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Expeditions

Laikipia Plateau: Rain Dance and Dog Excitement

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African painted dog (Lycaon pictus). Photo by Alex Hoyle

African painted dog (Lycaon pictus). Photo by Alex Hoyle

The rains have come! After the brief tease of a storm that I mentioned in my last post, we had a driving downpour the next day. Of course, the worst of the rain hit right when my field assistant and I were out in the middle of my trapping grid setting bait, but that’s just how things go. We had another heavy shower this afternoon, and it seems as though the wet season is officially making its 2013 debut.

The next stage of my bush driving education will be learning how not to get the Land Rover stuck in the mud—an omnipresent problem for vehicles out here during the rainy season. Because it’s a widespread issue, though, there are always people around to help give a car a push—everyone knows next time it could be their own car mired in the sludge.

We took a slight diversion during yesterday morning’s trap-checking session, because the resident pack of African painted dogs (Lycaon pictus) had been seen in the immediate vicinity. Although Laikipia is one of the painted dog’s last strongholds in Kenya, they are still a rare sight and are always worth a jaunt to try and observe for as long as they will stay in one place.

A very soggy dikdik (Madoqua sp.) after the rainstorm finally ended. Photo by Anne-Marie Hodge

A very soggy dikdik (Madoqua sp.) after the rainstorm finally ended. Photo by Anne-Marie Hodge

My field assistant gave me the news that the dogs were around when we met at 6:30 to check traps, and on our way out to the grid I called friends give them a heads up. One thing that is sure to get a biologist out of bed fast in the morning is news of a painted dog pack in the neighborhood. I got a call back when the dogs had been located (lounging on the airstrip near the staff village), but they had already moved on by the time we could made it back to the vehicle and rush over.

A few of the dogs were wearing telemetry collars, and when the signals indicated that they’d crossed the river over onto an adjacent property, our dog excitement was over for the morning. Apparently the pack had come through the research compound on the way to the airstrip, chasing a huge waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus) right past the dining hall. One thing is for sure, life here is never boring…

Previously in this series:

Laikipia Plateau: mesopredators in Kenya

Laikipia Plateau: I have arrived

Laikipia Plateau: First Scouting Session

Laikipia Plateau: What is a Mesopredator?

Laikipia Plateau: Mesocarnivore Update

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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