Category Archives: News

First confirmed sighting of an African black panther for 100 years

Researchers have confirmed that there are rare black leopards living in Laikipia County, Kenya.  This is the first confirmed sighting since 1909.  Black leopards are often referred to as “black panthers”—a term used for any big cat with a black coat. There have been reports of black leopards sighting in Kenya over the years, but no confirmed sightings for over 100 years.

Credit Burrard-Lucas Wildlife Photography

The discovery was made by photographer Will Burrard-Lucas, alongside a team of wildlife researchers and their guide who  set up cameras near to Laikipia Wilderness Camp to get undeniable proof of the extremely rare and elusive melanistic leopard.  Melanism is caused by a gene that creates a surplus of pigment in the skin or hair of an animal.  African black leopards are so rare that researchers have been unable to confirm if the genetic mutation responsible for their dark pigmentation is the same as the melanism found in Southeast Asian leopards.

Photographed with a Camtraptions camera trap. Laikipia Wilderness Camp, Kenya. Credit Burrard-Lucas Wildlife Photography.

The African Wildlife Federation (AFW) states there are nine leopard subspecies that are native to more than 25 African countries, with the black cats listed as “vulnerable” since 1986.  Hopefully we can now learn more about these elusive leopards and subsequently see their numbers increase.

5 black leopard facts:

  1. Leopards are powerful big cats closely related to lions, tigers, and jaguars.
  2. The melanism gives the leopard the appearance of being completely black but its rosettes are still visible.
  3. There are nine leopard subspecies ranging from Africa all the way to eastern Russia
  4. 11% of leopards are thought to be melanistic, however most are found in Southeast Asia, where tropical forests offer an abundance of shade.
  5. In Kenya, black leopards seem to prefer semi-arid shrub land.

Something to wet your appetite for your next trip

We are delighted to announce the arrival of our new BPA free reusable water bottles which we give to you when you book a holiday with us.  (BPA = nasty chemicals).

These great, lightweight bottles have a handy wrist/belt loop, latch lid and 500ml capacity with measurement scale so you can easily keep track of your fluid intake in the sun.

We are also encouraging all the lodges and ground operators that we work with to provide filtered drinking water rather than buying  water in single-use plastic bottles.

Our new reusable water bottles will be sent out prior to your trip with your holiday documents.

Meet the Dung beetle – the superstrong, family focused, African superhero!

The strongest insect in the world – the Dung beetle plays a key role in the African ecosystem, cleaning up the mess others leave behind by recycling nutrients, improving soil structure and encouraging new growth.

The strongest is the male onthophagus taurus, which can pull 1,141 times its own body weight!  The equivalent of a person pulling six double-decker buses full of people.

They eat the excrement of herbivores, as it contains more plant nutrients, however the waste of omnivores is easier to find due to the smell. Dung beetles have six legs to help them dig, collect and roll dung.  They’re even built like superheros, with a grooved shield and strong front limbs for digging and fighting. They also have their wings folded under hard covers for protection.

This romantic beetle is ready to fight for love. Females dig tunnels under dung pats to attract a mate. If a male enters a tunnel and finds a love rival, they will try and push each other out, with the  Cephalodesmius dung beetle opting to mate for life once it finds a partner.

These intriguing creatures also make great parents. They roll dung primarily to feed their young, depositing their eggs inside, so their larvae can feast and grow. This family focus doesn’t end there.  Both parents share child care duties – working together to build their nests. They then go back to work helping the African eco-system.  What a hero!

5 Facts about the African dung beetle

  1. They are the strongest insects in the world.
  2. Dung beetles can be found on every continent except Antarctica.
  3. Dung beetles have existed for 30 million years.  Fossilised dung balls the size of tennis balls have been found from Prehistoric dung beetles.
  4. Scientists have said they can use the Milky Way to navigate.
  5. There are three types of dung beetle: rollers, tunnellers and dwellers. The dwellers actually live in the dung.

The plight of the pangolin

The poaching of elephants and rhinos for their horns and tusks is widely publicised, however it is the pangolin that is believed to be the world’s most illegally trafficked mammal.

Native to Africa and Asia, the pangolin is hunted at the rate of one every five minutes.  Highly prized in Vietnam and China for both its meat and the believed medicinal benefits of its scales, the pangolin is even used to make jewellery.

There are eight species of pangolin in the world, four Asian and four African – though fossil evidence suggests that they evolved in Europe. They are all now listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List as either Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered.

A global trade ban was introduced in 2016 and the pangolin has a dedicated awareness day in February each year.  In addition, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge in his role as Head of United for Wildlife, has thrown his weight behind the plight of the pangolin in a bid to halt the trade for good.

Let’s hope it is in time to save this beautiful creature.

5 Facts about Pangolin

  1. Pangolin scales are made of keratin, just like our finger nails, and make up 20 per cent of their body weight.
  2. The word ‘pangolin’ comes from the Malay word ‘penggulung’, which means ‘one that rolls up’. When it is threatened a pangolin will curl itself into a tight ball, which is impenetrable to its natural predators. Sadly this doesn’t include human predators.
  3. The mammal can consume up to 20,000 ants a day. That’s about 73 million ants a year!
  4. Pangolins can close their ears and nostrils using strong muscles. This helps protect them from ant attacks.
  5. They have long, sticky tongues, which are often longer than their body. They also don’t have teeth, so can’t chew. Instead, they have keratinous spines in their stomach and swallow stones that help them grind up their food.

Click here to find out more about the race to save the pangolin.

The Nanyuki Mambas triumph on the slopes of Mount Kenya

One of the best-kept secrets on Africa’s adventure tourism calendar is the 10 to 4 Mt Kenya mountain Bike Challenge which raises money for the Mount Kenya Trust. Held annually since 2002, it is the major fundraiser for the Mount Kenya Trust conservation NGO which has since raised over $500,000 and has thus contributed to planting more than half a million trees, building and maintaining a 14km elephant corridor through farmland, returning over 450 hectares of bare land to indigenous forest and helped 50,000 Kenyans with health care.

Last year, under the radar, Vicky took part in what only can be described as the ultimate bike safari. Not only did she take part but she also won her race, the first female to finish the classic race  – quite an achievement!

This year we sponsored four local boys and girls from Nanyuki – the ‘NANYUKI Mambas’.

And more success came – this years ‘Queen of the Mountain’ was Joyce who was the overall female winner over the 2 day race and David and Joseph finished 8th and 9th in the mens race and Asmin 4th in the Rush – a brilliant achievement all round!

The 10 to 4 Mountain Bike Challenge

One of the best-kept secrets on Africa’s adventure tourism calendar is the 10 to 4 Mt Kenya mountain Bike Challenge which raises money for the Mount Kenya Trust. Held annually since 2002, when a small group of enthusiastic mountain bikers cycled from 10,000ft above sea level down to 4,000ft, it is the major fundraiser for the Mount Kenya Trust conservation NGO.

Since the 10 to 4 was established, over $500,000 has been raised to support the MKT in their work. This includes planting more than half a million trees, building and maintaining a 14km elephant corridor through farmland, two elephant underpasses, returning over 450 hectares of bare land to indigenous forest, tree nurseries nurturing hundreds of thousands of seedlings, and helped 50,000 Kenyans with health care and thousands of children understand conservation better.

    

Last year, under the radar, our Farside Africa Director Vicky Stirling took part in what only can be described as the ultimate bike safari. Not only did she take part but she also won her category and was the first female to finish the classic race completing 62km in around 4 hours – quite an achievement! Whilst out there she met some boys from Nanyuki who couldn’t afford to enter the race. It was too late for her to help them last year. So this year, along with a Kenyan friend, we are sponsoring two girls and two boys to compete in the race on the 9th & 10th February. The boys will compete in the Extreme race held over two days whilst the girls will take part in the Classic race held on the second day.

On day 1 they will cover about 90km facing an elevation climb of 2000m at high altitude with fast technical sections & single track. This is then followed by the Roller Coaster Classic on day 2. Starting at nearly 3000 meters, (10,000 feet), on the northern slopes of Mount Kenya, riders will descend some 70km over demanding terrain, through indigenous forest and wide open plains, abundant with wildlife, down to the Ngare Ndare Forest at 1940 meters, (6400 feet).

  

Our ‘NANYUKI Mambas’ team consists of David, Joseph, Joyce and Asmin who live in and around Nanyuki and we wish them the best of luck!

Please GET IN TOUCH if you would like to sponsor Farside Africa’s ‘NANYUKI Mambas’ team. Farside Africa has paid directly for the entry fees and team shirts so any extra funds raised will go directly to the Mount Kenya Trust.