In the seasonal cycles of the Ugandan savannah, March is a period of reawakening. The long-awaited rains fall in powerful cascading sheets that sweep across the open landscape. For a field biologist, these rains offer welcome respite from stifling night time heat..cooling the hot March temperatures and offering somniferous percussion on the metal-roof huts. Seemingly overnight, the desiccated and cracked earth transforms - in some places- to impassable quagmires. Hundreds of thousands of winged termites erupt from their subterranean refuges and take to the skies; much to the delight of hungry baboons troops and much to the dismay of lorry drivers and their splattered windshields. Thousands of Abdim's storks are scattered across the Savannah as they stop over in Murchison Falls National Park on their transcontinental migrations. They can be seeing taking to the air, kettling by the tens of dozens as they sprinkle the skies in flight. The grasses - slower to respond to the recent rains- are mercifully short allowing us to easily navigate away from termite mounds and aardvark holes in our off-track driving.
March has also been a rather busy time for giraffe research. Between seasonal demographic surveys, our revisit to Kidepo Valley National Park and a pilot study on foraging ecology, we have spent a fair bit of time in the bush, and garnered a few stories of field work. The next few posts will chronicle the goings ons of the March/April field season and share some of our efforts to understand and conserve Rothschild's giraffe in Uganda.
The mathematical inequality statement is seemingly simple: (16 feet of giraffe) > (4 feet of grass). Under this premise, it's easy to imagine that locating groups of giraffe in the open grassy savannas might be a relatively straightforward task...but occasionally giraffe behaviour trumps rudimentary mathematical representations. It was mid-afternoon during the second day of our seasonal giraffe surveys of Murchison Falls National Park and as we bounced along the dusty game track, we saw what appeared to be a lone giraffe standing in an area of open savanna. I pulled my Nikon Monarch binoculars to my eyes and as I glassed the apparently solo adult female, several other giraffes in repose gracefully lifted their heads above the swards to reveal a group of Rothschild's giraffe in what - moments before- appeared to be a silent sea of grass.