Everyone arrived safely two days ago at base camp located within the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. The convoy of four cars stopped at the DDCR’s brand-new office where Steven Bell, the expedition scientist, gave a presentation about the history of the reserve, study animals and conservation work before the convoy headed out into the desert. After setting up tents and lunch, the rest of Saturday was spent with talks, risk-assessment, training on research equipment, live- and camera traps, data sheets and expedition vehicles. More training on GPSs – a vital tool for all field work – was done the next morning as was the off-road driving training. So far so good.
The North (Sandra & Gary, Mary and Judith from the UK, Susanna & Lloyd from the US), Central (Margit and Sigrun from Germany) and South (Caroline and her two daughters Lea and Janna, U.A.E. residents and Tariq from Jordan) teams accompanied by Steve, David and I then went out to set all traps (10 camera, 12 live and 16 rodent traps). Designated areas stored in the GPSs must be found, as well as proper spots to place and bait the traps – a very busy day. The South group came across a lappet-faced vulture, the Central group found a small silver snake and everyone finally made it back to base in the late afternoon. Of course Arabian oryx and the smaller gazelles are all around, flitting through the dunes or majestically standing in the sand, reminiscent of Arabia as it once was or of Africa as it still is in some parts of the savannah wilderness. For the daily review we sat around the fireplace, had dinner straight after and went to bed early.
The weather has been very pleasant: sunny, 23 degrees C, with temperatures not dropping below 10 degrees at night. For dinner we are spoiled by a great variety of delicious food & salad plus dessert such as chocolate cake! 😉 Writing this I am at the DDCR office while everyone is out doing surveys. Soon I will be picked up to be taken back to base camp, away from any internet or phone connection. I’ll keep you updated.