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About alezsu

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    Durham, NC
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    I'm a doctoral student at Duke University, working on boma fortification/lion conservation projects in the western Maasai Mara region, Kenya.

    I'm also a staff writer over at WildlifeSNPits (, a blog about wildlife science, and the founder of Kedge (, a small startup that provides business education and conservation literacy training to rural communities living adjacent to protected areas in Africa.
  1. Hello! I’m working on a paper about cultural valuation/traditional ecological knowledge surrounding pangolins in East Africa: specifically, in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, or Burundi. If you have any information on sightings, photographs, field reports, encounter rates, presence/absence data, mythology, local folk beliefs, religious practices, or cultural valuation related to any of the African pangolin species, please reach out!
  2. Hi, all! Somehow, it's been 2 years since I last posted to/visited SafariTalk! In that time, I've almost finished my dissertation (the big paper on lions is in review and due out before year's end), have spent a year in London, got engaged to a lovely Englishman, founded a community development startup in SSA, and begun the post-PhD job search in East & Southern Africa. As I trend toward the end of my PhD, I'm also working on a new project with a collaborator at the Cambridge Conservation Initiative. We're trying to collect informations about pangolins, those darling little walking avocados that suffer so badly at the hands (and feet) of poachers/safari guides everywhere. During my time in the Mara, I gathered a few 2nd hand reports about pangolin sightings, plus a lot of Maasai mythology related to the pangolin (endtaboi in the local Maa) and its importance to local culture/ecology. But a few isn't enough -- so I need your help. If anyone has stories/sightings, and ESPECIALLY gps-location-linked pictures of pangolins anywhere in East Africa, please please please let me know. I'm more than happy to make you a co-author on our paper if you're keen, and happier still just to learn what your pangolin encounters have been like. Anyway -- hello, again, SafariTalk! May your grasses be lush, your cattle be fat, and your wildlife sightings be plentiful and photogenic.
  3. Sure -- our target audience is mostly hobby scientists/science enthusiasts, but if you've got some suggestions about broadening our appeal, I'm MORE THAN happy to hear them. We've got a great team of writers and awesome experiences to share, but ultimately would like to provide something that's fun and interesting for people to read!
  4. What in the heck is going on in Kenya? Over the past week, it seems I've gotten devastating news after news from folks on the ground. 1 Rhino - the Mara 2 Rhino - Nakuru Park 5 Rhino - Ruma (nr Lake Victoria) via "horrendous wildfire" 2 Eles - outside Nyakweri Forest several lions - in the Mara, speared & one "injured with a projectile" And apparently a fire set in the north as well that drove eles and others to flee and may have been it just me or does this seem like a horrific uptick, very suddenly? And a lot more professional than previous poaching efforts seemed (at least in the Mara)... And two reports of maneaters in the Mara, which is no good for anyone...
  5. Hi, all -- In case anyone is interested, I'm one of four young lady student-scientist-writers (what a mouthful) for a new wildlife science blog. It's called WildlifeSNPits, and should be a fun, quick read for anyone wanting to catch up on a few special interest topics in our field!
  6. Just read through this thread, and surprised (but pleased!) to find it since I've been thinking a lot about the Melissa Bachmann Twitter drama of late -- it's had friends and colleagues left and right asking my thoughts on lion trophy hunting. Although I concede that sustainable, fair chase hunting (which would absolutely not include canned hunts under any conditions) has provided benefits to conservation (particularly strongly in the North American wilderness management legacy, and more weakly on other continents), I don't believe that trophy hunting -- particularly of a vulnerable, charismatic species -- regularly benefits ecologies and communities, and indeed on the Continent becomes corrupt very quickly and simply degrades everyone. Very interesting to read over you guys' insights, though -- particularly the habitat holism point about land uses, which was one I confess I hadn't thoroughly considered. But perhaps as we gain a more nuanced understanding of connectivity, fragmentation, and the effects on population, we can get a better sense of where that point of diminishing returns is? i.e. Is hunting really the best way to prevent harmful fragmentation of a landscape? Or are there other management models (e.g. partial fragmentation for particular types of agriculture, and allowing for non-hunted corridors) that might be better? Anyway, I said this a few further points on the WildlifeSNPits blog (a new all-women conservation blog I was invited to write for since I've been back)!
  7. @@armchair bushman -- sorry I didn't see this until now! We're relying first on our own observations, whenever we have the opportunity to get to a kill before it's moved/decomposed/attacked by dogs. Secondarily, we rely on the reports of the Mara North Conservancy, the Mara Triangle rangers, and the report book at Oloololo Gate. Last, if no other record is available, we rely on the homeowner's report, with a sort of 'reliability index' that weights scores -- e.g. we consider you a completely reliable reporter if you a) could identify a honey badger in photos AND distinguish it from other similar species, have reliably reported correct numbers to the MNC in other cases, and c) are able to recount details of specific instances (estimated dates, time of day, location, what happened before and after, what the attacking animal did during the attack, etc.) for all - or almost all - of the cattle/livestock losses you tell us. So it's definitely not 100% accurate, but it's the best we can get on ephemeral data like this. That said, they were only in the top three in a particular portion of the TransMara (where I was working in the first half of my study -- until June); in the Mara North, they were way back down the list behind hyenas and such, and often people confused them for a mongoose. Had absolutely no reports of caracal predation anywhere in my area, though -- and most of my homeowners, when shown a picture, didn't even know what that animal was. "A very small lion?" "A baby lion." "A serval with no spots." etc etc
  8. @@africapurohit -- Very special indeed! I wonder how many wild dogs are currently in the Mara with some regularity -- no one seems to know, but I've seen two, biologists say they're extinct, and locals around Mararianda tell me 20. So...ten-ish? Also, here's some amusing video of the dogs harassing zebras...until the zebbies have had enough.
  9. Hurrah! I finally have pictures to share. Not nearly as close up or fancy as the rest, but nonetheless: two wild dogs at Olkurruk, in the Mara. We were so lucky to come across these two while driving to visit the rangers up that way -- just tooling along in the LR when our guy in the back starts shouting "Olsuyen! Olsuyen!" and who should come trotting across our path but these two. Hung out and followed them for a while as they first harassed some zebras, then did some pretty picturesque posing in the shade of this tree.
  10. Hi, y'all: So I've been getting some really interesting preliminary data from my project! It's predominately, of course, a lion/leopard/cheetah project, since we're partially funded by the Big Cats Initiative, but I've been collecting general information about predation incidents, herding practices, etc. I've found a number of incidents here in the TransMara of honey badgers breaking into bomas (either by digging under the fence or by breaking in through an un-reinforced door) and absolutely wrecking livestock; interestingly enough, these incidents seem to disappear as we head up the Oloololo escarpment to the Mara North. I was expecting to see some honey badger problems, but in certain areas, they seem to be coming in as maybe the #3 predator for shoats (read: sheep & goats), behind leopard and hyenas! It's been kind of interesting/surprising. Anyone have any honey badger insight to share? Also -- I haven't yet been able to see one of these buggers; but judging from the horror stories of being attacked/chased, I'm not sure I want to!
  11. Thanks, pault! New one here, actually -- but with fewer animal pictures and more reflections on life in the Mara!
  12. Quick update - I've made a few updates! I thought I'd share them, especially as my latest blog post features pictures of two wild dogs traipsing around the escarpment here in the Mara, near Olkurruk!
  13. Hmm. I answered back to this a little bit here: But in short, although I find Craig's findings fascinating, I totally disagree with his closing premise: that the only good lion is a fenced lion. Although I'm not opposed to the judicious use of fencing in particular cases, there are immense environmental, economic, and sociocultural costs associated with it! Obviously I'm a bit biased by being currently located mid-Mara, but disturbing the movement patterns of other non-lion predators, as well as huge numbers of herbivores has to the potential to trigger cascading environmental problems down to the nuts and bolts (e.g. shifting foliage cover, water retention, flood resilience, etc.). Not to mention to the sociocultural impact of shutting local people out of an area completely (or at least seeming to do so). I mean, I definitely understand that there might be situations where it can't be helped, but...yikes.
  14. Here in the Mara and now officially based at Olonana (Sanctuary Resorts). Anyone around?
  15. Sangeeta, I'll be based at Kichwa Tembo, but as my plans are ever-changing, now won't be in the Mara until April 4th or so...

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