We wish to give a brief update on the drought before the holiday break. We shall give a fuller account and outlook in the New Year.
Having understood from forecasts that the short rains were over when we posted our last report on 2nd December, Amboseli did get some expected scattered showers. Good rains fell on the Chyulus Hills and the foot slopes of Kilimanjaro around Endonet.
How will these welcomed and unexpected rains affect the outlook for livestock and wildlife in the coming three months or so before the long rains?
For livestock, the green flush in the Chyulus and slopes of Kilimanjaro has relieved the immediate pressure on herds moving there. Herders can cut back on the amount of supplementary feed for now, but not for long. The brief bursts of rain elsewhere have barely greened up pastures heavily degraded by the drought. Further, large herds of cattle have once again moved in from Matapatu to the west. The heavy concentrations are grazing down the grasses in the Chyulus and Endonet as fast as they grow.
Unless there are outlier rains in January, the drought will harden quickly and herders will have to feed the cattle hay and grain once more to get them through to the long rains. The Amboseli Ecosystem Trust and NGO partners met in early December to take stock of the outlook for livestock keepers. Reports from the field noted herders losing hope of saving many animals in the coming few months. With the school feeding program ending and children and families facing harsh times ahead, AET resolved to resume the program until the long rains. An appeal is being sent out to NGO partners.
With few animals left in the park, the pastures in and around the swamps are bouncing back. By the time the wildlife herds return, the swamp grazing is likely to be sufficient to sustain the herds for some while, perhaps until the long rains.