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Research/Study Abroad Kenya
School for Field Studies
SFS programs allow students to gain research experience in the field; their research centers in Australia, Baja, Costa Rica, Kenya, and Turks & Caicos provide a different research focus in each country.

Kenya - Community wildlife ecology
Margret Donahue - 3rd year biology / pre vet major
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The study abroad program I participated in while in Kenya dealt with community wildlife ecology (there are now two programs at the camp, the other working in healthcare). The animals of Africa are what draw tourists and fundraising support, and honestly that is all I cared about when I applied for the program. But, once we got there, the neglect felt by the people of Kenya was blatantly and painfully obvious. People in the United States have problems dealing with deer; try living around an elephant! The government protected wildlife causes so much destruction of peoples’ homes and livelihoods and with very little support for these losses it has, understandably, left most people struggling and bitter. Among other problems, the switch from pastoralism, the main way of living for the Maasai people throughout history, to agriculture is causing a strain on the land. Global warming causing the snowcaps on Mt Kilimanjaro to melt at alarming speeds as well as the fight between people and animals over the extremely small amount of water is leading to a failing ecosystem.

There are several people working towards a solution. The staff at our camp, who were simply amazing, have developed projects and proposals to, very soon, start workshops with the people in the community to teach them about sustainable agriculture, the need for biodiversity in an area, and how to better manage the wildlife.

After learning about government policies, climate, hydrology, land use and extensive practice in animal identification and behavior studies, we broke into three research groups led by our professors. One project was about the ever growing problem of poaching, the other about the effects of animals on the peoples’ lives. My project was about land use in the Kimana swamp, a very small body of water, and one of the only permanent sources of water in Kenya. This swamp is shared by the animals of the Kimana Wildlife Sanctuary and the people trying to make a living off the land. We interviewed people living in the swamp about their land use and problems with animals. We also interviewed sanctuary guards and government officials. Finally, we did GPS mapping of the swamp to determine how much was being used by agriculture.

There was plenty of time for fun. On days off we could go into the Kimana market, we played sports with our staff and planted trees with the children of the secondary school. We visited an orphanage and donated about 3 weeks worth of food. We camped in Tsavo National Park, home of the man-eating lions, and made day trips to Amboseli National Park. I saw so many animals up close, elephants and lions, and even animals I had never heard of before. We felt the ground vibrate under our feet during a stampede. We listened to traditional songs around a campfire. We learned Swahili and bartered with the mammas. We learned how to play Kenyan Uno, which involves much more strategy than traditional Uno. We hiked into Tanzania. We shared stories with the people we met and learned so much about the Kenyan way of life. We slept in mosquito nets. We could see Mt. Kilimanjaro from the shower stalls.

My trip to Kenya, undoubtedly, changed my life. I now have 33 new friends in the United States, as well as Holland, Venezuela, Germany, and of course Kenya. I have a greater appreciation for the people working to change lives because, for a month, I was one of those people. Our work will be incorporated into our professor’s work towards making a better Kenya, and that is an amazing feeling.

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