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Nasalot and South Turkana National Reserve: Orwa
West of the lush agricultural farmlands of Kitale, a tarred road drops down through the Marich Pass and the missionary station of Ortum heading towards Lodwar in the harsh lava deserts of Lake Turkana of the arid North and eventually Lake Turkana. Beside this flows the Turkwell river fed from Mount Elgon, the well watered highlands, and the Cherangani hills. It passes through a narrow gorge which, in recent times, has been dammed to provide hydro-electric power. East of the resulting manmade Turkwell Gorge Dam, lie two National Reserves, which, for all intents and purposes, are one unit, divided only by the A1 road that leads north to Lodwar and beyond. These two reserves are Nasalot National Reserve and South Turkana National Reserve. Neither Reserve is well endowed with wildlife since the tribes that inhabit this area, namely the Pokot and Turkana live life on the edge under extremely harsh conditions, and exist on whatever they can find.
The birth place of our orphan Orwa is South Turkana National Reserve, which is situated in a rugged and beautiful extensive land and characterized by riverine forests and dense thorn bushes. The total area covered by the reserve is 1,100 km2 (11,000 hectares) and the reserve is under the management of the Kenya Wildlife Service. The Reserve includes the Masol Hills, Laiteruk and Kailongoi, and some interesting landforms between and around them. Much of the South Turkana National Reserve is dense thornbush, which is a fine refuge for birds and animals, but the reserve also hosts some permanent rivers and salty springs, woodland fringes and game viewing. South Turkana National Reserve also has not only abundant birdlife but it also hosts crocodiles in the rivers. Most of this wildlife is dominant in Kerio River banks.
Nasalot is a small 92 km2, (9,200 hectare), reserve located in the hills to the south of the Lower Turkwel Dam. The Reserve is located in the district of Pokot, but is administered by the KWS as part of the far larger South Turkana National Reserve. Nasalot National Reserve protects an important flood-plain and river valley eco-system that supports indigenous forests that are dominated by Acacia, Balanites, Commiphora and Ficus. Furthermore, the reserve borders on a section of the Turkwel lakeside, helping to protect the slopes from human encroachment and erosion. The reserve mostly comprises of plains that are broken up by the intriguing Sekess Hills, which are part of the Cherangani ridges. To the northern part of the reserve is a section of River Turkwel while to the Eastern side is the River Wei Wei. Nasalot National Reserve is dominated by a rugged mountain that goes by a similar name and the reserve offers some fine views of Turkwel Gorge and its lakes and the prominent, rocky Nasalot Hill.
Unlike other groups in the region surrounding the South Turkana and Nasalot National Reserve, the local Turkana people kill wild animals for food. This means that currently a limited number of wild animals are found in the reserves. That anything still manages to survive there is a miracle especially since illegal firearms have flooded into the area and have became so easily procurable that every Pokot or Turkana tribesman carries an AK 47, and uses it liberally during cattle rustling raids and tribal conflict. This has always been a way of life in this remote region where the long arm of the law does not reach. Since the arrival of migrant Chinese workers, who deal in illegal ivory, elephant poaching has become an additional threat to the few surviving elephants of the region. However, some wildlife is recorded in the South Turkana and Nasalot National Reserves, including Crocodile, Buffalo, Fringe-Eared Oryx, Eland, Giraffe, Bushbuck, Impala, Thompsonís Gazelle, Greater Kudu, Kirkís Dik-Dik, Waterbuck, Spotted Hyena, Lion, and Jackal. The reserves still harbours a dwindling population of elephants, which are also known to migrate between the reserves and the Kerio Valley.