June 23, 2013

Data analysis, wild dogs, and Jessel Ranch visit

This morning we all worked on organizing and analyzing the data that we gathered during our field visits earlier in the course. However, later in the morning, Ryan suddenly came around and whispered urgently for all of us to leave what we were doing and quickly come load up in the van and Land Rover. Personally, I was quite surprised and confused at first, but soon all became clear: the pack of wild dogs that range around this area of Laikipia had been spotted on Mpala Ranch!

Once we had all loaded up, we were guided by an askari (guard) in another vehicle to where the dogs had been sighted. To find them, we drove furthest north on the Mpala Ranch that we have gone. We were extremely lucky because we saw the pack up close as they crossed the road right in front of us! Although they resembled domesticated dogs in many ways, their large, round ears were one feature that stood out. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to watch for long. When our askari guide got out of his vehicle to come and tell us something, the dogs became frightened and disappeared into the bush.  We waited on the road for a while, trying to catch glimpses of them through the dense bush as the moved up a hill. Although we waited and then searched for them more, we were unable to find them again. Hopefully they will be spotted again and we will be able to see them once more before the class ends.

After lunch, we had our usual daily class discussion, which was somewhat shortened because of a scheduled visit to Jessel Ranch, which is located just south of Mpala. At Jessel Ranch, we were greeted by the warm hospitality of Peter and Priscilla Jessel. In terms of our class, this was a great opportunity to personally talk with a ranch owner about his management style and philosophy in regards to things such as wildlife, fences, and fire. In response to our questions, Peter usually began indirectly or with a story, but he always came back to the original question and was very open and frank with his answers. The conversation was very lively and certainly did not constrain itself to the topics of ecology and ranch management. Peter Jessel is a very humorous man, and our visit was filled with the joy of laughter. I have heard that laughter is very good for one’s health, if this is true, I think that we all gained a few years of life as a result of that visit. We were at Jessel Ranch for over two hours, but I feel that our conversation could have flowed for a good deal longer. I’m sure that we all left feeling lighter and refreshed after such an enjoyable and laughter-filled visit.  - Leah Amstutz, Sophomore Biochemistry Major, Goshen College

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