Mpala Live! Celebrates Fourth Year

By Valerie May, Mpala Live! Principal Investigator

Above, a pod of hippos, joined by two yellow-billed oxpeckers, relax in the hippo pool on the Ewaso Ng'iro River.

Halfway through its fourth year of operation, the Mpala Live! program (www.mpalalive.org) has reached more than 42 million online viewers in its mission to excite and educate the public about the wondrous wildlife that graces Mpala’s landscape and the science that fuels Mpala Research Centre.

 

Live, streaming “wildcams” funded by the Annenberg Foundation/Explore.org bring the sights and sounds of Mpala’s hippo pool and surrounding area to the world. This is the core of a digital education outreach program aimed at inspiring a new generation of conservation biologists.


The www.mpalalive.org website includes a Field Guide of 88 species and a Classroom section with downloadable lesson plans and activities, where Kenya lesson plans help students connect with their environment, and U.S. plans conform to national standards. The site also features Stories from the Bush, a series of short videos showcasing the science done at Mpala Research Centre, and Best of Mpala videos with curated video highlights of our wildlife.

Among the live cams' highlights in 2017: left, a young hippo and its mother explore the riverbank; right, elephants play in the water. 

Since the launch of the live cameras, Internet connection, and Mpala Live! website in June 2014, the program has built out more content and added to its audience reach each year. Exclusive of the live cameras, the mpalalive.org website has served 1.4 million page views since its launch, receiving an average of over 1,300 page views daily in 2018 so far. The Mpala Live! team supporting all this includes camera operators Anne Mukoma, Fred Kiboko, and Everlyn Ndinda; IT guru George Mwangi; and education and media producer Victor Kasii.

In 2017, Victor’s weekly blog on Explore.org has highlighted activities at Mpala Research Centre, from the Laikipia Rabies Vaccination Campaign to the latest avian research at Mpala. We also followed the stories of an injured elephant who was spotted by live cam viewers and subsequently treated by the Kenya Wildlife Service, and the foolish antics of local boys hurling rocks at the hippos. The boys, caught rock-handed on camera, were educated on smarter ways to approach hippos - as in, not at all!
Left, a pair of Hadada Ibis (Bostrychia hagedash) hunt on the riverbank. Right, two Reticulated Giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata) stroll by.


Meanwhile, the Mpala Live! website now features a half-dozen new videos exploring science at Mpala Research Centre, including features on zebra research and the perils of exporting poop, the story of a wounded elephant finding safe haven, and a window into the life of the charming Vitilline Masked Weaver bird.

Additionally, highlights from the live cams can now be found on YouTube - check out, for example, this popular video of a curious baboon.

In 2018, we hope to upgrade the Mpala Live! cameras and install a hydrophone so website visitors can hear the hippos underwater. We are also seeking funding for a citizen science project with www.zooniverse.org, an expansion of the Field Guide to include insects and more birds and reptiles, and the addition of a “virtual classroom” that will allow students and teachers to interact directly with each other.


You can help!


Do you have ideas for funding sources? Interested in helping create the expansions to the website described above? Please contact Valerie May, MpalaLive! Principal Investigator, at valeriemay1326@yahoo.com.

And please tell your friends, colleagues, and the teachers in your life all about us!

Above, a herd of endangered Grevy's Zebras (Equus grevyi) and several Reticulated Giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata) munch on the riverbank, as viewed from the Mpala Live! cameras in May 2017.