Anyone who’s been on Safari will tell you how difficult it is to see any of the big cats in the wild. The time of year, weather, location, luck and even one’s choice of safari guide all play a role in the Big Cat experience. And what a joy it is when you see these animals go about their daily lives, unperturbed by the happenings, the lazy lion stretching in the morning sun, the lithe cheetah stalking her prey and of course nothing beats seeing the extremely elusive leopard!
In nearly six years of having worked in the field of wildlife conservation I have only seen a leopard twice! in the wild. This most secretive big cat lurks in the dense foliage of trees, its fur providing the perfect camouflage. It is no wonder that when a leopard is sighted in the wild, word spreads like a bush fire. There is often a frenzy when Madoadoa ya juu * -as the animal is known among the Safari circles – is spotted.
It was therefore shocking!! to see a mass of leopard fur lying by the side of the Nairobi Mombasa Highway as we drove back to Nairobi on our way back from shooting a documentary on the illegal bush meat trade. We immediately pulled off to the side of the road to examine it closer. It was indeed a leopard! We suspect that it was killed by a large vehicle, a cargo trailer driven by an exhausted driver perhaps… Well, we thought it wise to call in the Kenya Wildlife Service as leaving the carcass unattended would mean that some unscrupulous person may well take the fur to sell off. We left after having reported the matter to the Tsavo West National park main gate who promised to act on the matter.
Apparently road kills are not uncommon on this highway. A source who had spent months working in the Tsavo area told us that they had seen a cheetah lying by the side of the road a few weeks ago. Early this year, my colleague witnessed a group of villagers scampering to get a piece of an elephant that had been knocked down earlier.
The Nairobi Mombasa Road cuts across a huge area of wildlife habitat, traversing the Nairobi National Park, the Athi Kapiti plains, The Chyulu Kibwezi area and the Tsavo ecosystem. Its supports a huge amount of traffic – vehicles, people, livestock and even wildlife – moving from one area to another. This incident got me thinking that it may be time for a road safety campaign for this busy highway. As the festive season draws closer and the amount of traffic on our roads increase please spread the word to all your friends in Kenya. Let’s all Drive Safely. Save Lives. Save Wildlife!
*Madoadoa ya juu literally translates as the spots above.