Kenya Safaris and Tours – The Special Five of Northern Kenya
Kenya has a wide stretch of grassland with scattered bushes, this provides a good home for most wildlife especially herbivores who spend most of their time grazing. Their major predators (the big cats) are not left behind making the food chain complete.
Most popular of Kenya’s wild animals are the ‘big 5’ and tourist agencies use this as a selling point for their safari packages. There is also a hidden number of wild animals that are considered a rare sight in Africa that are now competing for attention with the Big 5.
These animals are known in Kenya as ‘The Special Five’ and are found in the Northern Region of Kenya. The animals include; Grevy zebra, long-necked gerenuk, reticulated giraffe, beisa oryx and the Somali ostrich. They are a rare species found in the horn of Africa though their number has been declining to an alarming rate.
Northern Kenya is the only part in Kenya that has been able to maintain it’s virgin nature over the years. The area is dry and only has rainfall a few times in a year. The community living in this area has also contributed to this, specifically Samburu community who are pastoralists and nomads always moving from an area to another with their livestock in such of pasture. Hence, making it a safe place for wild animals to inhabit with minimal conflict.
We have one of Kenya’s big national park in this area, The Samburu National Park which has a wide range of wild animals and bird species. This is where the Special Five call home and are also referred to as ‘the Samburu five’. Though the area is classified as an arid and semiarid area, we have the Ewaso Nyiro River that flows through the park and provides the much-needed water for the animals.
The Grevy zebra is the largest and most threatened of all the zebra species. It is found in Northern Kenya and Southern Ethiopia. It is classified as having very thin black and white stripes, tall and has large ears. The belly part of its body has no stripes and is normally white.
It lives in arid and semi-arid grasslands and feeds on grass and legumes. This zebra is known to go up to five days without water. It is known to have very few long-lasting social bonds compared to other zebras. It is now classified as an endangered species due to habitat loss and game meat hunting.
The gerenuk is a species of the antelope that has a long neck commonly refer to as a giraffe gazelle. It is known to stretch it’s long slender neck as it eats the leaves of the thick bushes while standing on its hind legs. This is one animal species that can survive its whole life without water making it thrive well in dry areas.
This giraffe also is known as the Somali giraffe is native to Southern Ethiopia, Northern Kenya and Somalia. They are known to be shorter than the Maasai giraffe. Their spots are shaped like polygons with a straight smooth side and are lighter brown.
This is one of the most popular of all giraffes and is the one seen in most zoos. It is also known to interbreed with other giraffes found in the wild.
This is a species of the antelope found in East Africa semi-desert area. They feed on grass, leaves, fruits and buds. They are able to store water by raising their body temperature to avoid perspiration. They move in herds of between 5 to 40 with the females moving to the front and a large male guarding against the rare.
This is also known as a blue-neck ostrich. It used to be a sub-species of the common ostrich but was made a distinct species in 2014. This large flightless bird is identified by its blue-grey neck and thighs, the blue on male turns light blue during mating season.
The number of this ostrich is declining at a steady pace though there are some remaining in the Horn of Africa more so Northern Kenya. The decline has been caused by uncontrolled hunting for meat, medicinal products and eggs.
Visit The Samburu National Park
Samburu National Park is situated in the southeast side of Samburu County, it is boarded to the south by River Ewaso Nyiro. Apart from the special five, the park also has other wild animals like elephants, the big cats like the lion, leopard and cheetah not forgetting wild dogs.
The park is famous for Kamunyak the lioness who had adopted a baby oryx. This is also one of the areas where conservationist George and Joy Adams raised Elsa the Lioness featured in the best-selling book and movie; born free.
There is a vast population of birdlife with over 450 species recorded. They include birds of the arid northern bush country as well as a number of riverine forest species. There are five species categorized as vulnerable, these include; African Darter, Great Egret, White-headed Vulture, Martial Eagle and the Yellow-billed oxpecker. The critically endangered species, the pancake tortoise is also found in the park.