Malawi: Blackbeard, the giant elephant

Our expedition started with a late arrival at base, but despite this most of the team got up just after sunrise to take in the new surroundings and absorb the stunning view of a quintessentially African landscape from the platform.

Days 2 & 3 were filled with orientation, lectures and training sessions about safety, the equipment, elephants, primates, insects, big mammals and bats – all species we are going to collect data on. We learned about the history and research methodologies of the various projects we will be involved with over the next month. For the big mammals inventory research, we prepared 21 camera traps by going through a long list of settings. As I write this, a bat capture training session including data collection is taking place in the “backyard” of camp.

In the afternoon of day 2, we went for a game drive taking the road around the lake and found a huge group of elephants. We saw about 60-70 individuals some of which could be identified. Blackbeard, for example, who is a male bull towering over the whole rest of them. When he starts walking everyone gets out of his way. And a fluffy newborn that can’t be older than a few weeks. We were mesmerised by the majestic creatures and their interactions, took hundreds of pictures and left them only shortly before sunset.

After dinner, the bat survey will go on for a couple more hours (two catches already as I type). We’re trained up and prepared for the field work starting tomorrow morning at 06:00.

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