Wednesday, 22 December 2010

London, London: So Near Yet So Far -3-day Historic Journey from Beijing to London

Sunday Dec 19:

5am: I rose from bed

5.45am: Headed to Beijing International airport

8.00am: Depart from Beijing for HK with Dragon Air

11.15am: Arrival at HK Airport

12.00pm: Got into Cathay Pacific Lounge to wait for 2.55 pm Cathay Pacific 253 flight to London

2.30pm: Was informed flight would be delayed due to Heathrow airport closure in London and more news to come at 3.30pm.

4.00pm: Got informed CX 253 would be delayed to 6.15pm.

6.00pm: Still no info

7.15pm: Got informed our flight was also cancelled, like several other flights to London

7.30pm: Checked into Airport hotel adjacent to airport courtesy of Cathay Pacific (they provide such excellent service!).

12.00am: No more information to come after my repeated inquiries so I went to sleep watching Nat Geo docos.

Monday Dec 20th:

6am: Checking BB (Blackberry) for Heathrow info. Smsed HK manager to ask help for Cathay flight info.

8.30am: Info said to check with Airlines but airlines said Heathrow still closed.

9.30am: Went to Cathay Pacific Inquiry Desk

10.00am: Was told to re-book flght at Ticket Desk

10.30am: Was informed to go to Check-in Desk since I asked if I could get on Paris flight as Heathrow is still closed.

10:50am: Checked in for Paris Flight

11.15am: Checked out of hotel and met with HK manager

12.30am: Went through airport immigration

2.00pm: Wondered if flight was still on

2.30pm: Glad to hear boarding announcement

2.55pm: Departed for Paris on time!!!

9.15pm: Landed in Charles De Gaulle Airport in paris on time, after over 13 hours.

10.00pm: Distressed to find out there were no Eurostar tickets to london for several days to come. Started working on other options: local trains, ferries, even bus etc.

10: 45pm: Booked on train from Paris- Calais, ferry from Calais to Dover, train from Dover to London for next day.

11.00pm: So Relieved my bags made it to Paris too, as they were checked in Beijing. Another sign of a good airline with excellent service!

12.00pm: Checked into Hotel in Central Paris.

Tuesday Dec 21st:

4.45am: Woke up to plan for bus or taxi journey to Calais just in case trains don't run.

6.00am: Friend Jon replied to sms that the first two trains to Calais seemed cancelled. Checking bus and taxi options.

8.00am: Had a camomile tea for breakfast

9.00am: Checked out of hotel

9.15am: Met with French Tv producer

11.00am: Finished meeting and had quick lunch at hotel

12.30pm: Arrived at Gare du Nord and retrieved train ticket to Calais. Looked promising -the train was not cancelled!

1.15pm: Ordered a decaf expresso and a double cognac to go with at the Station Brasserie

2.28pm: Left with train for Calais

4.20pm: Glad to arrive in Calais train station despite 20-minute delay. Although the station was a nightmare to get my heavy suitcases up and down the staircases, I managed.

5.00pm: Finally got into a taxi (sharing with 3 other nice English people) to head to the Port to take the P&O Ferry across the Channel.

6.00pm: Left with ferry which was actually scheduled to leave at 5.05pm. The three English: a mother and daughter couple, and a young man were helping me with my heavy bags.

6.30pm: Arrived in Dover (Hurray!!!)

7.00pm: Got into taxi with blue Disco lights driven by a good-humoured Iraqi fellow, and got to the Dover Priory train station in Disco mode.

7.15pm: Bought a round of drinks for my helpers and order a vodka for myself at the pub opposite the station.

7.44pm: Left Dover.

8.50pm: Train pullled into London's St Pancreas station.

9.15pm: Said Goodbye to Matt, Ruth and Jeanne.

9.45pm: Arrived home. This would be Beijing time 5.45am Wed Dec 22.

After dealing Volcanic Ash, European snow, I can deal with anything.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Killing Fields

King Henry and Princess made a complete cleaning of the blesbuck 42 Ha Tigers Roar camp so nothing was left for them to hunt. We decided to swamp them with Hulooo brothers who had been in the 100 Ha Hunters’ Palace camp. Hunters Place is very open in most parts of the camp with little cover, which presented a huge challenge for the tigers who are stalking ambushers that need cover. Dr. JD Smith remarked that if the tigers can hunt here in such open habitat, they should have the skills to hunt anywhere in the world, and would probably even have a much easier time hunting in their native habitat in China.

Despite the difficulties, Hulooo brothers managed to take advantage of stormy weathers, making kills of a good number of blesbuck and implalas who either took shelter in the dense bush areas that they avoid in calm weather conditions, or were disoriented by wind, thunder and lightening. We understand the challenge for a cover-needing tiger to hunt the third fastest African antelope –blesbuck, so we released a few bush-loving impalas into Hunters’ Palace. Interestingly, soon after two impalas became Hulooo brothers’s victims, the rest took to joining the blesbuck herd, running as the blesbuck run and eating as the blebuck eat. Still, another impala lost its life to the brothers.

Time for King Henry & Sister to give it a go in Hunters Palace as well. They were swapped with Hulooo brothers on November 14th. I can only say Bravo, youngsters! Since they went in, we had been unable to see them often, as they would hide themselves to consume fruits of their labour. Princess, being the shyest tiger at Laohu, was even a scarcer sight. On the rare occasions I did see her, she was on the lookout for her next victim. Just like her petite, shy mother Madonna whose hunting skills had been underestimated but proved she was a stealth hunter after having been observed making two kills in the space of 25 minutes, Princess had to demonstrate that she too, even smaller than her mother, had to prove her worth. But having witnessed the way she stalked the prey, I have no doubt that she is more than capable of doing her job. In fact, experience over our seven years of rewilding shows that tigresses are in fact better hunters! Helped sometimes by the stormy weather lately ,Princess & bros made kill after kill. A total of four blesbuck were hunted by them in a 10-day period, in this most challenging rewilding training camp.

Meanwhile, a fresh load of blesbuck were introduced into Tigers Roars and after a resting period for the blesbuck to settle down, Hulooo brothers were moved inside on Nov 18th. A Kill was made instantly during our monitoring, nevertheless inside the trees. What followed in next couple of days became an enigma for us for days to come, making us brood over as to what exactly happened. In the morning monitoring on Nov 19th, only five blesbuck were seen in the open area in Tigers Roars. This was highly unusual as Blesbuck are open land animals. However we took it that the other thirteen were temporarily taking shelter in the trees, disoriented from the storm the previous night. And they were sure to come out soon!

However, evening came and gone and another day came and gone. Still no sight of these missing blesbuck. Further, Hulooo brothers themselves were nowhere to be seen. They couldn’t possibly killed thirteen blesbuck in one night, could they? We started to wonder. This was a most unlikely scenario though. Last year in August, the brothers made a heavy toll on prey by hunting 11 blesbuck in a short period. But that was still in 10 days. Killing thirteen blesbuck in one night seemed just too distant a possibility!

Four days went by so we must solve the riddle. We drove into Tigers Roars on Monday Nov 22 to try our luck. When we eventually found Hulooo and JenB, we couldn’t believe our eyes. Their whiskers and nose were dirty and smeared with blood. If we didn’t know about the missing blesbok, we would have thought they had a bloody fight among themselves. What was more, their bellies were like balloons, particularly that of Hulooo who always has a weakness for food. It was clear that they had been feeding non-stop, not even bothering to lick themselves clean. After putting in their acknowledgement of us, Hulooo and JenB quickly disappeared into different directions again, as if afraid something could happen to their booties. We can hear the sound of bones getting cracked coming from inside the trees and river bed.

There was no doubt now that Hulooo brothers did make a killing-field out of Tigers Roars. But what happened to Coco?? Was he simply too fat to come out to greet us? Or was he injured during the hunting spree?? I couldn’t bear of the thoughts any longer so sent out a “search” party on Nov 24th to find Coco. Fortunately, he responded to the predator whistle, albeit feeling deceived. He refused to come out again next day the whistle was blown.

We continued to marvel at this most unusual hunting event, where three tigers wiped out three quarters of their entire month of food supply in two days. Could this because Hulooo was turning three on Nov 23rd and the brothers threw a hunting party for him to celebrate his coming of age??
Thing didn’t stop there. In the stormy night of Nov 25th, a further blesbuck lost its life.

Laohu Valley Reserve

It's cool down here

I hate heat

One by One
Caught in the Act
Why Hulooo so happy?

Monday, 22 November 2010

Goodbye Snarl?

Nov 19th, 2010

THE world's small cat authority, Dr. Jim Sanderson told us in September during our Rewilding Workshop that the caracal Snarl who had been under our care since last year looked strong and mature enough to be released back in nature and suggested we radio-collar her as well before releasing her. We started preparation immediately afterwards.

Our chief scientist Petri organised the re-fitting of an old collar once used by Cathay which was ready and sent back to Laohu Valley by the manufacturer just before our planned release time for Snarl. Petri and Hein tested the radio collar, tracking receiver and antenna- all working fine.

In order to put the radio-collar on her, we would need to sedate her. Though about third bigger than an average domestic cat, the caracal is strongly built with powerful legs and muscles and can do serious damage if she feels threatened by us monstrous sized humans.

Therefore it was not an easy task to put the radio collar on Snarl. Our Reserve Manager Hein built a trap cage and a few days before the collaring and release, the cage was introduced into Snarl's enclosure with food inside, in order to entice her into the cage. The plan was to make her comfortable going inside the cage to retrieve food for a few days. Then during the day before she was due to be released, food was put much deeper inside the cage so her body will have to be completely inside to retrieve it, which would actually activate the trap that triggers the cage door to drop, closing the cage.

All went according to plan and Snarl ended up closed inside the cage today. The Vet Gavin, who was very resourceful in treating Madonna's dehydration a few years back (he used a blanket to capture Madonna), was recruited to sedate Snarl with anaesthesia so she can be radio-collared. Gavin and his wife arrived at 3pm punctually, after one hour's drive from his clinic in Colesburg.

To avoid doing damage to the caracal, Gavin chose to apply contact-injection, in lieu of darting her with a dart gun. He was worried that the dart gun's strong force might fracture Snarl's leg if the dart went into the wrong place, which was not unlikely given that she was extremely agitated with human presence. Gavin's invention worked. He tied an old nylon bag to two strands of steel wires and pushed the bag into Snarl's cage. Snarl, not knowing what this large white-ish thing was, backed into the end of the cage, making it easy for Gavin's wife to inject her with sedative.

An antidote was applied quickly as soon as the caracal was collared and Snarl woke up soon after. She was still drowsy so we waited till about sunset time to release her when it was cooler.

We loaded up the cage to the back of the truck and drove to an area about one km from Hein's house, where a little stream runs with a lot of trees for cover. Snarl certainly didn't know she was going to be free, snarling along the way and trying to attack our us when we carried her cage.

She was about 4 months old when Snarl was brought to us, her mother poisoned by farmers. Caracals are formidable hunters and can take down a sheep in no time. They can even take down a blesbok which is probably at least 6 times their body size. Farmers continue to poison them as well as other smaller predators such as jackals in our area to protect their livelihood.

Snarl was wild and got her name because of her non-stop snarling when humans are present. Although she calmed down a bit, it was not possible to tame her. So we had to take the decision to release her back into the wild instead of letting her spend the rest of her life inside the enclosure. Thankfully, even those hand-reared caracals are known for their wild survival ability. We waited till she would be 1.5 years of age, fully grown so she would be able to deal with competitors such as jackals or other even other caracals. Meanwhile, we started training her to eat wild animal carcasses.

Now, while time had come to open the cage door so she could be free, I wondered how she would survive her first night? Where would she make her territory? Would she stay in this release area, go far away or return to Hein's house? How soon would she be able to hunt? Snarl's pretty little face with beautiful, shining and intelligent green eyes stared at us with hatred, and rightly so. We humans killed her mother, making her an orphan. Now she has to learn, all on her own, how to fend for herself.

We opened the cage door telling her to go out into freedom, expecting her to dash out and disappear into the trees. But she was not aware of her predicament, snarling at us continuously without budging. We had to move the cage eventually to leave her out of it. She turned around to look, suddenly realising she was no longer confined. Crouched low, she slunk away towards the densely forested little stream.

I repeated to her, "Go Snarl, Go! You are free". Inside my heart, I was tortured by the desire to have glimpses of her again, and the hope she can strike it out on her own in the wild.

Nov 22 2010

Hein went early the next morning to check on Snarl's movement again. She moved about 1 km away from the release spot within 6 hours of her release, but walked a only few hundred more meters overnight. The food left for her during her release was untouched. Hein even saw her standing on a cliff during his evening tracking.

Yesterday, she was found to be moving towards north, the springbuck carcass left for her was again untouched.

This morning however, no signal from her radio-collar could be detected. Where did Snarl go?

P.S.: a regular update of Snarl's radio-collar info map can be seen HERE.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Launching “Rewilded” in Celebration of Ten Years of Save China’s Tigers

Dear friends and supporters,

Ten years ago, on 9th October 2000 we celebrated the founding of our UK-based charity Save China’s Tigers (SCT) at the Chinese Embassy in London. In the years that followed SCT embarked on one of the most ambitious wildlife conservation projects yet. In a last ditch effort to save and restore the critically endangered South China tiger -- of all tigers the oldest – some cubs were taken from zoos in China to our specially prepared “Laohu Valley Reserve” in South Africa. There they were rewilded,in preparation for their eventual return to their native habitat.

The project has not been without challenges and heartbreaks. But ten years on SCT is still alive and well. Our pioneering tiger rewilding program has now received enthusiastic approval and recognition from many of the world’s most respected wildcat biologists, who believe it may serve as a model for future carnivore conservation. Even the term tiger rewilding has been accepted into conservation vocabulary.

To remember what has been a highly eventful decade, to mark this Chinese Year of the Tiger, and to celebrate SCT’s achievements, we have published our photo documentary book Rewilded. It beautifully chronicles the story of a few last remaining South China tigers in their fight to regain their former glory as Lord of Hundred Beasts.

I would also like to use this occasion to thank you -- my friends and supporters -- for giving me your most generous help over the past and sometimes very difficult ten years.

With very best wishes!

Li Quan
Founding Director

With Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran

With Sir David Tang

With Robert Hanson

With Supporters

Book Launch Display

Book Launch in Shanghai Tang London Shop

Friday, 10 September 2010

Zanzibar Shower Cap, Swimming with Dolphins & LCA

We checked into the very charismatic and well known boutique hotel 236 Hurumuzi on Aug 21st. This old house belonged to Zanzibar's richest merchant in its past life. After checking in at 2pm, we were told that our room was not yet ready and we needed to wait for a few minutes. We had a drink in the scenic rooftop restaurant and made an inquiry trip to the nearby tour office but the room was still not ready when we returned to the hotel. It turned out the bed in our suite room was actually broken by previous guests.

We thought we could at least use the room cleaning ourselves up quickly, and let the workmen resume their work afterwards. But upon entering the room, I was shocked to see the otherwise charming and spacious chamber looking like a workshop, with 6/7 repairmen/staff standing there and one of them waving a wielding gun, dust all over. We didn't have much choice but to repeat to the hotel that we needed the room by 5pm to be ready for dinner meeting at 6pm.

We went out to explore the ancient Stone City. Only then did I understand why the map we got from the hotel had no street names on it, as the streets indeed have no name plaques. Although every Zanzibari seemed to be offering their service to guide us I was determined to see how far we could get on our own.

Zanzibar is a very picturesque city with many years of history and a fusion culture of Arab, India, English, Africa and etc. It has many beautiful architecture. However as we walked about, it turned out to be quite difficult to find our way around. The streets wind around and we soon lost our orientation. After asking quite a few locals, we eventually returned to our hotel. Despite my request and the promise by the hotel, our room was still not ready.

Drama ensued as we wanted our room now and the hotel kept saying it is getting ready, meaning it was not ready. I had learned my lessons and knew another few minutes could turn into another few hours. In the end, I walked up the steep staircases to my room and told the workers to stop their chain saws and just clean it up, as the bed looked ok enough for us to sleep on.

After the floor was dusted off, the hotel staff were quite apologetic and asked what else we needed. Do they have a shower cap for me? A few minutes later, a knock on the heavy antique door brought me two small bottles of shampoo and shower gel. I guestured that I had actually wanted a shower cap. Ah, plastic?! Came an acknowledging and hopeful nod. Ten minutes later, another knock on the door. Stuart answered and then came to me laughing loud, holding an old plastic supermarket grocery bag. This was the Zanzibar shower cap!

Zanzibar is known for its spice farms so it was natural to visit one of them. The young man who was one of the 14 children of the owner of the 3 hectare spice farm turned me into a jungle queen at the end of the 2 hour visit by dressing me up with the earrings, necklace, tiara and etc he made of the leaves of the spice plants-all during our visit!

The day out in the sea in the traditional Dhow Boat was both interesting and disappointing. Interesting because the marina life such as corals and fish we saw snorkeling were beautiful. Disappointing because there were just too many tourists that made it look and feel like a market. But we did manage to see Bottle-nosed Dolphins frolicking on our sail back, which ended the day on a positive note.

Swimming with dolphins has been at the back of my mind for years so seeing them alone was not enough to quench my thirst. So we ended up going on a special dolphin trip very early the next day. I heard long ago human swimmers can get very close to the bottled nosed dolphins. I was so looking forward to spending time with them.

After an hour of car ride, we arrived in the Southern end of Zanzibar- Kizimkazi where we got on a speed boat. The guide told us that dolphins come here every day and the day before stayed around for a whole day in the bay. 95% of visitors see the dolphins when they come here. I was pretty certain that I would see them, even though the sea was very choppy that day and dolphins are not as playful in such conditions.

We were on the sea for an hour but still no shadow of any dolphins. Our guide, who saw so many dolphins yesterday, started making comments on the slim chance of seeing them today. I was disappointed but not surprised. The leopard and the cheetah made me work hard before. So why not the dolphins?? I was already making plans in my head about coming back tomorrow should the dolphins not show up today, even though I was still hoping for a nice surprise just when I was least expecting it.

Two hours passed and still no dolphins in sight. I finally decided to go and see the red monkeys in the Juzani forest first, while our guide left words with the fishermen to alert him no matter when the dolphins showed up.

Persistence paid off. Just when we finished the Juzani visit, news came that the dolphins had come back. We rushed back to Kizimkazi and got on another speed boat and drove out into the sea again. The cloud had cleared, wind died, sea calmed and water returned to azure.

For the next hour and half, I was in bliss as I swam with the dolphin. The plastic paddles for snorkling were too big for me so I ended up swimming, therefore loosing whatever little competitive advantage I could gain. The Dolphins sometimes swam very slowly, almost just hovering beneath us but then would dash off suddenly as if playing hide-and-seek with us. I once counted about a dozen of them and from time to time felt like they were just within touch before they slipped off again. I must say this incredible experience was so addictive and instead of quenching my thirst of swimming with dolphins I now wanted more. I shall no doubt be seeking any further opportunities of doing so!

* * *

I am not very keen in attending any conferences in general but I do enjoy going to the "Leadership for the Conservation of Africa" Council meeting. This year it was held at the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. I was very impressed with Tanzania's management of its wildlife when I visited 10 years ago so returning there was a delight.

"Leadership for the Conservation of Africa"(LCA) is an organisation set up by Dr. David Mabunda- CEO of South African National Parks (SAN Parks). Its mission is to bring business/corporation into conservation. Traditionally, wildlife conservation is managed by government and NGOs and these organisations often lack the efficiency that private businesses have. LCA aims to not only bring funding but also management expertise from the private sector to government in African wildlife and biodiversity conservation. Interestingly, this is what we have been doing ourselves - funding Save China's Tigers and other wildcat projects through business and manage our charity and projects in a cost-effective way. Therefore we were kindly invited to join the LCA meetings a couple of years ago.

It was great to meet new colleagues and catch up with old friends such as Howard Buffet. I ended my 20 days of traveling by taking a Hot Air Balloon safari over the vast expanse of the Serengeti plains..

Aug 29th 2010 Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

Sabina the passionate one

Minister OJumbo of Congo

Hot Air Balloon Champaign Tradition

In the air

Over the Serengeti

About to take off

Taller than Marcellino

Lion+ and his kill

All that hippo

All that Zebra

Delegates at LCA

Li and Howard Buffet

Serengeti welcome us

Don't they just look like us

On the day and at the beach where we swam with dolphins


Dolphins Huray

Don't offend this door

Spices at Market

Dressing up the Jungle Queen

Zanzibaris preparing meal

Our excellent guide

Spice boy

View from Hotel 236 Hurumzi

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Samburu Elephants, Dr. Hamilton and 327


Samburu Worrior Dance

Oria & Samburu worriors

Reticulated Giraffes

Impalas Locking horns

Li with Iain

Li with Iain

Li with David and Sam

Marshall Eagle with its Dik Dik kill

Elephants Love


Between Friends

Samburu Women


Samburu Village

Samburu Woman Milking Goat

Dik Dik

Masai Village

Wilderbeest Crossing Mara River

Flying in Helicopter Over Masai Mara

Aug 13, 2010

It is now the wilderbeest migration season. Millions of them cross the Mara river between Serengeti and Masai Mara and it is a great spectacle. Despite my keen interests to see this, I was always reluctant to go to the Mara as it gets crowded with so many tourists. But on this occasion of filming the elephant story, I decided to also film the migration as background to the story. So on Aug 13th, we got on a helicopter heading to Masai Mara.

Our helicopter pilot Phil Mathews had a gun shot on his right arm and his tibia was broken and now held together by some mechanism for bone regeneration. He was having family lunch on Easter Sunday this year, when five armed gunmen broken in his house. He and his son defended his family and Phil was shot. Sadly no criminals were caught.

On the one and half hour flight to Masai Mara from Nairobi we passed the Great Rift Valley. Despite the number of masai settlements dotted along the way, there is still large empty space left. This looked quite different as I recall seeing a lot of people on my way along the Great Rift Valley to a wildlife reserve when I came to Kenya in 1998.

The migration lasts from about July to October every year. It was now in full swing and many wilderbeest have crossed the Mara river from the serengeti to the Mara side by now. I had seen many blue widerbeests in my life, in fact we have quite a lot of them at Laohu Valley, but nowhere in the world could one see as high a concentration of them as here. Sam who manned our main camera was non-stop filming. However the most exciting part got to be the wilderbeest crossing of the Mara river.

Phil did not promise me much and I now understood why. Often the wilderbeest would stand by the river and refuse to take the plunge. But guess it was my lucky day despite being unlucky with the cold weather in Nairobi, since we did chance upon a wildferbeest crossing! It was breathtaking, as hundreds if not thousands of them dropped into the river to make it across to the other side for greener pastures.

A good day ended with bad news though. A little after 6pm, I got a phone call from Vivienne from South Africa, informing me that 327 is not eating or drinking. Our usual big cat vet - Joseph from Kimberly could not be reached so vet Gavin who is an hour away and who specializes in horse rushed over. 327 was in really poor condition. Why on earth such difficult situations occur always on a Friday (as with Hope's sudden deterioration of conditions before he died) is incomprehensible to me. I discussed Gavin's suggestions of sending 327 to Pretoria's state clinic for thorough examination with Petri. It would be a very complicated operation, as 327 would have to be anaesthetised and then put on a drip for the 6/7 hour trip, if no plane can be found (won't be a surprise give such short notice). We decided that the best option is try to reach Vet Joseph.

It was with such uncertainty and worries that I retired to bed..

Aug 15, 2010

I had little sleep the night before, communicating with petri and team on the best option for 327. Our team was on night watch and the situation appeared to be stable.

It took about 7 hours to reach Samburu, passing green pastures and busy townships equally, as well as the equator. Along the way I was on phone with Petri and team in South Africa to keep on top of status report regarding 327. Vet Joseph managed to arrive yesterday afternoon and took blood sample etc..I was anxious about the results, but fortunately I had to concentrate on the trip, and the amazing game of Samburu took my mind off 327's worries in between.

Samburu National Park is in the middle of the area Samburu people live. They are related to the Masai people and are semi nomadic. Samburu Park has some special game such as the Geremuk, Grant's Gazelle etc. Upon entering the reserve, we immediately saw many Kirk's Dik-dik, and the funny looking long-necked Gerenuk that eat tree leaves like the giraffe. We also had a glimpse of the beautiful Beisa Oryx.

Results came from Vet Joseph late morning today. It was not good news. 327 got chronicle kidney problems and if not treated, his life span won't be long. The vet did not recommend to send 327 to anywhere due to the anticipated danger stress could cause from the transfer and an unknown environment. Fortunately 327 reacted well to anaesthetics (but Joseph is also such a good and cautious vet too!) so he proposed to come back and give 327 drips on a schedule. It is a long trip from Kimberly for Joseph but that is the safest option for 327 really.

We have to do everything we can to prolong his life, though I fear it may not be too long due to the fact that his twin brother didn't even survive to 1 year. Further, my cat Didi also died from inherited kidney problems, despite careful treatment and monitoring for several years.

The rest of the day was so interesting. We met with Oria Douglas-Hamilton and heard her family's remarkable adventure from France/Italy to the depth of africa in 1929, finishing up settling in Kenya..She built her famous luxury Elephant Watch Camp which was flooded badly in March this year, but resurrected in June -they had collected all the household stuff flushed away by the flood from all over the reserve , cleaned them up and re-decorated the lodge in record time.

We met her Samburu warriors working at her lodge- Bernard the head ranger was a delight..After high school, he went to study wildlife management and guiding and he told us many things about the Samburu people. It was interesting that his parents, being Samburu herders, sent all their six children to school. That is pretty far-sighted given that many tribal people are still illiterate despite the government's free education program.

The afternoon trip to a Samburu village was the highlight of the day. Despite being offered to be carried across the Ewaso Nyiro river by a worrior, I opted to walk across myself. But my "heroism" ended up with me looking like wet ducks, since the river level reached up my rolled up jeans. We met the delightful Samburu who showed his prized possessions of goats proudly and had his young wife demonstrate how to squeeze goat milk.

The day ended with the Samburu warriors doing a magical warrior dance by the bonfire!

Aug 18, 2010

We went out with research assistant Chris Leadismo during his monitoring in the afternoon of 16th. We saw several groups of elephants -including those we had seen in the BBC documentary, such as the American Indians and the Royals (all named by Iain's team). It is nice to see familiar "faces".

We were quite lucky to see a bull elephant mating a 9 year old female in the Royal group. I suspected that this would be counted as rape, as a 9 year old is not yet mature. I will be certainly asking Dr. Douglas-Hamilton about it. The mother of the 9 year-old female had been quite agitated knowing the bulls' intention and tried to lead her family away. But the Bull caught up and managed to mount her, even though the two sisters of the 9-year old tried to protect their little sister.

On the way back was an unexpected sighting of a leopard, lying languidly on top of a big rock at the foot of a hill just after the sun had set!

But the highlight of the day was news from Petri, that 327 ate much of springbuck!! This was such good news as 327 could regain the weight he lost and build up his body again.

We spent yesterday and today with Dr. Hamilton's Researcher David and Dr. Hamilton himself. Iain and his wife Oria had a fascinating life. He is a wildlife scientist from an old noble Scottish family. Oria was born in Kenya of a French artist mother and Italian military officer. Iain has been conducting research to save the African elephant for 48 years. Oria and Iain's team have done such amazing work that I so hope I can bring it to the Chinese audience through the tv program we have been filming for.

Meanwhile, Vet Joseph has been back to Laohu a couple of more times to treat 327 who showed remarkable rebound through food intake. Coupled with continuous vet care for the foreseeable future, we do have to feed him everyday now so he can take medicine, instead of every few days as in the wild conditions. But we are read to do anything to help 327.

We saw so much wildlife, many of them for the first time, as many game are different from South Africa. We got so much amazing footage of wildlife as well, some very rare to see. Dr. Douglas-Hamilton and his team were able to take us right inside the elephant family groups that we were able to see the interactions of the family members. This is one of the most interesting trips I did and I know I am coming back here again.

Aug 21, 2010

Sam drove us back to Nairobi safely despite the poor condition of the road and sometimes very dangerous traffic. We bid good bye to Iain, Oria and their very helpful staff and looked forward to seeing them again soon, in China.

(Photos to follow in early September)