When Elsa’s mother was shot, she was orphaned in an unforgiving place. Northern Kenya is arid; dotted by the rare acacia savanna and nourished by meandering rivers that are fed by infrequent mountain rains. Africa is inhospitable to those who have a parent, those without fall prey to lions, leopards and hyena. Were it not for the intervention of the rural farmer who killed Elsa’s mother, this infamous story of the orphaned lion would have ended in another tragedy.
Samburu National Reserve was Elsa’s home.
Prior to our trip to Kenya, I spent quite a lot of time researching the Samburu Reserve. I knew that this place was uniquely different from those that I had seen in Tanzania, and I was looking forward to viewing and photographing a suite of species that could be seen in very few places across Africa.
Absent is the ubiquitous savanna zebra. In its place is the larger Grevy’s zebra with its oval ears and narrow fingerprint-like stripes. The Masai giraffe is also conspicuously missing from the landscape. The smaller reticulated giraffe travels in small herds throughout the reserve. It’s elegant body is adorned with boxed spots that appear to be carefully outlined in white and bronze.
The slender gerunuk balances on its hind legs and plucks savory leaves from thorny acacias, while the beisa oryx struts about with its massive body and unicorn like horns.
This place is uniquely different from those to the south. Predictable and unpredictable drought shape the landscape, force adaptation, and push its inhabitants to the limits of survivability.
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