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Special Report East Africa

Explore Lake Nakuru, Kenya's Wildlife Oasis

by Malak Al Qurasihi, age 13

Lake Nakuru in Kenya is one of the world’s greatest wildlife spectacles. It is part of the Rift Valley lakes in East Africa, which vary significantly in saltiness and altitude. Despite its salty water, which limits aquatic and plant life diversity, Lake Nakuru is known for its remarkable wildlife, particularly its bird species.

The lake is famous for hosting over 100 bird species, including storks, spoonbills, and African fish eagles. These species rely on the lake as an essential feeding site during their nesting seasons. Due to the hypersaline environment, the lake sustained no fish species. However, in 1953, a salt-tolerant fish species of Tilapia was introduced to the lake. The species had to be reintroduced a couple of times since the lake went through a cycle of drying up and reflooding in the following years. The introduction of fish resulted in an increase in fish-eating bird species.

Along with birds, six species of phytoplankton have been recorded in this lake. The most common is the tiny blue-green alga called spirulina platensis. This alga occurs in vast numbers, turning the water a dark green and forming a slimy texture. This phytoplankton species is the foundation of Lake Nakuru’s food web. Five species of zooplankton, four species of water boatmen, midge larvae, and calanoid copepod from the rest of this lake's aquatic animal life. Together, the marine species in Lake Nakuru provide food for several dozen bird species – the most notable being flamingos. [Read More]

This Wild Cat Is Part of Africa’s History

by Abigail Gezae, age 11

There is a species of wild cat that lives in Africa called the serval. The serval is a type of cat with extremely long legs.

The serval is a medium-sized cat. The cat has a small head, large ears, and a golden-yellow coat that is spotted and striped with a short black-tipped tail. This big cat species lives in many regions of Africa across different countries. In ancient Egypt, people would keep them as pets. In Kenya, farmers will use serval cats to keep animals or rodents out of the field and barn.

Serves mostly hunt rodents. They are not picky eaters, like some other types of wild cats. Unlike other wild cats, Servals are not scavengers and scientists believe this is due to their successful hunting skills. [Read More]

The African Kingdom of Kush Lasted Almost 2,000 Years

by Anissa Attidekou, age 13

In Africa's vast and storied history, the Kingdom of Kush is a shining example of the continent’s rich and diverse civilizations. The kingdom was established in what is present-day Sudan. Kush thrived from 800 BCE to 300 AD for over a thousand years. The kingdom of Kush rose to become a formidable power in Northeast Africa, leaving an indelible mark on the region’s history.

The Kush developed a distinct culture that was influenced by Egypt and Rome. Two of its major cities are located in the White and Blue Nile. Pharaohs were drawn to the kingdom's resources and launched their military to capture them. The Kush people worshiped similar gods and practiced identical rituals such as mummification and pyramid-building. Egypt was eventually weakened by outside invaders and Kush became independent around 1,800 BC. [Read More]

Rare Black Leopard Discovered East Africa

by Allison Torres, age 14

Leopards are one of the most fascinating big cats from Africa. They are one of the strongest climbers and can kill prey even larger than themselves.It is very rare to see black leopards in desert areas of Africa. Scientists say only about 11% of leopards around the world are black. All leopards have spots, no matter what color they are. But, that is what makes black leopards special: their spots are hard to see.

It is more common to see black leopards in tropical areas of Asia and Africa, where several sightings have been reported. Recently, conservationists from the Institute for Conservation Research and specialists from the Loisaba Conservancy have confirmed the existence of black panthers (also known as black leopards) in East Africa. These animals were recently spotted due to a study in Laikipia County in Kenya. The scientist team used remote cameras to observe them. Africa has a few reported observations of these species. What makes this more interesting and highlights the uniqueness of the black panther, is that there has only been one confirmed sighting in over 100 years. [Read More]

Zebras and Their Unique Survival Strategies

by Bruno Torres, age 7

Zebras are fascinating creatures that look similar to horses, however, they are special as each zebra has its unique stripe pattern!

To remain safe, zebras live in family groups called herds. Baby zebras are called foals when they are born. These creatures are impressive, when a foal is 20 minutes old, it can start walking! An hour after birth, it learns the ability to run. [Read More]

The Great Lakes of Africa: Lakes Victoria and Tanganyika

by Sofia Zapata, age 13

There are many lakes in the world, but do people know the important things about some of the African continental lakes? Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika are lakes located in Africa and they are two of the largest and deepest in the world.

Lake Victoria, also called Victoria Nyanza, is the largest lake in Africa. Lake Victoria is 26,828 square miles (69,484 square km). This lake is located in Tanzania and Uganda, bordering Kenya. Lake Victoria serves as an important transport route for East African Nations as it is connected to the Nile River. The lake helps African people and the environment because it provides water for industrial and domestic use and regulates local climate. [Read More]

Explore the Mighty Congo River in the Heart of Africa

by Sol-Saray, age 10

Africa is home to many great rivers. One of them is known as the Congo. In Africa, the Congo is only slightly shorter than the Nile in length, and is just as important to the people who live along the river.

The Congo has been very efficient for the people of Africa when it comes to transporting goods like food, medicine, clothes, and other items to people living along the river. It is also used for fishing and irrigating crops like peanuts, cotton, and sugarcane.

In the river, there are over 30 waterfalls and many other islands. It is near the equator, meaning it can get very hot and wet. The river receives around 90 inches of rain annually. There are 200 species of fish that live on the river. Many animals eat the tall grass that grows along the river, including buffalo, antelopes, zebras, gazelles, and giraffes. [Read More]

The Nile: Egypt's Most Important River

by Sol Saray, age 10

Did you know that the Nile River is allegedly the longest river on Earth? Historically, the Nile River was considered the longest river in the world, however, Brazilian scientists recently discovered that the Amazon River is longer than the Nile by 284 kilometers.

The Nile River is not only important because of how long it is, it also has great involvement with human history. For example, the ancient civilization of Egypt built human cities near the Nile, mainly for agriculture purposes. The Egyptians would exhaust the river to grow crops and export items.

The White Nile and the Blue Nile are both tributaries of the Nile, meaning they are separate rivers that flow into a larger river. In respect to the Nile, when these two smaller rivers coincide, they form a confluence, which is the Nile. The White Nile is home to Lake Victoria in Eastern Africa. [Read More]

The Nile Monitor is Africas's Largest Lizard

by Ermiyas Abiy, age 8

The Nile monitor is one of the strongest and most formidable predators of the lizard species. These creatures are the largest lizards in Africa, reaching up to six feet long!

This creature features knife-like claws used for climbing, digging, and capturing prey. The head of a Nile monitor is shaped like a triangle and built with thick bones. It also has a lower jaw with a powerful bite, preying on birds, and small mammals. The feet of a monitor are for gripping which lets them climb on their prey’s back, break them, and then eat them.

These animals mostly bury their eggs somewhere warm near sandy river banks. [Read More]

The Endangered Wild Dogs of East Africa

by Chelsea Zheng, age 11

East African wild dogs are one of the most muscular African canids. They are recognized by their dark coat, yellow patches, and large ears.

They are found in the African countries of Tanzania and Mozambique. The wild dog's shoulder height reaches about 24 to 30 inches. Its head and body length reaches 71 to 28 to 44 inches. Female African wild dogs weigh 45 to 55 pounds, which is 3-7% smaller than males, which can weigh up to 80 pounds. African wild dogs are lean, tall, and one of the largest canid species, falling behind the grey wolf. However, they are among one of the most endangered mammals in the world.

African wild dogs mostly live in Savannah and dry lands. They also stay away from forested areas as they need large open spaces to see and chase down their prey. They hunt during daylight in packs that consist of 27 adults and yearling pups. The wild dogs are also known to hunt medium sized antelopes. African wild dogs stalk their prey, then approach it silently to then chase it up to 41 miles per hour. [Read More]

Muons Reveal Hidden Void in Egypt's Great Pyramid

by Alejandro Berrueta, age 11

A nebulous void has been discovered in Egypt's Great Pyramid of Giza with the help of muons. This void was first discovered in 2016 by scientists on the pyramid’s north face. The muons’ measurement helped identify the size and shape of this void.

Muons are subatomic particles created by high-energy particles from space. These particles are also known as cosmic rays; they fall into Earth's atmosphere and create high-energy muons. Some are absorbed when they fall onto structures.

Scientists from the ScanPyramids team reported to Nature Communications that the void was nine meters long, two meters wide, and two meters tall. In addition to ultrasonic testing and ground penetrating radar, the scientists were able to get detailed pictures regarding the void. They discovered a vaulted ceiling that had not been seen in over 4,500 years. [Read More]

African Dwarf Crocodile Is the World’s Smallest

by Dakota Wilson, age 12

All crocodiles are big and scary, right? Not this one, the African dwarf crocodile is just five feet long, making it the smallest crocodile species.

Osteolaemus Tetraspis or the African dwarf crocodile has many names such as the Black crocodile, the broad-nosed crocodile, and the Dwarf crocodile. These crocodiles are covered by black bony plates that form coarse armor on their skin. They also have yellow underskins and blunt short muzzles. The hatchlings are identified by light brown stripes on their tail and body and yellowish markings on their head.

Dwarf crocodiles are carnivores and solitary hunters. They mainly hunt during the night, preying on small animals such as crabs, insects, snakes, and lizards. Black crocodiles are cold-blooded; they constantly have to maintain their body temperature. To stay cool in the heat, the crocodile will lay in the water and ambush any prey that stumbles on its path. In the cold, they usually tend to sunbathe. [Read More]

The Dead Sea's Lifelessness, Ancient Wealth, and Healing Wonders

by Kevin Chen, age 15

Though the Dead Sea sounds like a scary place, the same reasons this body of water can not support plant or animal life made it a valuable resource in the ancient world. Back in the Roman era (476 C.E.), salt was considered highly valuable, so much so that Roman soldiers would be paid in salt, instead of money. The Latin word “salary” came from the word “salt”.

The Dead Sea, actually a lake, has had different names throughout history such as the Salt Sea and the Sea of the Plain. It is one of the four saltiest bodies of water in the whole world, containing up to 10 times as many minerals and salts as most oceans. Due to its high salinity, there are not any plants or animals that inhabit the Dead Sea. This excessive amount of salt and mineral concentration is because of the warm climate which causes water to evaporate. This drastically reduces the water-to-salt ratio in the lake. The lake is so salty that people can float on it.

The Dead Sea has also been known to have healing powers. The salt and minerals in the lake can be beneficial for skin diseases. The oxygen rate is 5% higher than most places on Earth, which can also help those with asthma and arthritis. The black mud found around the Dead Sea was once used as soap in ancient Greece because it could penetrate pores and nourish the skin. Now, multiple hotels around the Dead Sea provide an opportunity to try the benefits of the world’s first health resort. [Read More]

Earth’s Smallest Fox Species Lives Deep in the Sahara Desert

by Dilma Attidekou, age 8

The fennec fox is an efficient animal that survives in the depths of the Sahara Desert. Although small, this creature can eat a lot and is known as the smallest canid species.

The fennec fox is a nocturnal animal that does much of its hunting during nighttime. Its diet consists of insects, birds, small rodents, and even smaller mammals. Despite its cute features to humans, it is scary to its prey. The fennec fox has sensitive hearing that allows it to hear prey crawling underground. [Read More]

The African Bongo: Big Horns? Low Branches? No Problem!

by Oliver Zink, age 12

The bongo is Africa's most colorful antelope. They can weigh up to 892 pounds and have spiral shaped horns which can grow up to 39 inches long. The bongos’ big ears help with hearing the slightest noise from predators.

Bongos have patterns in their coats which makes it easier to spot each other in shaded areas. This patterns is also broken up across the bongo’s coat, making it especially helpful for camouflage. [Read More]

Rare Zebra Species Struggles to Survive Drought

by Allison Torres, age 14

In September 2022, Kenya experienced one of its worst droughts in the last four decades. This was a direct result of climate change.

The drought has especially impacted the East African country’s wildlife, affecting even the most drought-resistant animals, such as the camel, which is known to survive relatively long periods of time without water. Suze van Meegen, an emergency response manager for the Norwegian refugee council in East Africa told CNN, “Camels are a valuable resource for many people in this region.”

Kenya has lost two percent of the world’s rarest zebra species as well as many elephants. The drought has also jeopardized the country’s wildlife food sources by drying up plant life which has drawn the attention of conservationists. [Read More]

Scientists Find More Trees in Africa than Previously Thought

by Kelly Vazquez, age 17

In the past, a large area of the Sahara Desert in West Africa was recorded as having almost no trees. A team of scientists from all over the globe decided to count the trees again – this time using new technology, but not expecting a big difference.

The new technology – a combination of Artificial Intelligence (AI), satellite images, and one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers – surprised researchers. They discovered a significantly greater number of trees exist in the Sahara Desert than previously thought.

Martin Brandt, an assistant professor of geography at the University of Copenhagen, says that the 10% of the Sahara that was observed, "...had quite a few hundred million more,” instead of the substantially fewer they expected. [Read More]

Remarkable Ancient Texts Preserved in Remote Libraries Deep in the Sahara Desert

by Zainab Yahiaoui, age 14

An ancient and remote village in the middle of the Sahara Desert is home to many sacred texts from libraries that were built more than 1,000 years ago. Now the world’s greatest desert threatens to engulf the history and the libraries of this remarkable place.

The village of Chinguetti was a stopping off point for pilgrims on their way to Mecca. These travelers would stop in Chinguetti to study religion, astronomy, mathematics, and law. All these topics were included in the texts and kept in the libraries at Chinguetti. People could read and study at the libraries as part of their pilgrimage to Mecca.

Until the 1950’s there were still about 30 family-owned libraries open to tourists and travelers. Today, that number has dwindled to only five as tourists lost interest and the desert closed in. And the sand and dry air of the Sahara is taking a toll on the ancient texts. [Read More]

Learn the Difference Between a Cheetah and a Leopard

by Max Moreno, age 9

People may easily mistake a cheetah for a leopard. However, there are many differences to look for that can help you tell these two species apart.

Did you know that cheetahs prefer to hunt in the day, whereas leopards prefer to hunt at night? A leopard at regular speed can run 37 miles per hour and up to 40 miles per hour when in danger or hunting. Leopards are known to be the shortest of all big cats, however they can be seen and described as bulky. They are also known to be good swimmers and climbers. The leopard is more aggressive than a meek cheetah and although leopards are smaller, they are stronger.

Another obvious difference between the cheetah and the leopard is that a leopard has rose-shaped spots on its fur and the cheetah has almost perfectly round spots. Cheetahs mostly hunt gazelles in their home of South Africa. They are the fastest running animals when hunting, making their speed 75 miles per hour, which is 35 miles per hour faster than the leopard’s fastest speed! [Read More]

A Land and a Culture: Why I Love Eritrea

by Hanna Eyobed, age 15

If it is true, that home is where the heart is, then Eritrea is my rightful home. Eritrea is located on the Horn of Africa, along the Red Sea, and it neighbors Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Sudan. Eritrea became a sovereign country only in 1993, after a 30-year war for independence.

When referring to incredible places, many people tend to speak of big bustling cities or spectacular landscapes. I think of the interconnected community, the unseen martyrs who fought for our independence and the beautiful traditions and sacred entities that inhabit the country. Both my parents, Asmeret and Eyobed, are from Asmara, the capital and largest city in Eritrea. So, my family’s link to our home country is strong.

When it comes to national customs, Eritrean people are known for their gratitude and care of tradition. Even with simple things, such as eating, unity is a prominent character trait. When eating, Eritreans share a big plate and incorporate different dishes into a meal that is widely known as Injera. Conversations like marriage, religion, social issues, family, and everyday lives are shared. [Read More]

Why You Should Stay Away From Nile Crocodiles

by Chelsea Zheng, age 10

Have you ever heard of the Nile crocodile? It is a big and dangerous creature, and hundreds of people are killed by it annually.

The Nile crocodile is an apex predator, which is defined as the top predator of any given region or ecosystem. These predators generally do not fear other predators; they are also particular about their prey, which primarily consists of birds, fish, mammals, and reptiles alike. When hunting for prey, the Nile crocodile always awaits the perfect opportunity to strike, which can take hours, days, and sometimes weeks at a time.

The Nile crocodile waits in freshwater bodies, such as lakes and rivers, for potential prey. In the water, the reptilian creature remains still, waiting for their target to come near. Luckily, they are able to successfully hold their breath for up to two hours. [Read More]

Why You Should Visit Madagascar — by Shalmat Shalom, age 14

The country of Madagascar is 1,609 km (1,000 miles) long. Even after separating from Africa about 165 million years ago, the animals and plants inhabiting the country never stopped evolving. There have been special plants and animals that now only grow on the island. [Read More]

The Royal Tombs Inside the Valley of the Kings — by Jacob Dunn, age 13

The Valley of the Kings is one of the most important parts of Egyptian history. This ancient place holds almost all the pharaohs of ancient Egypt. This burial site contains the bodies of pharaohs dating back to the 18th,19th, and 20th dynasties (1539 BCE to 1075 BCE). [Read More]

Not Really a Big Cat, the Caracal Is a Hunter that Lives in Asia and Africa — by Sol-Saray, age 10

A desert lynx, also known as caracal, is a wild cat native from Africa, Asia, and parts of India. They can be found in woodlands, grasslands, savannahs, and forest. [Read More]

Horus: God of the Sky and Egyptian Avenger — by Anissa Attidekou, age 12

Horus, the infamous God, was one of the first of five gods in Egyptian Mythology. Horus was worshiped everywhere in Egypt as the God of the sky. In Egyptian mythology, Horus always appeared handsome with a falcon head. Sometimes he even appeared as a falcon-headed crocodile. [Read More]

Exploring the Largest Lake in Africa: Lake Victoria — by Juan Esteban Palma Zuluaga, age 10

Africa is known for its many beautiful landscapes, animals, and lakes, one being Lake Victoria. Lake Victoria is known to be the biggest tropical lake on Earth, and is the second largest freshwater lake on Earth by land area, following only Lake Superior. [Read More]