Thursday, May 22, 2008

Response to comments about kob numbers

Thanks for your comments on my posting of May 19th Jeff. You are right about the kob migrations in the Sudan. I did mention this amazing sighting on pages 417 and 418 of The Trouble With Lions when I was searching for more hopeful signs about some of the disastrous effects that humans have had on wildlife populations.

The report came in from the Wildlife Conservation Society through their web site and was also featured by The National Geographic in a Internet report filed by Nick Wadhams titled Massive Animal Herds Flourishing Despite Sudan War, Survey Reveals at this web site

Michael Fay, a WCS biologist and National Geographic explorer-in-residence is quoted as follows in the National Geographic piece "Seeing thousands upon thousands upon thousands of white-eared kob streaming under the aircraft, day after day, was like I had died and was having the most unbelievable dream you could ever have."

Apart from my natural interest in the story, simply because it brings some measure of hope, one the folks involved in the finding was of particular interest. This was Paul Elkan, with whom I worked in Cameroon in 1996 when I helped out an overstretched Dr. Billy Karesh with his veterinary work on forest elephants, a one-month program described in The Trouble With Lions. Billy is the director of the WCS field veterinary program, and has written an entertaining book called Appointments at the End of The World: Memoirs of a Wildlife Veterinarian. For those who don’t know it, and are interested in conservation and the role of vets, this is one to add to your bookshelf. It was Paul, who is the WCS program director in Southern Sudan, who took the photo shown the article.

Anyway, back to the kob. There are three subspecies. The type species, the Western Kob is from northern savannah zones of West Africa are Kobus kob kob. The ones we have been working with in Uganda are K. k. thomasi. The lower picture shows two Canadian students together with Dr. Innocent Rwego of Uganda and Dr. Jacques Iyanya of the DRC working on an immobilized kob during our research studies. The kob in the Sudan are the white-eared kob, K. k. leucotis. It is numbers of the two former ones that have declined so sharply, but it is worth noting that Jonathan Kingdon remarks that population numbers of the species can fluctuate considerably. In his Field Guide to African Mammals, which contains a small spattering of his fantastic art work from the massive 7 volume major work to which I referred in my original blog Kingdon gives some more hopeful insights. His map on page 405 does show both the former and current ranges and he states “Despite having been eliminated from many areas (notably from all the shores of L. Victoria), kobs readily recover from near extermination.”


Carpenter said...
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Carpenter said...

There's some of this on the U of A Press's blog ( but I wanted to tell you, thanks for the clarification, Jerry.

I'll gladly take the good news (along with the bad) so long as it's accurate. Kob (kobs?) sound like a fairly resilient species--I wish the other big mammals in that neck of the woods would bounce back just as readily.