Bees center. This is not your typical tent-in-the-middle-of-nowhere camp setting. This is beautifully planned out to serve both office, conservation and privacy needs. Between the local staff I was introduced to, the dogs and the interns on site, settling was a breeze. The people here are awesome! I had no problem whatsoever getting into the groove of the center. And that is how I signed myself up for my first night honey-harvesting job. First time mighty close to bees, first time seeing a beehive fence, first time strapped in a bee suit, and as fate would have it, first time getting STUNG by a BEE!! Oh what horror that was! I tried sticking to the ‘don’t scream, don’t run, slowly walk away’ instructions I had so agreeably accepted but, it was….difficult..to say the least. Great thing to have happened to me though because, truth as is, I have lesser fears in the presence of bees. That goes in my books as my best first-day-at-my-new-job experience.
I have learnt a lot in my time at E & Bs since that very first day. I remember going out on foot to track the elephants raiding pathways. I laugh every time I think how I just tagged along since I couldn’t quite SEE the elephant footprints that we were apparently following! It took me a few days out to finally get it! You can learn loads of stuff from all the tracking we do here! I remember following track all the way up the new Standard Gauge Railway where the elephants are actually choosing to cross over the raised railway track as they are unable to find the underpasses that are scarcely located along the route. The development of the SGR is something we are especially looking into. Chances of walking into elephants are also high if they leave the community ranch late in the morning. Vigilance at work is therefore highly required. It is very intersting to observe how the elephants are adjusting to this new railway, which should go a long way into planning for an appropriate fence that should protect both the elephants and the people on the trains.
I have had plenty of situations where my hair has got stuck in the bush, bugs all over the place, feeling dust and sweat coated from long days walking and working in the sun, but my love for this place only grows! Experiencing the amount of skill and knowledge radiating from the team as we go about our daily tasks of tracking elephants and harvesting honey at night – had me wanting to me that good. Be the best I can be. This is just the thing about the Save the Elephants, and Elephants and Bees team. The energy pockets in this place gets you wanting to be on your best game. I knew nothing else but my GIS and remote sensing before joining Elephants and Bees. But now I have lots learned, from beehives to tracking elephants to my GIS application in this.
It is always overwhelming seeing just how I can use my academic skills in GIS to manipulate the data we collect daily in the field. Data is one thing on paper and excel sheets, but a whole different thing once you can visualize it. Tracks are one thing displayed on a map, but its a whole other story being able to extract analytical hues specific to the needs to be addressed. With analysis, we have been able to better figure out how and where to design the beehive fences, positioning of camera traps that are important data collection methods, and in planning other complimentary projects many interns get to effect. It is a rapidly developing application, and I am always so excited at what work I have got coming my way! I have experience working at projects from the top down, but this is something else more..solid..working from the bottom up, the thrill of anticipation of the unknown, what might be an epic success or fail. The trend has been a success all the way and we really don’t see any other way around this. That is what you get to develop around the Elephants and Bees team, it is all possible, it can be done, you just have to put your mind to it.
What with being surrounded by highly self-motivated individuals, this place is loaded with the best working spirit. We are all tasked with specific roles here but work together at making the entire project a success. Imagine that, then add the prospect of having days out together, as a team, watching these same majestic creatures in their natural setting,we learn each day. Firmly cementing the need for the advancement of such successful projects as these, that protect both the person and the elephant. I can never have enough of our elephants, yes, I am a proud Kenyan as such. I only wish all Kenyans had the same interest as I to know and well understand these sensational giants, only then does the drive to want to protect their existence for future generations permanently take root.
Take 2…coming soon!!