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Field course goes live from Kenya

11 Awst 2008

School of Biosciences students on the tropical ecology field course were involved in a live broadcast from Kenya recently.

They were part of a live link-up between the Jamie Owen programme on BBC Radio Wales and the School’s Rhys Jones who was questioned about the variety of reptiles found in Kenya, including the Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) and how it can be enticed out of the water by clapping. Rhys demonstrated this technique to the field course students on the banks of the Galana river.

Rhys was one of the walimu (Swahili for teachers) on the course, which introduces second year students to the extraordinary diversity of tropical habitats found in Kenya. Organised by Dr John Young and Dr Peter Randerson, the School has run the course for the past 15 years.

The students got a much closer look at some of the diversity of Kenya’s snakes on a visit to Bio-Ken, a research centre on the coast at Watamu dealing with reptiles, especially snakes. The Centre specialises in extracting venom from snakes to produce effective anti-venoms for Kenya and other East African states. They were also able to see other reptiles including the hinged tortoise and the Nile monitor lizard.

The students got up close to a Kenyan rock python (Python natalensis) which kills its prey by wrapping itself around the prey and so suffocating it. Up to five metres long, it is the largest Kenyan snake and although it is not venomous, fatalities by constriction have been known.