Mpala facilitates and exemplifies sustainable human-wildlife co-existence and the advancement of human livelihoods and quality of life. We do this through education, outreach, and by developing science-based solutions to guide conservation actions for the benefit of nature and human welfare.
Mpala . . . A Living Laboratory
Laikipia Rabies Vaccination Campaign 2016 (LRVC)
About 2,000 people die of rabies every year in Kenya. Domestic dogs are responsible for 99% of the country’s human rabies cases. The 2016 Laikipia Rabies Vaccination Campaign was coordinated by Mpala researchers, Dr. Adam Ferguson and Dedan Ngatia, veterinarian Dr. Dishon Muloi and Mpala Research Centre staff. This year, the LRVC team aimed to expand their coverage to 2000 domestic dogs and cats (up from the 821 vaccinated against rabies in last year's pilot campaign) across 10 communities (up from 5 last year). The team formed partnerships with numerous individuals and organizations, including the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the Laikipia County Government, Africa Network for Animal Welfare, Karatina University, University of Liverpool, and the Laikipia Wildlife Forum (LWF). The 2016 campaign occured over the 5 weekends of September 2016, in the following communities: Dol Dol, Endana, Il Motiok, Il Polei, Koija, Lekiji, Maramoja, Naibor, Ngobit, and Rumuruti.
Left: An MRC lorry fills up with volunteers, ready for another day of vaccinations. Right: Community members gather at a vaccination station during the first weekend.
In total, 4530 domestic dogs and cats were vaccinated against rabies this year.
Our dedicated field team included vets, Karatina University student volunteers, Mpala Research Centre staff and researchers, LWF Community Liaison Officers and community organizers from the targeted communities. The LRVC team thanks all donors and supporters for their valuable contributions to this effort.
LRVC vets travelled to Laikipia and volunteered their weekends to help with the vaccination effort.
Karatina University students collected data and distributed vaccination cards at the stations, allowing vets to focus on vaccinations.
Mpala celebrates World Lion and Elephant Day in Samburu with WildlifeDirect
This August (12-14), WildlifeDirect celebrated World Lion Day and World Elephant Day by taking 91 children from across Kenya on safari in Samburu National Reserve. On this 3-day camping trip, children from Nairobi, Samburu and our own Mpala Academy watched elephants, lions, leopards and other fascinating creatures in the wilderness. They listened to the experiences of rangers, scientists and others who work in conservation, and participated in educational games and activities around a campfire.
Mpala Research Centre was one of several organizations that partnered with WildlifeDirect to make this transformational visit a success. You can learn more about the event in this article by WildlifeDirect CEO, Dr. Paula Kahumbu: http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2016/08/22/sharing-kenyas-wilderness-with-underprivileged-city-children-uplifts-inspires-everyone/
Left: A child examines elephant tracking collars, used by Save The Elephants (STE) researchers to monitor the movement of individual elephants. Right: A child colours in his activity book while reading about lion populations, diets and behaviour.
Left: Children ask STE researchers about the joys and challenges of their work. Right: Children tried their hand at wildlife photography by clicking pictures (such as this close-up) of the lions and elephants they encountered.
Left: Kids venture into the wilderness in open safari buses. Right: Kids enjoy an introductory photography session, conducted by volunteers from Mpala Research Centre.
8th Annual Community Conservation Day.
Several primary schools and one secondary school in Laikipia participate in the Northern Kenya Conservation Clubs. Through the clubs, the students and their communities learn about the importance of conservation for their livelihoods. The Clubs held their 8th Annual Community Conservation Day on 23rd July 2016 at Kimanjo Secondary School. The event, supported by Mpala Research Centre and Mpala Ranch, was a great success. Local leaders, staff, scientists and students travelled to Kimanjo from Mpala and around Laikipia to watch the students share their knowledge though plays, games, songs and poems. The students also demonstrated approaches to conservation that they had adopted in their communities through poster presentations.
Left:NKCC teachers and facilitators. Right: Dr. Dino Martins participates in one of the games titled: "What Animal Am I?'
Left: Kimanjo Sec Sch Students entertain guests. Right: A conservation club member from Naiperere Pri Sch briefs the guests about their conservation project on beehives.
Mpala Research Centre was happy to participate in NACOSTI's 5th Annual National Science Week from May 16-20. Mpala presented a booth in the Kenyan International Convention Center. We had over 200 visitors to our booth who heard from visiting researchers about their work at Mpala and about the events we have hosted at Mpala in the past year. It was an awesome opportunity to share the great work that is being done at Mpala. Thank you to the visiting researchers Doug Branch, Dr. Jacob Goheen, John Gitonga, Boniface Kimathi, Duncan Kimuyu, Kimani Ndung'u, Dr. Adam Ferguson and Dedan Ngatia. Also thank you to the staff who organized the event and all the visitors who stopped by to learn about the Mpala.
Left: Boniface Kimathi shows one of the instruments used in the work done by Dr. Kelly Caylor's lab. Right: Dr. Jacob R Goheen presents some his research to a booth visitor.
Over the Easter holiday, Mpala Research Centre was privileged to host Ambassador Robert F. Godec, the NTV Wild crew (NTV is a local Media Group) and Daraja Academy students. Their interaction was incredible, and the students had a lot to learn as they visited different research sites on Mpala.
Scientists held interactive sessions with the students in the field, making their learning experience richer, more textured and more memorable. Immersing students in the very environments they study facilitates their understanding through direct observation, and helps them link theory and practice. We plan to have more of these events in the future!
Ambassador Robert F. Godec, NTV wild Crew, Daraja Academy and part of MRC Team.
Dr. Dino Martins with Daraja students in the field.
Kid's Twiga Tally
As a follow up to the Great Grevy's Rally, Mpala hosted a Kid's Twiga Tally in March. Children from Nairobi, Nanyuki and some of the Northern Kenya Conservation Club member schools gathered at Mpala to count reticulated giraffes and take part in citizen science based research. The children took pictures of the giraffes and using the same 'Hotspotter' software from the GGR individuals will be differentiated based on their patterns. This data will be used to compare the number of reticulated giraffes on conservancies and community lands.
Hear more about the experience from the Kibera School for Girls below.
Mpala Participates in the Great Grevy's Rally
Ambassador Robert F. Godec, Prof. Daniel Rubenstein, Mpala Academy Teachers and students during the GGR Rally.
Mpala was thrilled to participate in the Great Grevy's Rally in January. This rally was a wonderful feat of citizen science. It brought people together to more accurately estimate the population of the endangered Grevy’s Zebra. During the GGR, scientists, land owners, conservancy managers and members of the public traveled around different parts of Kenya in groups to take as many photographs of Grevy’s zebras as possible. Then, a software called ‘Hotspotter’ embedded in an Image Based Ecological Information System (IBEIS) will be used to differentiate unique zebras based on their stripes.
Mpala Tick Day
Mpala and University of Illinois held Tick Day at the Research Centre on December 5. Through this event, scientists shared cutting edge research on ticks to members of the surrounding communities. Ticks carry and transmit disease-causing pathogens, affect both humans and their livestock, and are constant presence in most of Laikipia. It is therefore important for scientists to share the knowledge they generate, not only within the research community, but also with affected communities.
A Letter from the New Executive Director Dr. Dino J. Martins
Dear students, scientists, friends and the wider Mpala community,
I am deeply honoured and humbled to have been selected to serve as the director of the Mpala Research Centre. I thank the Search Committee, Board of Trustees, National Museums of Kenya, Kenya Wildlife Service, scientists and Laikipia community for their support and feedback during this process. This is a very exciting time to be a scientist in Kenya and I look forward to meeting, talking and exploring how we can work together to sustain, grow and celebrate science and education at Mpala.
Read the rest of Dino Martins' message in the Director's Corner.
Mpala welcomes you to Mpala Live!, an interactive website featuring a round-the-clock view of the hippos, elephants, and other incredible species that frequent Hippo Pools. Experience Mpala with scientists as they study relationships among humans, animals, and ecosystems. Learn about the wildlife of Laikipia with a field guide featuring a wide range of species from aardvarks to zebras. In addition, the Mpala Live! classroom introduces teachers and students and parents and children to a unique curricula keyed to Mpala's flora and fauna.
Welcome, and enjoy!
Earlier this month, a student group from Goshen College (including 2 Kenyan students from U. of NBI and 2 students from Karatina U.) visited the Lekiji school to install rain gutters. This completes an earlier project that MRC started where a tank was provided on a cement slab for rainwater collection. Read more about the project here!
Mpala Research Centre's 20th Anniversary!
In 1994, the Mpala Research Centre was nothing more than a small idea born amongst colleagues and friends. Today, it is a world-renowned center that brings in researchers, professors, and students from countries all around the globe. Celebrate our 20th year with us with this month’s special edition of the Mpala Memos!
In this issue, researchers Truman Young, Dan Rubenstein, Ira Rubinoff, Laurence Frank, and Adam Ford reflect back on how far MRC has come in the past two decades, while MRC director Margaret Kinnaird looks to the future of the Research Centre. Learn about the major projects that have been a part of Mpala's history, and dive into the past with our Mpala Time Capsule. Also enjoy anecdotes from current Mpala researchers as they consider what it means to work, study, and explore on Mpala.
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This year the Mpala Research Centre celebrates its 20th anniversary! From humble beginnings in 1994 MRC has grown into a world-class ecological research centre that welcomes hundreds of researchers and students annually from around the globe. Our facilities have expanded tremendously over the years with a conscious eye for sustainability and a minimal ecological footprint. Our portfolio of projects includes studies that embrace new and exciting technologies that put MRC at the forefront of ecological advances, and has diversified in ways that allow MRC to contribute significantly to the conservation of Laikipia, Kenya and beyond. We hope that you will join us in celebrating how far we have come in the past two decades and our plans for the future. Keep an eye out for our special anniversary edition of the Mpala Memos this April!
Mpala Research Centre in 1994 [top] and today [bottom]