Name: Melissa Keller
School: Colorado State University
Major: Wildlife Management
Program: Wildlife Management Studies, Kenya
It’s the moment that you move from a lecture to popping the rooftop hatches on the Land Cruiser that everything you’ve learned in the past few weeks falls into place. You’ve come to Kenya as an eager student, craving to see your first elephant and anxious about your first Kiswahili conversation. Then suddenly a few weeks have gone by and you’re taking part in a complete wildlife census of Amboseli National Park. Alongside Kenya Wildlife Service, SFS students and experienced researchers alike took part in canvassing all of Amboseli and its wild inhabitants.
Armed with binoculars, cameras and copious amounts of sunscreen, the search began. We moved methodically through our assigned area, counting and identifying every last gazelle and giraffe. Bouncing through the scrubland, moving through herds of over a thousand animals, the diversity and beauty of Kenya hits you with full force. You think this is as good as it gets, until a herd of elephants wanders past within yards of the car with two small babies frolicking behind. Not only are you seeing some of the most iconic animals in the world, you’re earning academic credit!
Being part of the census of Amboseli was truly an incredible experience. The data we collect will go on to be analyzed and used for future management of the park. All of those zebra we painstakingly counted from afar are benefiting from our efforts, as are the hippos we caught lurking in the wetlands and those two small elephants who will stay with me long after I have left east Africa.