Tuesday our elephant study team had their telemetry skills tested by the elusive elephants. John’s joke of the day was, “how can we ‘lose’ a herd of elephants?” The elephants themselves had not gone missing, but rather we could not follow them into the deep savannah off the vehicle track. We’d located them via telemetry, but could not see them. It was frustrating to know where they were, but not spot them and therefore collect our data.
Tuesday night the team decided to go out for a drive around Okambara at dusk to see what wildlife is around at that time of day. The group that took the western loop was able to watch the night-time ablutions of a male rhinoceros, who took it upon himself to give us a very thorough inspection before moving off into the bush. One the way home the group saw two more enigmatic species, the aardvark (sorry you missed that Joe) and a spring hare. Both were very short encounters, but thrilled the team nonetheless.
Wednesday before dinner Jörg Melzheimer, a very experienced scientist who also works on Okambara, came and gave us a presentation on the ecology of the savannah and the fundamentals of the human-wildlife conflict here in Southern Africa.
After dinner we inspected the camera trap photos that we had collected earlier in the day, and were delighted to see our efforts rewarded.After watching hundreds of cows walk by, we were delighted to see two individual leopards on the camera – two more identification photos to add to her catalog. In addition to the leopards, we also caught a cheetah on a different camera, making Vera extremely grateful to the “Friends of Biosphere Expeditions” who supplied the three new camera traps for her use.
Also caught on camera was an oryx which, after making four attempts to do so finally cleared the small hole in the bottom of the fence, only to turn around and go right back through the way he came. Next up was the porcupine that provided us innumerable extremely close-up pictures of his quills. We went off to bed early for the next days’ research.
Thursday morning was our second vehicle game count, and our intrepid teams left at 06:00 to make it to the beginning of their transects at various points on Okambara. Afterwards the teams checked all the box traps (sadly empty) and came back to base for lunch. After lunch everyone pitched in cleaning up the vehicles and equipment, as well as entering data into the computer for Vera’s analyses.
This morning we delivered Team 1 to the gate and said our goodbyes. Thank you Team 1 for a great two weeks and for all the data you collected. You’ve set a nice example of teamwork for the groups that follow. Your legacy is the field work, and thanks to you we were able to identify 3 cheetah, 5 hyaena and 17 leopard tracks. Without Team 1’s surveying efforts, we would not have found the leopards tracks and the hole in the fence that led to your installing a camera trap in that location. And Vera says thanks for the two “snacks”.
A PS for following teams from Team 1: another reminder to bring warm clothes (even a windbreaker) as it is quite cold on the early morning vehicle game counts. Also bring a large refillable water bottle (or bladder) as it is quite dry here in the savannah and we all need to stay hydrated. And last, to all my fellow Americans, when Biosphere Expeditions says in the dossier to bring a lunch box, what they really mean is a re-usable plastic box to put your sandwich in, like Tupperware, and NOT a lunch box like you brought to grade school. Ask me how I know this when you get here 😉
And a PPS: if you refer to your pants as pants and not “trousers”, be prepared for the giggles from the Brits. Every time. Ask me how I know this when you get here 😉
Update from our working holiday volunteering with leopards, elephants and cheetahs in Namibia, Africa