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CBC Homestretch Brian Keating on Baboons

Brian is busy trekking across Africa, documenting his latest encounters with wildlife. This week he communes with bunch of baboons. Hear him discuss the experience with CBC Calgary’s Doug Dirks.—ethiopia/

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Tastes and Travels with Brian Keating

Have you purchased your tickets for the Tastes and Travels event in support of the SAGE centre and other Children’s Hospital Aid Society charities? Brian will be speaking and is looking forward to seeing many of you there!

For more information visit 

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CBC Homestretch Brian Keating on Gorillas in Rwanda

This week Brian checks in with the Homestretch to share stories about gorilla sightings in Rwanda.—rwanda/


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Hamadryas Baboons

“I heard the lions calling periodically through the night, and on our morning walk, we encountered their tracks very near our camp.  We actually were up at 5 AM at first light, so that we could watch the endemic Hamadryas baboons depart from the safety of their night roost on the volcanic cliffs.  They spend the night on the vertical rock walls to avoid predation by a serious enemy: the leopard.
Just before sunrise, the baboons began to flow from the cliff top, virtually dripping off the rocks in their numbers, spilling out onto the grassy flats where hot spring water flowed, forming a narrow, clean and warm creek.  We sat on a log filming the procession of the troop, numbering 210 in total!  When they crossed to the far side, Tsheger (our park scout, pronounced Chegger) and Girum (our guide), and Dee and I began our “follow”.
The baboons moved rapidly through the scrub, fanning out to feed on leaves, small berries and big, hard palm nuts.  After an hour of continual movement, they settled down to rest and groom one another.  It was quiet time in the troop.  Adventurous youngsters climbed and goofed off, moms nursed tiny babies, and the big males acted as over-lords to their group.  One big male sat in front of us, perhaps 4 meters distant, avoiding the light rain by sitting under a palm tree.   Tiny toddlers climbed all around him, but he sat with tired eyes, eventually allowing his chin to rest on his chest as he dozed sitting upright, elbows relaxed on his knees.   Another big male lay on his belly in the ground, sleeping solidly. The drizzle kept the temperature reasonable for us, making the entire morning very pleasant.
The troop eventually moved off in a huge group, and we followed them for some time across the savannah. They eventually disappeared into the forest, making our continued follow impossible.
We were back in camp by 10:30 am for breakfast, still enjoying the cooler overcast conditions.
We relaxed during the heat of the day, and later in the afternoon, we hiked the 30 minutes to a pool formed by another hot spring in a doum palm oasis for a picnic lunch and swim.  The crystal clear lagoon was 3 meters deep, perhaps 15 meters across, and at 45 degrees C, too hot for crocodiles to live in.  It had a perfect entry and exit point with a bowed palm tree trunk at water level!  It was very hot, but totally refreshing.  Another hidden gem of Africa!  Hippo footprints were found as we departed the area, and Tsheger mentioned that they are common in other cooler pools in the area.  None have ever been seen in the hot pool.
We spent the final hour of the day putting to bed the Hamadryas baboons on the cliff once again.”

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Brian set up his iPad to do a continual video of the Hamadryas baboons assembling at sunset on the cliff edge. He then stepped back to watch. He plans on using the clip in an upcoming City TV Breakfast segment, presently slated to air “live” on the morning of October 21!

Check out the video here!
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Gorilla Watching in Rwanda

Brian just sent in another section from his journal, this time gorilla watching in Rwanda. (Photos by Dee Keating)
“Our first troop of gorillas that we visited was the Kwitonda Troop.  Consisting of 23 gorillas, of which we saw 18, the troop is known for being found in the lower elevations, usually.  We parked at about 2,500m in the potato and pyrethrum fields after driving on a very bumpy lava cobblestone track.  From there it was a short walk to the edge of the park, marked by the lava rock wall that was completed several years ago along the length of the Rwanda side of the park.
The 75 kilometre long wall was built to try to keep the elephant and the buffalo inside the park and out of the farmers’ fields. Once inside, we ascended some 200m on narrow, often muddy forest trails.  Buffalo and elephant tracks and droppings were common, and we found one of the huge earthworms that the Virunga Mountains are known for.
We found the troop quietly feeding in the bamboo forest, and we immediately came upon their newest little addition to the troop: the 4 month old “Gahuza” (named at the Kwita Izina ceremony on Sept. 5th) meaning ‘bringing people together’).  He was sitting on his mother’s lap, face buried onto her chest and nursing!  We all sat as a small group of human primates, watching in amazement as the youngster finally finished and then began exploring his immediate surroundings.  Moving about on uncoordinated, shaky little limbs, the tiny black fuzzball grabbed small sticks, and then retreated back to mom.  Then he would start all over again.
A playful 3-year old (a naughty female toddler named Ubugena) finally couldn’t resist the crawling little “Gund” toy and came over, picked up the baby, and started to play with it as if it was a doll!  She rolled over and over, holding Gahuza tightly to her fuzzy body, until mom finally came over to reclaim her baby, disappearing into the bush.  It was all so incredibly magical.
We spent the rest of the “follow” mostly with the two silverbacks, Karevuro and Kigoma, and other members of the group.  We sat in amazement when the huge silverback grabbed a fully grown bamboo stalk, pulled it down and busted it in half with a resounding “crack”, showering us with brown, dry bamboo leaves.  He then proceeded to strip the leafy branches, pulling them through his teeth with much efficiency.
Ubugena was known for her sneaky walk-pasts to slap the human observers on the leg or arm, just to make contact and watch the reaction! She sidled up to Dee and touched her arm, then withdrew, and snuck back to have a look again, and suddenly reached up to touch her gold earring hoop….the tracker whispered to Dee to stand up, or the ring would have been pulled off in a split second! I caught the entire episode on video! She also slid her hand over my thigh as I sat on the forest floor.  Another little 18 month old gently touched the back of Paula’s hand with her tiny little black fingers, inspecting Paula’s light-coloured, hairless skin!
Finally, Dee was invited by one of the trackers to see the second silverback, Kigoma, right at the end of our allowed hour. He was feeding in the shade with his back to her. Obviously, it was hard to get a good photograph, so the tracker asked if she would like to see his face. He cut vegetation so that the silverback’s face was right in front of them! Then, seeing that an opening in the leaves was required, he chopped a bit more with his knife, and pulled at the very strip of leaves the animal was feeding on. Not surprisingly, a loud bark meaning “back off” erupted from Kigoma as he lunged forward to grab back his food! Yikes! He was only a meter from Dee!  No photos needed”.FullSizeRender-1 FullSizeRender IMG_5022-1
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Love the wildebeest images? Take a moment to listen to Brian’s latest podcast with CBC’s Homestretch.—kenya/


Blue wildebeest in dust

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Masai Mara, Kenya

Brian just reported in from the Masai Mara in Kenya with a short segment from his journal and some photos he and his wife just took: 
“We spent two hours waiting at one of the wildebeest river crossing locations, and were rewarded with a huge crossing of several thousand wildebeest.  They were jumping like lemmings off a 3 metre cliff, animal after animal.  The continual advancement of animals, the noise of their calling and the sound of their hooves hitting the soil upon exiting the water was intense.  We witnessed at least two wildebeest taken by crocodiles.  
Earlier we saw two lions sitting on top of a kopje near another crossing point, also waiting. We sat for several more hours after our bush breakfast, watching thousands more wildebeest amassing on both river banks. But the crocodiles also gathered, no doubt due to the splashing and noise of the earlier crossing, and no animals dared to enter the water.   
As the afternoon heat intensified, we departed and headed to a shady river-side lunch spot.  Just across from us on the other riverbank, two very big and seriously fat crocodiles lay, sunning.  One opened his mouth to keep cool.  The other head was so big it appeared prehistoric”.
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Lion Sightings at the Lewa Conservancy and the Masai Mara Reserve

Brian has just sent in some photos that he has taken over the past few days from both the Lewa Conservancy and the Masai Mara Reserve, where he is at the moment. He reports that the lion behaviour he has witnessed in both areas has been absolutely amazing, as these photos nicely demonstrate! And yes, that’s Dee (Brian’s wife) with her iPad on her lap and a somewhat curious onlooker in the background!
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Wildlife Watching at the Lewa Conservancy

Brian will be departing the Lewa Conservancy with his group tomorrow, heading to the Masai Mara Reserve in the Serengeti.  He and his group have had 4 fantastic days of wildlife watching, and these photos that he took are just a small sample of some of their sightings.FullSizeRender-1 FullSizeRender-3 FullSizeRender-4
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CBC Homestretch: Brian Keating on Soysambu Conservancy

Brian Keating joins the Homestretch via satellite phone from the Soysambu Conservancy in Kenya. 

Rothschild giraffe in Kenya

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