Africa


A while back, Cathy asked if I would share some of the story about how Kike and Suni came to America. When I came across this newsletter over the weekend, it reminded me that she had asked.

You can click on the newsletter to embiggen if you’d like.

It’s really hard for me to believe that the African Queens have now been here for almost seven years.

I was in Nairobi, Kenya when I met Kike and Suni. My business partner was the Chairperson for the Kenya SPCA, and so each time I visited, a trip to the KSPCA was in order.

It was love at first sight when I saw Kike. She was the spitting image of Enzi, who I rescued while on a business trip to the Bahamas in 2001.

When they told me that Kike had a sister, I knew that I couldn’t take Kike and leave Suni behind… exactly as was the case when I knew Fergus had picked us… I knew we couldn’t take Fergus and leave Nigel behind.

The requirements to bring a dog through U.S. Customs are: 1) a valid rabies vaccination; given at least 30 days earlier, and 2) a certificate of good health completed by a doctor of veterinary medicine. (There is no quarantine period once they arrive in America.) Because Kike and Suni had only just been vaccinated for rabies, they were not able to fly home with me from Nairobi to Washington. (I lived in Maryland at the time.) Instead, we had to wait three weeks before they could fly.

While I was very unhappy that they wouldn’t be able to fly home with me right away, the time lag actually ended up being a blessing. The wait allowed the KSPCA staff to get Kike and Suni accustomed to being in crates, which was necessary for their long flights.

The KSPCA staff was wonderful in helping with all the necessary paperwork, helping to book flights for the girls, teaching them the names that I had picked for them, working with them to get them ready for their big journey, taking them to the airport, and so on. I’ll always be grateful to those wonderful and caring people. 

Interestingly, we had the option of having Kike and Suni fly either with KLM through Amsterdam or British Airways through London. It was an easy decision to make based on the fact that had they flown with British Airways through London, they would have been in their crates for the entire 24-hour door-to-door journey. With KLM, the girls were taken out of their crates in Amsterdam, taken for a walk, and fed and watered, which I’m sure made all the difference for them.

I think I arrived at Dulles International Airport at least two hours before their flight arrived. As I watched each plane land, my anticipation grew. I couldn’t wait to see the girls in America! Naturally, those last moments felt like forever. When I finally saw them, it was a powerfully emotional moment. I was definitely in a hurry to get them out of their crates, but for safety reasons, I wasn’t allowed to take them out while we were still in customs. Who really wants a dog running down an airport runway?

Once I finished the required paperwork, I drove a short distance to one of the airport hotel parking lots. I remember feeling so happy taking them out of their crates and watching them ecstatically explore their new surroundings together. New smells! New sights! New sounds! To me, it was as if they had just been born. It was a beautiful June day and they were home.

If you’d like to learn more about the KSPCA, you can visit their website here. Interestingly, they do a tremendous amount of work with donkeys in Kenya. I vaguely remember donkeys at the KSPCA, but unfortunately the last time I was there was BD (before donkeys at Morning Bray Farm), so I didn’t give the donkeys there a second glance. You can bet that the next time I’m there, I’ll notice the donkeys. ♥

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As I’ve listened to the dozens and sometimes hundreds of Canada Geese that come to visit our pastures each winter, I haven’t been able to shake the notion that their vocalizations remind me of chimpanzees. The drama!

Now I know why.

I would have never guessed so many, but researchers have identified about 13 different calls from Canada Geese, which vary from loud greeting/alarm calls to soft sounds from feeding geese.

Chimps have specific calls to signify food and danger, and each chimp has a distinctive hoot that distinguishes it from the others. Chimps too can have loud greeting/alarm calls and can have soft sounds while feeding.

Goes to show that no matter the genus or species, vocal communication can convey a variety of emotions and intentions and often serves to affect the behavior of those that hear what’s being said. 

My dad and I had this conversation while he was here visiting a couple of weekends ago. While he named people like Lewis and Clark and Alexander the Great, my one choice was Dian Fossey.

Because of Dian Fossey, I’ve had a lifelong love affair with mountain gorillas. Growing up, she was my hero. I wanted to be her.

Of all the photos of gorillas I’ve taken, this is my favorite. It was taken in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda.

In 2006, I took this picture in Rwanda, where Dian Fossey did her research. This silverback’s name is Guhonda, which means “beats the chest.”  At the time, he was the biggest and oldest of all the silverbacks in Rwanda. At 34 years old, he weighed in the neighborhood of 485 pounds.

If you could go back in time to meet someone, who would it be?

Here’s a fascinating fact: 70% of all the world’s fruit is pollinated solely by bats. Isn’t that amazing?

I took these pictures on safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda.

Egyptian fruit bats are known for roosting in very large colonies. There were thousands of bats in this cave.

Egyptian fruit bats are unique in using echo location, which means they use the only form of echo bat location that is audible to the human ear. As we walked through the forest to the cave, I remember suddenly hearing the bats as we approached. The noise inside the cave was deafening. Of course, had I been blogging at the time, I would have taken video to share with you.

Females typically give birth to only a single baby each year, and offspring usually stay in the same colony with their parents their entire lives. Can you see the baby with its momma in this picture?

Egyptian fruit bats have a wingspan that averages two feet and a body length of around six inches. I found their faces to be incredibly dog-like. I’ve been told their fur is very soft, and their wings feel like pantyhose.

I’m missing and longing for Africa these days. ♥

I hope you’ll indulge me because I feel like talking about Africa today. I know this doesn’t have anything to do with Morning Bray Farm, donkeys, dogs or New Mexico, but I do think about Africa all the time.  If you asked Don, I think he’d tell you that once I get started, I could probably talk  about it forever. 

“One time, in band camp Africa…”

I love East Africa and its amazing wildlife, beautiful scenery and wonderful people.  As I was going through old pictures last night, I came across this favorite taken on my first safari in 2002. 

I visited these orphaned chimps in Uganda at Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary. Most chimpanzees in sanctuaries are confiscated from poachers or market vendors.  Unfortunately, chimpanzees are still disappearing in the wild because of massive destruction of their habitat, hunting for their meat and poaching of infants to be sold as pets for the illegal export trade.

Walking with those chimps was a highlight for me on that safari.  Did you know that chimpanzees share 98.4% DNA with humans, which makes them closer to humans than gorillas?

Even better is seeing chimpanzees in the wild. The ability to see them in their native habitat and observe their natural behaviors is unforgettable. This photo was taken at Kibale National Park in Uganda.