Tourists Amazed By Serengeti Wildebeest Calving

wildebeest, Serengeti
February is a special time on the Serengeti. Right now its population of some 1.5 million wildebeests are giving birth to an estimated 8,000 calves a day, the Tanzania Daily News reports.

The East African nation has seen some 16,500 tourists come to watch the event in Serengeti National Park, including 5,800 domestic visitors who are part of a growing African middle class that’s boosting tourism across the continent.

This mass calving happens every year. All the pregnant wildebeests give birth within the same period of a few weeks, a process called “synchronized calving.” The animals give birth while standing up or even moving around, and wildebeest calves are walking within a couple of minutes. Once all the pregnant wildebeest have calved, the whole herd heads out.

These adaptations help protect the calves from predators. You can bet that hyenas, lions and other sharp-toothed critters are flocking to the area along with the tourists. Wildebeests are also hunted by humans to make a kind of jerky called biltong. This is legal in some parts of Africa although, of course, not in the park. One Tanzanian scientist estimated that half the calves will get eaten or die from other causes during the wildebeest’s 600-mile migration.

[Photo courtesy user zheem via Flickr]

Half The Sky Launches Facebook Game To Provide Funding For Women And Girls Worldwide

About 300 million people play social games on Facebook per month. Now imagine if even a fraction of their time was spent playing games that could trigger funding for positive causes.

That’s the concept behind “Half the Sky Movement: The Game,” a new Facebook game that engages players in a series of stories and adventures related to the challenges facing women and girls worldwide. The journey starts in India, then travels through Kenya, Vietnam and Afghanistan – destinations also featured in the “Half the Sky” book and PBS documentary from New York Times reporters Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

Throughout the game, players have the chance to “unlock” funding for these non-profits from the game’s sponsors, which include the Ford Foundation and Zynga.org. For instance, if a player collects books for a young girl in the virtual world, that will activate a real-life donation to non-profit partner Room to Read by the Pearson Foundation. Words With Friends sure doesn’t offer that kind of incentive.

“If we’re able to inspire a portion of this group of players to spend 15 or 30 minutes of their time with this game, the ripple effect of players’ actions will result in significant and much-needed funding for this critical cause,” say Asi Burak and Michelle Byrd, co-presidents of Games for Change, a non-profit that seeks to create social impact through digital games.

“Half the Sky Movement: The Game” launches on Facebook on March 4.

[Photo Credit: Half The Game]

Man Wears 70 Items Of Clothing To Avoid Baggage Fees

An air traveler ended up wearing 70 items of clothing in an effort to avoid extra baggage charges at an airport in China.

Digital Spy says a local paper reported that an unidentified passenger at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport took out and wore more than 60 shirts and nine pairs of pants when his luggage exceeded the weight limit.

He is described as looking like a “sumo wrestler” in the report.

Wanting to board a flight to Nairobi, Kenya, the man was stopped in security by a metal detector and had to undergo a full body search. In his layers and layers of pockets, officials discovered batteries, thumb drives and device chargers.

Have you ever done anything crazy in a last ditch effort to avoid baggage fees? I’ve definitely transferred clothing from a checked bag to my carry on while in front of an airline agent, and I’ve seen people wearing 2-3 hats on occasion, but in this case I think I would have forked over the fee instead of sitting uncomfortably on an international flight.

[Photo credit: Flickr user geolawie]

Kenya Festival A Showcase Of Culture, Old School

Kenya

The annual Lamu Cultural Festival in Kenya is a showcase of tradition featuring much of what earned the island off Africa’s northern coast its World Heritage Site designation in 2001. Coming up November 15-18, 2012, the three-day festival offers a unique opportunity to explore the history, people, sights and sounds of Africa.

Lamu Island is home to Lamu Town, Kenya’s oldest continually inhabited town and one of the original Swahili settlements along coastal East Africa. The town’s history dates back to 1441 and can be explored via a number of museums.

A full schedule of traditional dances, handicraft displays, competitions on water and land, Swahili poetry, donkey races, dhow races, henna paintings, Swahili bridal ceremonies and music. Since its inception as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001, the festival has been a celebration of the island’s unique Swahili heritage.Getting there is tricky but, like so many other travel experiences, getting there is a great deal of the fun.

Scheduled flights daily from Nairobi, Mombasa, Diani Beach and Malindi land at close-by Manda Island airport (MAU). From there, dhow ferries bring visitors to Lamu where there are no vehicles. None. No tour busses, taxicabs, rental cars or even public transportation. This is about as close to the Africa of hundreds of years ago as we can get.

It is possible to hire donkeys to ride around the island though.

Check out the Lamu Cultural Festival and other Kenya information at www.magicalkenya.com.



[Photo Credit: Flickr user hktang]

Ivory poaching on the rise thanks to Asian demand and a legal loophole

poaching, ivoryThe poaching of elephant tusks is a growing problem due to increased demand from Asian nations, the Kenyan newspaper Business Daily reports.

A loophole in the UN law regulating the ivory trade allows Japan and China to legally purchase some ivory from selected nations under tightly controlled contracts. This has encouraged poachers to smuggle their illegal goods to Asia. Once there, it’s much easier to unload them.

African nations are split on a global ivory ban, with Kenya supporting a ban and Tanzania wanting the trade to be legal. This basically comes down to whether nations want short-term profits by killing their wildlife and hacking their tusks off, or long-term profits from safaris and tourism.

Radio Netherlands reports that 2011 was a record year for ivory seizures, showing that at least some nations are taking the problem seriously. It also suggests, of course, that the trade is on the rise.

Authorities around the world made at least 13 large-scale seizures last year, bagging more than 23 tonnes of ivory. TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, says that represents about 2,500 elephants. The figure is more than twice that of 2010.

Photo courtesy Library of Congress. It dates to sometime between 1880 and 1923, showing poaching isn’t a new problem.