Savannah elephants in Samburu

27 November 2011

Samburu, Kenya

A multitude of birds are chirping outside in the trees overlooking the river that snakes through this duo of national reserves in Kenya.  Samburu and Buffalo Springs sit almost squarely in the middle of Kenya. The landscape consists of low thorn bush, acacia trees, and a few grasses along the water’s edge.  Strange multi-branched “doum palms” line the riverbanks, looking a bit like coconut trees trying to evolve into something else in a hurry (see my friend Andreas Gros’ beautiful photo here). Faint blue outlines of hills rise in the distance.

Peek-a-boo!

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Elephants, engineers of the forest

October 2012

Who dunnit?  Which animals are responsible for planting seeds throughout the forest?

Who dunnit? Which animals are responsible for planting seeds throughout the forest?

My next stop is the University of Nottingham Malaysia campus, where I meet my colleague and friend Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz.  A Spanish transplant in Malaysia, Ahimsa has spent the past year with great gusto setting up MEME (Management and Ecology of Malaysian Elephants).  I recognize the energy, it’s the same enthusiasm shared by Benoit and George, my current supervisor. What all these people have in common is a firm belief in what they do, a single-minded determination that appears never to falter. Truly something to behold. Continue reading

Borneo by boat

October 2012

Sukau, Sabah province – Borneo, Malaysia

Farina_boatSukau is a sleepy little town on the eastern side of Sabah, tucked along the Kinabatangan river.  What brought me here is an unlikely acquaintance made via Facebook.  A few years ago I got a message from one Nurzhafarina Othman saying she was studying the social organization of Bornean elephants, and she had come across my thesis – could I answer some questions for her? Of course, I said, and so began a little exchange of emails about studying elephants.  I grew curious to meet Farina, who seems an unlikely candidate to be traipsing around the forest given her otherwise conservative Malay Muslim background.  Since I too come from the Sri Lankan Malay community, it seemed we had a lot in common.  Little did I know. Continue reading