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Mammal Big Day - A record broken and a landscape in need of attention


Zarek Cockar
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On October 1st, 2021, a friend of mine (Stratton Hatfield) and I commenced a mammal big day across the Mara-Loita-Nguruman landscape of Southern Kenya, covering roughly 100 Nautical Miles (1 'minute' of latitute).  Our primary purpose was to showcase the immense diversity this region has to offer and to try to shed light on some of the conservation challenges this area faces.  What we didn't necessarily anticipate would be our ability to match and beat the Mammal Big Day world record set in February 2019 in the greater Tarangire Ecosystem of Tanzania. This we did, by 2 species - but although we were utterly thrilled to have done so,  we're confident that with some better planning in the future, we can do much better.

I'd like to stress that we were not trying to beat the world record. I hope the way I've written the report is evidence of our goal - to shed light on this precious extended ecosystem and the challenges it currently faces.

You can access the report here:  https://www.mammalwatching.com/wp-content/uploads/Mammal-Big-Day-Report.pdf

And here's a video: 

 

Edited by Zarek Cockar
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Pictus Safaris

Very impressive Zarek, and lovely to see Stratton at it too. I'm sure this is a record you'll extend once more before too long.

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Very cool!  But, the link to the full report isn't working, it just takes me to the shorturl page.  I'd like to read the full report!

 

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5 hours ago, janzin said:

Very cool!  But, the link to the full report isn't working, it just takes me to the shorturl page.  I'd like to read the full report!

 

New link should now work.  Thanks!

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the link works well. and really fun to read about it.  @Zarek Cockar i look forward to the next record busting day too!

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Initially I thought: Cool! But not sure how I feel about setting such a record, claiming to draw attention to conservation, but doing so while flying around in a helicopter to find animals.

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offshorebirder

Incredible accomplishment @Zarek Cockar - congratulations to you and Stratton.     I think covering 100+ nautical miles in the Mara-Loita area in a day is also quite a feat (ultimate African massage).

 

 

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Thanks, it works now! Fascinating and when I'm in the Mara next (February!) I will be sure to pay more attention to the little critters. Very surprised though that you missed leopard!

 

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 11/9/2021 at 5:23 PM, Kitsafari said:

the link works well. and really fun to read about it.  @Zarek Cockar i look forward to the next record busting day too!

Thanks Kit!  

On 11/9/2021 at 5:51 PM, ForWildlife said:

Initially I thought: Cool! But not sure how I feel about setting such a record, claiming to draw attention to conservation, but doing so while flying around in a helicopter to find animals.

@ForWildlifeI understand your concern, and I shared your concern to a certain extent during the planning stage.  I will say that any form of internal combustion mechanised transport in a wildlife environment has its issues - from greenhouse gas emissions to noise and disturbance to wildlife. What eventually helped me reconcile my concerns were the following:

1. The pilot, Marc Goss, flies for the Mara Elephant Project, and would have been flying over at least part of that route that day anyway.

2. Some funding for our big day attempt ensured that the helicopter and the pilot were more than compensated for their time so they can continue their important work across the Mara, Mau, Nguruman, South Rift, and Shimba Hills ecosystems (they're growing their remit as we speak)

3. We would try to get their name out there to garner more attention for the important work they do.  They do so much more than just elephant work, and now a large part of their work is ground patrols to stop illegal tree felling, charcoal production, and bushmeat wire-snares in areas which are otherwise unpatrolled and heavily under threat.

4. Marc is a lifelong conservationist (his father was one of Kenya's pioneering conservationists and park wardens) and he made every attempt not to cause undue stress to the wildlife below us. I was impressed with his flying ability and his respect for the wildlife, but I probably needn't have been.  Protecting that wildlife is a calling for him.

5. Our flights were relatively short and caused no erosion or wear on the road network (or the lack thereof in most areas)

6. By flying, we were able to cover a much larger area, bringing attention to areas like Entim e Naimina Enkiyo, which are otherwise inaccessible, but so terribly important.

7. We arrived and departed by road, unlike the majority of ecotourists who arrive and depart on up to 6 scheduled flights per day, and an unknown number of charter flights, each taking between 1-2 hours, depending on destination.  The Mara ecosystem is far from a 'low-impact' tourism area, and while 'two wrongs don't make a right', I don't know if what we did was any worse than the average tourist first flying halfway around the world, and then flying into their wildlife destination.


I hope that somewhat explains our perspective, though I realize it may come across as defensive. There are a few reasons I may have preferred not to use a helicopter, but in the end, I'm glad we did. 

 

On 11/9/2021 at 11:30 PM, offshorebirder said:

Incredible accomplishment @Zarek Cockar - congratulations to you and Stratton.     I think covering 100+ nautical miles in the Mara-Loita area in a day is also quite a feat (ultimate African massage).

Thanks man!  Look out for the birding big day next year!

 

On 11/10/2021 at 3:24 AM, janzin said:

Thanks, it works now! Fascinating and when I'm in the Mara next (February!) I will be sure to pay more attention to the little critters. Very surprised though that you missed leopard!

Thanks Jan!  There are always so many interesting little mammals to see if you take the time. I wouldn't expect everyone to get as excited about rodents and bats as I'm now becoming, but there's plenty of other stuff too - all the little carnivores, for instance.

As for the leopard.....  That's just the way it goes sometimes.  We weren't focused on finding it, so it was always going to be a fluke if we did.

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@Zarek CockarThanks for the explanation! Obviously a lot of thought went into it, and I'm glad the impact of the type of transport was considered :).

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