Reflections on Kenya & Uganda: God Created the Beasts of the Field and the Birds of the Air

August 21, 2013

A trip to Kenya means “safari,” an overland journey to view wildlife in its natural habitat. We had several opportunities to do this, and what a geography lesson it provided! After our brief stay in Nairobi to adjust to Africa time, we made the half-day drive to the great Maasai-Mara National Reserve. This huge park, which straddles the border with Tanzania, is home to the largest concentration of animals in all of Kenya. We were there during the great wildebeest migration, an annual event that temporarily changes the focus of the entire reserve.  Wildebeest herdAn African legend describes the wildebeest, somewhat ugly and unusual in appearance, as the animal God fashioned with spare parts after creating every other creature. Alternatively, some have jokingly attributed the wildebeest to the product of a Presbyterian committee. However you feel about this species, the migration itself is a wonder to behold.

We saw everything in this park over the course of two full days of game drives: Giraffe, lion, leopard, cheetah, hippo, crocodile, wildebeest, warthog, impala, topi, gazelle, hartebeest, zebra, African buffalo, eland, mongoose, and elephant. Some tour operators save Maasai-Mara for last because its vistas and range of species are unmatched. But we counted it a blessing to see everything in profusion right at the start, and built on our knowledge as we saw different versions of the same animal elsewhere. Our last big excursion took us northward to Samburu National Reserve, where the lion, giraffe, and zebra are distinctly different and new species like the gerenuk appear.

And did I mention the birds? Vulturine Guinea Fowl.croppedWe viewed and identified 116 different species of birds, but this, my friends, is only a drop in the bucket, merely 10% of the total number of avian species found in the country. This fact alone humbles us, amazes us, and reminds us again how great and imaginative God is. Really, natural selection simply does not explain why all these different birds exist. It might explain sustainability within a species, but when two species differ only by the color of their wingtips or a spot on the throat, the question “why?” simply cannot be answered. I think God had a lot of fun experimenting at Creation. He delighted in design, loved color, relished invention, and expressed a generous sense of humor.

You can’t imagine our delight at finding a pair of ostriches (male and female) on the Mara plain. We were caught completely by surprise as we saw the male prancing toward us. What was this about? Click on this picture to see what happened:

Yes, a highlight of our safari for sure. Sorry for the abrupt cut-off as Andy’s camera battery died; but I guarantee you, nothing happened after that point. The lady just kept walking by. All that effort, to no avail.DSCF0408

Much of our game viewing was noiseless. We enjoyed the silence of vast expanses and very quiet large animals. When we heard a noise, it was significant. One day an impala buck, standing alone and alert, emitted an indescribable sound: a sotto voce warning, clearly intended for females hidden in close proximity. Andrew, our driver, took that as an indication of predators nearby. Sure enough, a pair of leopards was ambling away. We followed them for half an hour and watched in wonder as they hunted for their next meal.

We retreated into nature’s arms and felt the blessing of God’s creation and the obligation of stewardship daily. We felt this responsibility while waiting quietly for a trio of giraffes to amble toward our van to check us out. We felt this while waiting for an army of helmeted guinea fowl to cross our path. We felt this while walking through the fertile fields of corn and kale farmers in the breezy silence of rural villages. We felt this burden while outraged at signs of poaching and counting the seven remaining northern rhinos in the world.

When God created the earth and all that is in it, the only creature he entrusted with stewardship of the whole thing was the human being (Genesis 1-2). No other species is capable of keeping the big ecological picture in mind and in balance. No other creature has the capacity to appreciate the diversity and interconnectedness of nature. And yet, due to sin (the seven deadly sins cover the territory), humans are, for instance, the rhino’s only predator and have managed to come close to causing their extinction. Ecology, conservation, and wildlife management are very much at the center of basic human responsibility, and people of faith should appreciate this more than anyone!

We have often said, “We know we have seen a country when we see its birds and when we get our feet dirty.” We saw the birds, and the profusion of animals. Tomorrow, I will tell you how we got our feet dirty.

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One Response to “Reflections on Kenya & Uganda: God Created the Beasts of the Field and the Birds of the Air”

  1. presbyrista Says:

    These are lovely articles – you are capturing the essence of nature!

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