|Hagerman Fossil Beds Establishes First Sister Park Relationship in Africa
Today, officials from the National Park Service and Kenya’s Wildlife Service and National Museums of Kenya signed a sister park agreement between Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument and Sibiloi National Park and the National Museums of Kenya to promote international cooperation and collaboration. This is the first time the National Park Service (NPS) has established a sister park agreement with an African nation.
The signing ceremony took place during the Smithsonian Museum’s annual Folklife Festival, which is highlighting the country of Kenya this year. National Park Service Deputy Director Christy Goldfuss and Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument Superintendent Judy Geniac joined Kenyan Ambassador Jean Kamau, Deputy Director for Strategy and Change, Mr. Edwin Wanyonyi from the Kenya Wildlife Service and Dr. Ahmed Yassinof the National Museums of Kenya for the signing ceremony. Scott Miller, Deputy Under Secretary for Collections and Interdisciplinary Support for the Smithsonian moderated the event.
“These two sites have significant fossils, history, and current-day resources,” Superintendent Geniac said. “Research in both locations is helping the world to understanding past climate fluctuations and species’ responses, something that may help us address the world’s future.”
“We are happy to be associated with U.S. National Park Service for this historic signing of the sister parks relationship between Sibiloi National and Hagerman,” Deputy Director Wanyonyi said. “The sister parks agreement we are signing today will go a long way in strengthening relationships between Kenya Wildlife Service and US National Parks Service and reaffirms our commitment to conserve the last great species and places for posterity.”
The five year agreement between the sister parks will increase information sharing and direct park-to-park contacts to address issues the parks share in common. Both parks are known for their important terrestrial paleontological localities and have produced fossils that represent a large diversity of species.
The agreement resulted from a Kenyan delegation’s visit to the 2013 Smithsonian Folk Life Festival. KWS wanted to observe and learn what was expected from focus countries. While in Washington, DC, KWS met with staff from the NPS Office of International Affairs to discuss possible collaborative ventures. Establishing a Sister Park was suggested as a simple way to get the two agencies working together. Following their visit, OIA was contacted by Hagerman Fossil Beds who expressed an interest in partnering with Sibiloi National Park. The parks will exchange technical and professional knowledge, collaborate, and share experiences. Shared information may include best practices and advancements in park management, customer service, conservation, data collection techniques, and tourism development. Initially, information exchanges will occur through the use of email, fax, and the Internet. With special arrangements, future staff exchanges may be possible.
Hagerman Fossil Beds, located in the Hagerman Valley of south central Idaho, is a site of one of the world’s richest fossil deposits. Assemblages date from the early to middle Pliocene epoch. It is best known for its preservation of several hundred individuals of Equus simplicidens, which is the earliest example of the modern horse genus. Over 60,000 specimens are housed in collection facilities on-site with additional specimens at museums across the United States and around the world. Fossil fauna include both modern-equivalent and extinct species and provide evidence of major migrations between North and South America and across the Bering Land Bridge into Eurasia and Africa. Hagerman’s fossils come from a largely continuous, undisturbed stratigraphic record that spans approximately 800, 000 years and provide data applicable for modeling present and future climatic and environmental change and ecosystem response at the local and global level. Fossils and local geology provide evidence for a variety of habitats at Hagerman during the Pliocene, including lacustrine and riparian wetlands, woodlands, and open grasslands. The Hagerman Valley today is an intermountain sagebrush steppe ecosystem that is home to many animals including mule deer, American pronghorn, coyote, rattlesnake, yellow-bellied marmot, and badger. This is an important birding area known for its winter residents of waterfowl and shorebirds as well as the bald eagle, cormorant, and pelican.
Sibiloi National Park is on the northeastern shore of Lake Turkana in Northern Kenya approximately 800 kilometers from the capital city of Nairobi. The fossiliferous Koobi Fora region contains sites of paleontological and paleoanthropological significance with over ten thousand fossils, including hominin fossils, recovered. These fossils, along with recovered stone tools and butchered fossil animal bones, have given researchers an enhanced understanding of human origins and hominid diversity as well as an insight into hominid behavior regarding tool technology and use. Sibiloi is best known for its specimens of the genus Homo, but specimens of the genus Australopithecus have also surfaced there. Sibiloi’s fossils also provide an opportunity to trace the evolution of numerous mammalian lineages back in time and to study the effects of climate change and human activity on local fauna. Today, Sibiloi provides a breeding habitat for many types of fish and its unique, diverse biodiversity includes such animals as the Grevy’s zebra, Beisa onyx, Grant’s gazelle, Topi, lion, hyena, and jackal. It also forms part of an important flyway for migratory birds. Most of the fossils at Sibiloi have been moved to the National Museum of Kenya, in Nairobi, for conservation and exhibition; the park has a prominent exhibit at its Koobfi Fora museum and the research base showcases the Origin of Man. Sibiloi is also known for its Petrified Forest which draws tourists from around the world.
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