All is well in the desert!
After assembly on Sunday, Monday saw the team being trained up on the use of research equipment, live and camera traps, datasheets, animal identification and oryx scoring (health status of individuals) as well as on GPS navigation… intensively ;).
Ben, Lizzy, Liz and Hildegard went on their 4×4 desert driving course, whilst everyone else prepared and set up the camera traps supervised with Greg, the expedition’s chief scientist. Three groups went out to set a total number of 12 live and 12 camera traps in the field, each within their assigned survey area for the week (North, Central and South). From Tuesday onwards, the teams have checked the live traps every morning but unfortunately no capture… yet.
After the trap checking, we go on desert survey walks up and down the sand dunes. Three quadrants of 2 x 2 km are surveyed per day per team. This may not sound much, but is actually hard work and we suffer for science here 😉 The South group (Bernhad, Hildegard and Liz) encountered gazelles and a few oryx and were lucky to spot an eagle owl. More oryx herds were found in the Northern parts of the reserve, with Lizzy and Sokolov assessing the health status of a lot of oryx individuals and also spotting a ringed Maqueens bustard. Alex, Irmtraut and Ben and I (Central group) did not spot a single oryx within our quadrant despite scouring the beautiful landscape for hours. We did, however, come across mountain and sand gazelles on our trek through the desert.
We’ve hit the groove and research routine now: breakfast at 6:00, followed by route planning and packing up, leaving base at 7:00 – just after sunrise. The early morning desert scenery is amazing, as is the sunset. It’s pitch dark by the time we have dinner at 19:00, so we all sit around the fireplace reviewing the day and chatting about each group’s adventures. And only a short while after having another great meal prepared by our chef Thaya, it suddenly gets really quiet at camp. I wonder why 😉
Update from our desert expedition / working holiday volunteering with oryx and wildcats in the United Arab Emirates (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/emirates)