For the last 25 years I have worked as a university lecturer and researcher on the environment and conservation. I am the founding president of the Ecological Society for Eastern Africa (ESEA) and president elect of the Rotary Club of Westlands, Nairobi.
A day in the life of Dr Nicholas Oguge, Samburu Wildlife and Communities Field Director
At present I work for Earthwatch in northern Kenya, where I encourage researchers and the community to work together in the Samburu region. Earthwatch works closely with communities, ranchers, non-governmental organisations and government departments to develop conservation and management plans. Our research falls into four themes - conserving the endangered Grevy's zebra; mitigating carnivore and livestock conflict; the Samburu people's use of medicinal plants; and ecosystem studies, focusing on water and habitats.
Today I am working in the field with fellow scientists in the Wamba area of the Samburu District of Kenya. Wamba is communally owned and the nomadic Samburu pastoralists, their livestock and wild animals live in close proximity. The area is rich in wildlife and includes Grevy's zebras, elephants, various antelopes, gerenuks, cheetahs, lions, leopards, hyenas, the endangered wild dogs, birds and an array of invertebrates.
We travel around the area in the Earthwatch Landrover. On encountering a herd of zebra, we undertake total counts of individuals, noting their age, behaviour, habitat type and interactions. We also take photographs and note other wild and domestic animals in the vicinity and their interaction with the zebra. All this information helps us to understand the zebra's habitat requirement and use, competition with livestock and other wildlife, and population structure. It is important to understand these issues when making conservation decisions.
After a long morning in the field we attend a meeting with village elders and opinion leaders in Wamba to get their perspective on the environment, especially the links between climate change, livestock health, water, vegetation and wildlife, and discuss how we can make improvements. Helping them to understand our work is really important, and at the same time, they can provide us with a great insight into day-to-day environmental challenges.
In the afternoon, before the sun sets, we continue our work on foot. We are mapping key natural resources such as water points and grazing areas. In the drought-stricken, semi-arid Samburu region of Kenya, people and livestock compete on a daily basis with wild animals for access to water. Our maps will include water source locations and quality, and how they change through the wet and dry seasons, and the location of grazing land versus scrubland. They can be used to track outbreaks of water-borne diseases affecting the region and, in times of scarcity, people will be able to ensure they have enough water, livestock have enough grass, and wild animals enough of both.
Dr Nicholas Oguge, Samburu Wildlife and Communities Field Director, July 2008.
● For the latest news from Kenya, read Nick's regular updates on Discovery earth live.