Swarovski Optik Blog 7/9: Mammals

In 2015 I organized an expedition to Ethiopia. I collected a team of 5 researchers to search for Caprimulgus solala in Nechisar National Park. For the purpose of this expedition, I wrote 9 blogs for Swarovski Optik.

Original blog message here (10 August 2015)

One of the main goals of the expedition was to monitor mammals of Nechisar National Park. This is particularly important because in the last decade pressure on biodiversity has dramatically increased due to overgrazing. Locals are allowed to live within Nechisar National Park, but this has a negative impact on the quality of nature.  Proof of destruction is everywhere, River Sermale is used as a highway between the villages and the plains, the plains are overgrazed and surrounding forests are being cut and burned by local villagers. Biodiversity is decreasing rapidly, carnivores are being poisoned because they could eat some livestock, herbivores are being killed… because they taste good. It’s a shame, because Nechisar National Park has high potentials to be an extraordinary park.

Our spectacular Swarovski Optik binoculars lit up the night some more

During our nights in the field we observed lots of mammals. Our powerful torches lit up the Nechisar plains, and our spectacular Swarovski Optik binoculars even lit up the night some more. When mammals were present, their eyes reflected the light-beam. We have observed many dik-diks, caracal, zebras, gazelles, bush-babies, genets, and porcupines. Even hyenas tried to sneak up on us, but their characteristic laughter gave away their presence time after time.

Impressive number of mammals on trail camera

To get more elusive animals on camera, we used trail-cams, special cameras which are activated when mammals walk in front of it. We have an impressive number on camera: aardvark, baboons, mongooses, civets, bushbuck, porcupine, hyena, genet, lizards, and… a LION!

A male lion roaring next to our campsite

We hoped for lions to be around, but they were not observed for over 15 years in Nechisar National Park. Yet, on our first night in Nechisar we heard a male lion roaring next to our campsite. In the second week, we hit jackpot! Only 3 hours after we had walk on the road near the camp, there were lion-tracks IN our footprints… and it was on camera too! We had expected to see the male lion, but to our surprise we had filmed a lioness.

Lions have been absent in Nechisar National Park for over 15 years

When you think of African National Parks, people tend to include lions into the picture. Unfortunately this is not the case for most of Ethiopia’s national parks. Lions here are really scares and illusive. You don’t just find them in open plains. In contrary, they are hidden and live in dense vegetation, scared of people. Lions have been absent in Nechisar National Park for over 15 years. The park lies isolated and is hard to access, but now we have proven the presence of at least one lion-couple.

In total we observed 35 mammal-species

In total we observed 35 mammal-species, including marsh mongoose (new for the national park). Two species have disappeared: wild dog and Swayne’s Hartebeest. For these two species it might be too late, but there is still hope. The observation of lions and leopards are incredibly important for this national park. Let’s hope the park management can use our findings to protect this wonderful biodiversity hotspot. Fingers crossed.

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