February 4, 2010 – A leopard is one of the most elusive cats in the wildlife business. Even when the tourists are out of session, it prefers to carry its meals up some huge tree, so that no animal casts an evil eye on it.
So naturally, it is the last thing one would expect to see ‘quite clearly’ at an Impala Sanctuary in Kisumu. They neither look alike nor are from the same lineage, but this leopard, branded “Akinyi”, lives at the Kisumu Impala Sanctuary.
Her job is not to maintain the Impala population by hunting them at night. In fact apart from snarl at on-lookers and climb up the tree growing in her very secure steel pen, she does not do much else.
The reason Akinyi is stuck in the pen is because she is a trouble animal reined in about three years ago from the Maseno area, after going around killing farmers’ cattle.
When they found her, she was taken to the sanctuary, and will go down in history as the animal that helped a lot of children in Kisumu understand how she lives, and what she does in the African jungle.
Akinyi eats 4kg of beef at 3pm every Tuesday to Sunday. On Monday, she fasts and thinks of how hungry she would be in that African jungle – which had maybe led her to the cows.
Anyway, that’s what the warden in charge says, not in so many words…; “we don’t want to overfeed them. So on Monday, none of the carnivores are given any food. Cause even in the wild, they don’t get lucky everyday.”
Just about 20 metres from Akinyi’s pen is a smaller holding, which houses Kiptoo. Unlike Akinyi, Kiptoo is a hermaphrodite, as are all the other hyenas in the world. (Fact).
He doesn’t laugh when he sees us. But his mouth is open; he is panting and salivating at the same time because his food is about 15 minutes late.
“Kiptoo was also a trouble animal. But now he is here and we educate children using him as an example,” says Akinyi (Nancy), the warden-in-charge at the sanctuary.
The sanctuary, KIS, is home to a number of such heavy duty animals, to compliment the Impalas that walk freely around the park as if they were dogs – alongside visitors. At night you can also get the occasional hippo in the sanctuary, taking a break from the colourful waters of Lake Victoria.
The cheetahs, Alice and Festus, are three years old. They were found abandoned somewhere in the Shaba and taken in by KIS. They are almost completely tame and each has either a whole chicken or a rabbit for lunch. Apparently they prefer rabbit (their loss).
“The rabbit skin is also good for them because it acts like roughage. Only one a day is enough for them.”
The cheetahs are so tame we were allowed to stroke them and take some amazing Facebook photos. But when it came to the two lionesses and one lion – which take rip up 10kg and 12kg of beef respectively, every day, it would have taken a bit of convincing to get in there. Not like it was on offer, and we didn’t mind watching from the outside.
The Kisumu Impala Sanctuary is good for a walk, jog or chow on one of its several picnic spots. Take your pick. To up the ante, you can race your friends to the sanctuary. One can use a car, the other a plane and another can come by boat!