Jennifer Croson, Upper and Lower School art teacher, and Anne Townsend, Middle School social studies and math teacher, will be traveling to Kenya in February as the Marymount 2012 Earthwatch Fellows. Ms. Croson and Ms. Townsend will be working at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy south of Nairobi under the leadership of Dr. Geoffrey Wahungu studying the ecology of the black rhino in an enclosed savannah habitat.
In the past 30 years, poaching has reduced Kenya’s black rhinoceros population from 20,000 to a mere 400. Fenced-in, scout-patrolled sanctuaries like this 100-square-kilometer reserve have kept rhinos on the map, even bringing their number back to about 500. But in the wake of this success, new concerns have arisen: potential competition with giraffes and elephants, calf predation by hyenas and lions, even having too many rhinos in enclosed reserves. Only a close examination of interactions between these competing large mammals and the sanctuary’s carrying capacity will preserve the last black rhinos.
Ms. Croson and Ms. Townsend will have limited internet access, but will keep the community informed of their scientific fieldwork by periodic blog entries and will share their experiences with the community in assemblies and classes upon their return.