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Serengeti Drought


Tango
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We were in Tanzania back in October 2013 for two weeks visiting Arusha, Tarangire and Serengeti National Parks and Ngorongoro Crater. Our last five days were up in the northern Serengeti, centered on the Mara River. When we crossed the Mara River to access the "Wedge" or "Triangle", the river looked like this, crossing at Kogatende:

 

Fast forward to our March 2015 visit to Serengeti National Park, visiting Ndutu, the Namari Plains (east-central) and the northern Serengeti. From almost the same location, here's what the crossing looked like:

 

Only a trickle of water was passing thru a culvert just as you drive onto the concrete on the south end; otherwise it was dry. Hyenas were sleeping in the dry river bed. Hippos were crowded in the few remaining pools of (nasty) water, fighting with each other for the limited space and making a LOT of noise. Later, as we made our way up the south side of the river, we spotted only one croc.

 

We were supposed to be there at the beginning of the rainy season; however, it never rained the entire two weeks we were there. I can only hope the river has returned to some level of normal. However, driving around the Serengeti, it was still amazing the amount of water one could find.

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@@Tango we were there in early July 2013 and the first pic showed what we saw - an overflowing river. I'm just surprised at such low levels in March. I never thought Mara river would dry up so much.

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It was very low when I was there in July last year. Obviously not much rain since which isn't good.

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I think it's rained quite a bit all through April and may with the few dry days in between.

 

@@Tango - would love to hear about your namiri experience.

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@@Tango. That's dry! Great illustrative pictures. How was the grass on the other side? In fact, how was the whole area after a long dry spell? You have to tell us that at least, although I am sure you are planning a trip report.

 

I remember that this was a topic in the news in the past - the drying of the Mara River. I hope that unusually poor rains are to blame and nothing more sinister and worrying. I'd hate to see it go the way of the Great Ruaha River. Doesn't the Mara River originate in the horribly deforested Mau (sp?) Forest in Kenya? Off to search for news of this!

 

Added: well that took all of 30 seconds! Oh dear. The Mara River at the end of the rainy season in the Mara is very low. I have not been paying attention.

http://safaritalk.net/topic/6687-drying-mara-river-threatens-wildlife-migration/

 

Edited again: Well I should probably just delete the link as it is to one of the old posts about this topic (from 2011) that are the reason I remember this!! But since my parents didn't raise me that way I will just say "DUH!!!" and accept your admiration of my stupidity. However, reading what I have just read, the very same thread could have been started today. Perhaps (here) it has been.

Edited by pault
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@@Tango

 

It has been raining torrentially since April. The Serengeti/Mara region received excessive rains actually since then.

 

However, the drying up of the Mara River is a consequence not only of the unusual drought, but also of the deforestation upstream (the Mau Forest complex).

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@@Safaridude. Thank you. The stuff I saw probably referred to April, although posted recently. I suspect I am being overly alarmist.

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Last year was the year of unusual rains ..I was there is dar es salaam ..untill nov 2014....too much rain ..even the short rains looked to be heavy ones..

This year I am shocked to see the pics revealing severe drought conditions

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Much (a LOT) of the northern Serengeti was burnt out. We entered the Northern Serengeti through the Tabora ranger post and immediately encountered burnt (and burning) grasslands. After crossing the Mara River and getting away from the river, we encountered this:

 

130a_zpsgioqk6ng.jpg

 

Most of you will recognize the marker in the right foreground as one of the Kenya-Tanzania border markers. IMHO, the park burned off way too much. When we flew out of Kogentende airstrip, it was sad to see how much was burned out. A lot of habitat was lost and finding big cats in the northern Serengeti was rather pathetic. However, we had great sightings in Ndutu and Namiri. We encountered, by sheer luck, a pangolin and found this little guy with his mother in the shade of a small tree in Namiri:

 

28a_zpsbn5tdx3y.jpg

 

And in Ndutu, it doesn't get any better than this:

 

44a_zpscuygjsyb.jpg

 

She is pregnant and sat with us for about 30 minutes. At one point she laid down on the warm hood of the car for a few minutes. I took pictures for about 5 minutes and spent the rest of the time simply admiring this beautiful creature.

Edited by Tango
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What a cute little face. Unpredictable rains it seems with lots of catch up in April!

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post-49296-0-43254800-1432607518_thumb.jpg

~ @@Tango

 

I totally agree with @@AtravelynnWhat a face!

You mentioned a pangolin sighting.

If it's convenient, a photo of that would be nice, as pangolin images aren't plentiful.

Thank you for the cheetah images.

Tom K.

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DSCN1629a_zpswafr2mt9.jpg

 

My better half with the pangolin, which roll up into a defensive ball when scared. As best as I could tell, this is a ground pangolin (Smutsia temminckii), and was definitely not lightweight. Some of you may recognize Deo Magoye, our guide. We were in a party of seven; Deo drove/guided one car and his son, Fadhil, drove/guided the other car. We also had one other special guide that rode with Fadhil, Jackson Looseyia, a Maasai. Jackson is 48 and told us this was his first encounter with a pangolin. The Maasai believe that to touch a pangolin brings good luck.

 

We found the pangolin through sheer luck. In the Namiri Plains, we followed a pack of four hyenas for a couple hundred meters as one was carrying something. As we got close, the trailing hyena dropped whatever it was he was carrying and walked off a few meters. Deo got out of the car and determined it was a lion skull (still a bit juicy). He kicked it back to the hyena, who grabbed it and ran. As we turned around and headed back to the road, we crossed paths with the rambling pangolin.

 

We stayed with the pangolin for about 30 minutes, taking pictures, and let him go. We backed away and after about 5 minutes he unrolled and went on his merry way to find some juicy ants or termites.

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@@Tango that's a fantastic picture of the baby cheetah.

 

the picture with the pangolin and deo - was that which led to the picture of jackson and deo holding the pangolin that caused such a stir?

 

I didn't know the Masai people believe that to touch the pangolin is to get good luck. that helps put the picture into perspective.

 

the photo of the burnt Lamai Wedge is so distressing! was it a controlled fire or was it natural? i always remember Lamai to be filled with tall willowy red oats grasses waving in the breeze and it was such a beautiful serenesight.

 

thanks @@Safaridude for the context of the dry Mara River. what is good for one is bad for the other. it is so tough to find a balance.

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"...that caused such a stir?" -- I don't understand what you are referring to.

 

The burning was controlled, but the amount the park rangers burned in the northern Serengeti was absolutely massive. If you could draw a line from the Tabora ranger post to the Bologonja gate, almost all of the grasslands north of that (and north of the Mara River) were burned. I can understand some controlled burning, buy this destroyed a lot of habitat, and the extended drought didn't help the wildlife, either. I can only hope the rains brought back new grasses quickly for the wildlife.

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Hi everyone.

 

I would like to tell you all that the rains came this April - May season and they were big. Lots of flooding in Narok county which is where Maasai Mara is so the river is in good shape and the grass in green and animals plenty. Just waiting for the herds to come up from the south anytime end of June/early July. Can't wait for the migration to start!

Edited by Ndaro Teddy
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I would like to tell you all that the rains came this April - May season and they were big. Lots of flooding in Narok county which is where Maasai Mara is so the river is in good shape....

I'll bet the hippos are happy!

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@@Tango .... What a big burn that was. Desolate up there for you - bad luck, although you seem to have got it back elsewhere.

 

No wonder Jackson was so excited. Amazing that he had never seen a pangolin before in all those years.

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@@Tango Great report, I somehow missed it over the past week. That cheetah is to die for.

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Why would you touch or pick up a wild animal? Also why would a guide get out of his vehicle and kick something? Is this normal in the Serengeti?

Edited by SSF556
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Why would you touch or pick up a wild animal? Also why would a guide get out of his vehicle and kick something? Is this normal in the Serengeti?

One thread on this issue has already been closed on ST. I think I will give this one a rest and let the original topic (drought) continue.

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Why would you touch or pick up a wild animal? Also why would a guide get out of his vehicle and kick something? Is this normal in the Serengeti?

 

One thread on this issue has already been closed on ST. I think I will give this one a rest and let the original topic (drought) continue.

You posted the picture....

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Why would you touch or pick up a wild animal? Also why would a guide get out of his vehicle and kick something? Is this normal in the Serengeti?

 

One thread on this issue has already been closed on ST. I think I will give this one a rest and let the original topic (drought) continue.
For that reason, the drought is the more interesting topic here to me too. @@Tango I hope you meant you will give the pangolin topic a rest and not the trip report. Seeing and hearing about the Serengeti in these extreme conditions is very interesting.

 

@@SSF556 Your question (in so far as it is non-rhetorical) is kind of answered in the first three pages of the other thread. It may be surprising that there is any need to discuss it at all, but have a look. The interesting parts (a number) will come up again for discussion I am sure. I won't post a link as it would just encourage people to say more here but if you seach for the names in "forums" you'll find it easily enough. @@Tango did not intend to revive it here in the trip reports section, but you're right that if you hadn't seen the recent discussion the picture invited comment. Job done?

Edited by pault
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@@pault - yes, give the topic of the pangolin a rest. Tom Kellie asked that I post a picture of the pangolin and I did. However, I was unaware at the time of the existence of other thread that was subsequently locked.

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  • 4 weeks later...

@@pault - yes, give the topic of the pangolin a rest. Tom Kellie asked that I post a picture of the pangolin and I did. However, I was unaware at the time of the existence of other thread that was subsequently locked.

 

~ @Tango:

 

May I please ask what the pangolin was like?

As you're the only person I know with first-hand experience, I'd be interested to know the sensation of holding it.

Was it noticeably warm...or not so much so?

Were the scales hard and unbending?

Was there any strong odor?

I hope that you don't mind my asking, but I've never seen a pangolin in a zoo, much less during a safari.

From your broad smile it was a happy experience.

The nature of pangolin scales has long puzzled me.

Tom K.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Tom - given the response my topic has generated, I would prefer to take this off-line. Thank you.

Edited by wilddog
Removal of email adress. PM advised
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