Vasily Grebennikov: East African Expeditions
Back to Vasily's main page

Mt. Elgon National Park; Mt. Kenya National Park; Kakamega Forest Nature Reserve; Aberdare National Park

West Usambara Mts.; East Usambara Mts.; Uluguru Mts.

East African Expeditions:

Photo: Collecting Microdipnus jeanneli All. on north-east slope of the Mt. Kenya, 2.750m. Ch. Alluaud (in center) and R. Jeannel (on right), February 1912 (from Jeannel, 1963).

I clearly remember the day when for the first time I understood that I want to go to East African mountains. It happened in mid-October 1992, in the library of the Zoological Institute in St. Petersburg. Then an undergraduate, I was reading Rene Jeannel's (1963) monograph on Anillina (Coleoptera: Carabidae: Trechitae: Tachyini); a group of carabid beetles which is totally absent from the former USSR. There is a picture in that book: Jeannel and Alluaud turning a large rock on the Mt. Kenya searching for annilines. Well, this was it and since then I started to plan the expedition.

Eight years later I went from Russia to South Africa on a postdoc with Clarke Scholtz on scarab larvae. The very moment I knew about this appointment, it also became clear to me that this is the chance to visit East African mountains as well.

During nearly three years as a postdoc in Pretoria I went twice to Europe and North America to work in Museums and to attend conferences. Each time I bought my tickets with Kenyan Airlines to go through Nairobi and each time I made a month-long stopover there. In Jomo Kenyata International Airport I would disembark the plane, spend a day or two in Nairobi visiting friends at the Interantional Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) and the National Museum and then take a bus to the town nearest to the mountains I was after. Both times I traveled alone and both expeditions went without any major troubles, not counting stepping on a snake in Tanzania or minor car-accidents very common on those roads.

First East African expedition lasted from October 23 till November 24, 2001 and I visited Mt. Elgon National Park (two weeks), Kakamega Forest nature Reserve (one week) and Mt. Kenya National Park (one week). The plan for the second East African expedition originated in Kakamega Forest, where I met a group of German biologists with a good Africa experience. They told me about so-called East Arc Mountains with apparently highest level of endemism in Africa. I decided to go there next year and this expedition took place from October 01 till November 04, 2002. I spent one week in each West Usambara Mts., East Usambara Mts., Uluguru Mts. (all of them belonging to the East Arc in Tanzania), and then came back to Kenya to see Aberdare National Park. Below I briefly outlined my experience of being there and hope it would stimulate others to go there, particularly on beetle collecting.


  • More on East Arc Mountains

  • Fresh News From Africa

    My paper Beetle collecting in Kenya published in Koleopterologische Rundschau (72: 205-208) also has information on the collecting permit application procedure for Kenya.

  • Original collecting permit

    Acknowledgments: I would like to express my deep gratitude to the following people in East Africa, whom I met during my expeditions and from whom I received much of helpful and friendly attention. They are Hans R. Herren, Susan W. Kimani-Njogu, Radek Brzezowski, Slawomir Lux and Laban MacOpiyo (all from ICIPE, Nairobi); Wanja Kinuthia, Mary Gikungu and Koen K. Maes (Department of Invertebrate Zoology, National Museum of Kenya), and Peter Leitoro (Warden, Mt. Elgon N.P.). Radek Brzezowski, Laban MacOpiyo and Rachel Ochola were my hosts while in Nairobi. Moreover, Vladimir I. Gusarov and Igor A. Belousov, my Russian colleagues, inspired me to undertake this trip and Vladimir provided me with essential field-guides for the country. The expeditions were supported financially by University of Pretoria (Pretoria, South Africa), Canadian Museum of Nature (Ottawa, Canada, grant coordinated by Robert S. Anderson), Ernst Mayr Travel Grant in Animal Systematics from the Museum of Comparatice Zoology (Boston, U.S.A.) and Field Museum on Natiral History Visiting Fellowship (Chicago, U.S.A.).

    Jeannel R. 1963: Monographie des "Anillini", bembidiines endogés. Mémoires du Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Série A (Zoologie) 28(2): 33-204.

    Back to Vasily's main page
    Last updated: January 01, 2003
    Copyright © 2002-03 Vasily V. Grebennikov