Christmas greetings

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In the absence of reindeer, we share this image for the festive season. It seems that Burchell’s zebra can interbreed with a donkey – which is what happened here. Grevy zebra, on the other hand are only known to interbreed with horses, the result being known as a zebroid. Photo: Andrew Nightingale. We closed the office on 22 December, and re-opened today. Jean is so sorry the newsletter wasn’t finished before the holidays, hopefully you all had a very happy festive season, and may 2017 be a much better year. If she had known a year ago what she knows now, she would have re-written the script.


The observant may have noticed a slight change in our letterhead. We have changed the company name, taking out the EPZ element. There is no longer any benefit to be had from being part of the Export Processing Zone Authority. The title of both our Kenya shilling and US$ bank accounts reflect the change, and the bank account numbers and routing instructions remain the same.
From November, KWS have reduced national park entry rates. For non-residents, the daily entry for the premium parks (Amboseli and Nakuru) is US$60 pppd. Tsavo, Aberdares and Mt Kenya are down to US$52, and the Nairobi NP US$43. Reductions also apply to residents and citizens, with the maximum for residents down to KSh 1,030 and citizens KSh 860. This move is to encourage more Kenyans to visit the national parks.
The beginning of the year seemed to be all about elephants, leading up to the ivory burning in the Nairobi National Park in April. It seems too good to be true that it had an effect – are the Chinese really going to do what they say and ban the ivory trade? Certainly we are proud to have been involved with the Panda-winner from Terra Mater (Ivory Game), John Heminway’s film with Bryan Christy, and several smaller ones. Working with Wild Aid is always a real pleasure, and we believe that Peter Knights should take credit for this latest development on the ivory trade – having the foresight to feature Chinese nationals as presenters (such as Yao Ming and Li Bing Bing) was inspired.
A controversial topic currently is the new Single Gauge Railway, which is being constructed at enormous expense from Mombasa on the coast to Uganda, Rwanda and Sudan. This is replacing the original ‘lunatic line’ constructed by the British at the end of the 19th century, as the volume of freight has now reached nearly 30 million tons a year, and the old railway cannot cope, which puts enormous pressure on the road. The SGR has already traversed the Tsavo National Park, and reached Nairobi. Engines and carriages are arriving, as the second stage is about to start. To descend the eastern edge of the great rift valley, the line will go underground, beneath the Ngong Hills, on its way to Naivasha and Nakuru. Before it gets to that stage, however, a likely route seems to be right through the middle of the Nairobi National Park. Several routes have been suggested, with the line elevated from 8 to 40 metres above ground level. This, we are told, will be sufficient for giraffe to walk under the line. A number of conservation organisations under the collective name ‘Kenya Coalition for Wildlife Conservation’, and the EA Wildlife Society have issued an injunction to stop this development until a proper environmental impact study is carried out to determine the railway’s effect on wildlife.
At the Wildscreen festival, Sajid flew the Viewfinders flag and met a lot of people. He soaked up the atmosphere like a sponge, and it will be hard to stop him going to the next one in 2018. It is not possible to predict with any accuracy, but the plan is for Jean to treat the next festival as her swan song. Aside from her health (which seems to be improving according to the oncologist’s plan), age is playing a part, and it is time for her to spend less time balancing the books. An operation is expected within the next couple of months to remove the offending tumour, after which she should be ready to face the world again with a full head of hair.
Our greetings to everyone at this festive time of year, and let us hope that 2017 makes the world a better place for elephants, rhinos, cheetahs and vultures.

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