Study and Conservation of Big Mammals
Type of Course: In person field course to be held in Kenya.
Places: The course has its main headquarters in the Mpala Research Centre; we will also visit Lake Naivasha, Lake Oloiden, Crater Lake Private Reserve and the large Mara-Serengeti ecosystem, where we will visit several community reserves and the Maasai Mara National Reserve.
Iñaki Abella Gutiérrez.
Àlex Torres Riera.
José Domingo Rodríguez Teijeira.
Duration: 11 days.
Start date: September 8, 2019.
End date: 18 September 2019.
Amount: 1600€ for students, (200€ more for non-students; does not include flight, visa, or travel insurance).
Large mammals represent the dream of every nature lover, and the large mammals of Africa are its quintessence.
In spite of this, due to distance, sometimes more psychic than physical, due to the apparently unattainable nature of dreams or due to the attachment to things at home, the study of large mammals is an area that we tend to abandon very soon in favour of other animal groups that are no less interesting, but more accessible.
In this context, East Africa in general and Kenya in particular, represents "Mecca" of every dreamer, professional and/or amateur, but not only as a place to go, but also in the most etymological sense of the expression: of pilgrimage at least once in a lifetime.
With this course, in the heart of the wildest Africa, we intend to give a complete view of large mammals, so that they are seen as an object of study and conservation for nature lovers and future professionals and not only as an object of summer enjoyment for tourists eager for adventure.
The biodiversity crisis, which we are currently suffering and which the Kenyan Richard Leaky defined as "the sixth extinction", obliges us, as conservation professionals, to minimise and counteract the impact that human activities cause all over the globe and, to this end, a good training that minimises, in turn, any mistakes we might make is fundamental.
In the most classical and academic university environment, many times one leaves the faculty with a degree that demonstrates a good preparation at a theoretical level, but suffering from sufficient and necessary field experience, so we consider it necessary to fill this training gap.
We need future nature conservation professionals to be able to carry out their work with full knowledge, as conservation biology is a field where we will have fewer and fewer second chances.
The course has a duration of 11 days, most of which will be spent in some of the most important biological stations in Kenya and the whole of East Africa.
Based on the knowledge of large mammals and their main conservation problems, we will begin to manage and know the use of study techniques and methodologies, as well as the instruments that make it possible for us to deepen and continue deciphering the lives of animals.
During the course, and depending on the season and the particular dynamics of the research groups with which we have agreements, we will practice some of the most modern techniques used for the study and conservation of these animals, which may include photographic trapping, photo-identification of animals, monitoring with radio and satellite transmitters, the use of GPS, census, inventory and monitoring of populations of animals under study, mark-recapture studies, as well as other techniques very common in field biology.
The days are structured in such a way that the best hours of the day are used, usually at dawn and dusk, for direct observation of the animals and the rest of the day for theoretical and practical classes, as well as the handling of instruments and other materials.
The course is divided into two modules, the second being optional due to the strong increase in money involved in visiting the Masai Mara National Reserve.
The course begins at the Mpala Research Centre, a reference centre for ecological and biological studies throughout East Africa.
In Mpala we will spend 6 days learning about the savannahs, their very special interactions with all the large mammals that populate it and doing some practical field exercises so that we know how we can know more about the animals and their environment.
From Mpala we will visit one of the most famous private reserves with the best conservation programs in the whole country: Ol Pejeta.
From Mpala we go to the area of Lake Naivasha, in the Rift Valley.
The great Rift Valley is a unique geological formation in the world and the best place to see the formation of the continents.
Lake Naivasha is the highest lake of all Kenyan Rift, being at 1,900 m.a.s.l. It is freshwater and contains one of the most interesting bird populations in the country. In addition, there is still a good population of hippos.
Next to Lake Naivasha and separated by a small land corridor is Lake Oloiden, which is a miniature replica and where we will take a boat ride to enjoy their birds and observe hippos in their habitat.
In the same area is the Crater Lake Private Reserve, which is, precisely that, a crater lake, beautifully landscaped and surrounded by areas of well-preserved savannah where we can walk among animals such as zebras, elands, impalas, gazelles, buffaloes and giraffes.
From here, crossing the entire Rift Valley towards the west, we will go to the Maasai Mara National Reserve, perhaps the most famous reserve in Africa and of course the most visited in Kenya, where there is one of the largest migrations of land animals in the world.
Between July and September the great migrating herd is in the wettest areas of the Mara, having left the Serengeti completely exhausted.
José Domingo Rodríguez Teijeiro
Àlex Torrres Riera
Iñaki Abella Gutiérrez
Professor of Zoology at the Department of Animal Biology of the University of Barcelona, Domingo is the academic director of the postgraduate course and is responsible for teaching an online seminar and the course in Kenya.
His work on animal behaviour in different species of birds and mammals focuses on how animals use space, how they orientate themselves and navigate through it, and what their mating systems and social structure are. With a fundamental interest in basic science, some of the species he studies are related to human activities such as hunting and ecotourism, so this basic science has had a clear application in the conservation and management of these species.
His field work has led him to master techniques of capture, handling and monitoring of animals in the wild such as live trapping, photographic trapping, keeping animals in captivity, radiotelemetry and censuses.
As for birds, the study of a nomadic and steppe species has led Professor Rodríguez-Teijeiro to tour Western Europe and the Atlantic islands in order to study the degree of morphological plasticity in their populations. He is currently directing his steps towards the Asian continent.
In relation to mammals, he has studied the behaviour of squirrels, badgers, foxes and wild boars in Catalonia, specifically the use of space and behaviour associated with reproductive and social aspects.
In the last 10 years and after carrying out radiotelemetry studies on medium sized jungle mammals, leading to a broadening of the range of offers to ecotourism based on the vision of lowland gorillas in the Republic of Congo, he has witnessed in person the last epidemic of Ebola that devastated the northwest of the Republic of Congo with the death of almost 95% of the gorillas that formed the basis of that vision ecotourism.
Now his research focuses on knowing in detail what sociobiological aspects are behind the infection of these great apes, how the gorilla population evolves after being devastated by the Ebola virus and how this debacle has affected the African rainforest ecosystem.
Àlex is the coordinator of the postgraduate course in Barcelona. He will be in charge of the online seminars, giving some and all the logistic aspects of the course and the trip to Kenya. In Kenya he is one of the teachers of the course.
Àlex is a Higher Technician in Environmental Health, with a degree in Environmental Sciences and a Master's in Biodiversity with a mention in Biodiversity Conservation and Advanced Biodiversity from the University of Barcelona (UB), where he carried out the thesis "Incidence of the urbanized environment in the natural history of a mesomammal. The case of the red squirrel (Sciururs vulgaris L.)". He has actively participated in several national congresses on vertebrate fauna presenting various posters and making presentations.
Passionate about the fauna since he has evidence; after having made several courses, voluntary and practical in this professional field, he has coordinated the courses of Large Mammals in Kenya for 6 years while he finished his studies and did his research work (publication of notes and articles).
He is currently a research support technician at the University of Barcelona (Faculty of Biology) while continuing his collaboration with the Wild Fauna Recovery Centre of Torreferrusa and punctually with the Department of Biodiversity of the Generalitat de Catalunya.
In Bio + Àlex he is coordinator of programmes, where he manages the Kenyan, Moroccan and Tarragona courses, carrying out teaching and support work in the field, and giving some theoretical classes.
Àlex supports and informs students, before, during and after the courses, about all aspects of logistics and implementation.
Àlex is the promoter and creator of the Herpetological Sampling Techniques course, carried out in Morocco, and of the Ribera Fauna Management and Monitoring course, which is carried out in the province of Tarragona, and at Bio+ he is at all times developing new projects and improving existing ones.
He is one of the coordinators and teachers of the Postgraduate Course in the Study and Conservation of African Large Mammals at the University of Barcelona in collaboration with Bio+.
Iñaki is the coordinator of the course in Kenya and teaches part of it, in charge of all logistical aspects in that country, where he has lived since 2010 and from where he directs all Bio+ activities.
With studies in biology, specialising in Zoology and with a Master's Degree in Nature Conservation, he has extensive experience in field work, having developed his career in more than eight countries with very different animals and ecosystems.
Iñaki has worked with primates in Bolivia, with sea turtles in Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador and Mexico, with amphibians in Costa Rica and the Central African Republic, with mammals in Kenya and Spain, with whales and coral reefs in Mexico, with birds in Spain and Costa Rica.
From the marine depths of the reefs of the Sea of Cortez to the highlands of the Galapagos Islands; from the Caribbean beaches of Costa Rica and Panama to the mountains of Spain and Bolivia; from the coastal estuaries of northern Spain to the mountain peat bogs of the Sierra de Guadarrma; from the jungles of Congo to the savannas of the Serengeti-Mara.
This great diversity of experiences makes him a great connoisseur of the world conservation status and an excellent host in Kenya.
In Bio+ he has combined his great passions, nature conservation and environmental education, within the framework of the necessary sustainable development.