We had a week’s break after the last group, and now Team 7 is on the ground at Okambara. The group has been trained in box trap operations, elephant surveys, waterhole counts, navigation around the farm, and now we’re focusing on perfecting the box trap setups so we catch one final leopard. While we’ve had a great run and collared three leopards already, we’ve seen plenty more uncollared ones on the camera traps…so we know our work is not yet done.
Yesterday our water hole team of Wayne, Barbara, Seema and Carole built a shade net structure at Gustavposten; one we hope to replicate and erect at the other water holes.
Yesterday’s morning elephant team of Morgan, Ann, Eva and Ritva had a very (non) exciting encounter with the “bad boy” elephant (the teenage male bull that sometimes causes trouble on the farm.) We encountered him tearing into and eating a shrub pretty close to the road, and evidently we weren’t very exciting companions for him because after lifting his trunk to sniff and check us out, he promptly went over to a bush and laid down! Then it was his turn to be (non) exciting, because we got to watch him snooze for a full hour and a half. Right on cue, seconds after we wrapped up the observation period, he leapt up, shook himself off, and sauntered further into the bush and out of sight. The first groups of volunteers will remember very different encounters with the elephants – at the beginning of the season they were very wary of us. Now, they are mostly non plussed, and just go about their business and ignore us. Good news, because that means we are now observing their natural behaviours.
The rhinos are getting more accustomed to us as well. In the last two days all teams have encountered the rhinos near Sandposten. The rhinos now care so little for us that they hardly move out of the roadway! They just stand and stare at us, and go back to eating. We’re now able to get so close to them that we can hear them breathing and chewing!