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Study Raptors in Kenya

Kenya, Boise State students boating in Kenya with Dr. Marc Bechard.

Boise State students boating in Kenya with Dr. Marc Bechard. John Kelly photo

Boise State offers one of the most unique biology programs in the country.  Did you know that it’s one of the few places where you can get a masters in raptor biology?  And if you’re looking for a study abroad opportunity to pair with this uncommon field of study, and ready for adventure, look no more.

Raptor biology professor Marc Bechard teamed with Munir Virani, director of Africa programs for the Peregrine Fund, to take 11 Boise State students to Kenya’s Masai Mara National Wildlife Reserve as part of a 3-credit course titled East African Raptors. This is the fifth time Bechard has taught the class. “I feel that it is important for Boise State students to learn about global issues,” he said.

The course focuses on the ecology and movements of African raptors, including a vulture population that’s one of the most threatened on the planet. Populations of the birds have declined as much as 75 percent over the last two decades due to poisoning by local farmers and poachers.

This time, the course started with boat surveys of Lake Naivasha to study African fish eagles, one of the most prominent bird species in the area. Naivasha is one of the biggest lakes in Kenya. From Naivasha, the group moved about 150 miles southwest to Masai Mara National Reserve where students were able to observe birds, big game (including the Big Five: lions, leopards, cape buffalo, elephants and rhinos) and other wildlife.

Students each study and prepare a presentation on a specific raptor species and then have the opportunity to observe that particular species in the wild. “It’s fun when they see the bird they reported on. We all hear, “That’s my bird!” Bechard said.

They also had the opportunity to interact with residents of the local Maasai village. Students learned how to make a Maasai fire, how to build a Maasai house, and what it takes to become a warrior.

Read more about the Kenya project here.

Learn more about the masters in raptor biology here.

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