Tuesday we spent the morning setting up a new box trap. The whole team participated in the event – even Martina (pictured) our strict vegetarian who jumped right in and brought the bait meat. Vera was quite happy to get this box trap installed and activated because before the Biosphere team arrived it was too far for one person to drive each day to check the trap. A group split off with Vera in the afternoon and activated two more traps that were already set up.
Wednesday the teams spent learning telemetry to track the elephant herd, re-activating the fourth box trap, building a hide at one of the water holes, and walking in the bush looking for tracks and scats. As all three activity groups left base camp in convoy in the afternoon, we happened upon a rhino group who were polite enough to yield the roadway to us. They could not quite make out what three vehicles were doing on their turf, and resorted to a defensive posture, back-end together. We left them to carry on doing their rhino thing.
Kathy, Vera and I finished our preparations for this year’s expedition and base camp has come alive with the arrival of Team 1, and now it feels like home. Yesterday was full of introductions and briefings on the farm, our work here, and an introduction to life in Namibia. Afterwards we watched the sunset from the lapa and practiced our species identification as various groups of animals came to the water hole at desk.
Vera clearly enjoyed introducing us to the telemetry antenna and Kathy branding up the brand new Landcruisers as they arrived with a day or so to spare 😉
Thanks to Martin and Jane, our new camera traps have also arrived and Vera will brief us on how to use them later today.
Alisa, your expedition leader, here and I am writing to you from the ground in Namibia.
Kathy and I arrived yesterday and have joined Vera at base camp in Okambara. Last night we were treated to several wildebeests drinking from the water hole outside the lapa and later a jackal. This morning the giraffes joined us for our morning tea, all while we were busy preparing base camp for the expeditions and looking forward to your arrival.
A reminder that our meeting point is Casa Piccolo in Windhoek at 8:30. Team 1 will need to be there on Sunday, 4 August. Please arrive on time, and Casa Piccolo requests that you check in with reception when you arrive. What then happens is that Casa Piccolo staff will put you on a transfer bus that we hire from Omahuka Transfers. This bus will take you to our study site, a drive of about 2 hours. Vera, Kathy and I will then meet you in our 4x4s upon your arrival at Okambara’s Josephine Gate.
Mutiny already and we have not even started! We’ve received replies containing the s/h/v-words in open defiance of the ban. Smartphones will doubtless have to be confiscated. Do you know why they are called smartphones by the way? Well before the NSA (hello, by the way – we hope you are also enjoying reading this), there was a secret agency based somewhere in Washington with a secret agent called Smart who had a portable phone way before anyone else had….
And while you ponder this, we leave you with some girl power pictures so that you all know who to hand your phones into…
Not long to go now. With Vera already in Namibia, Kathy will join her from the UK via Germany next week and Alisa will from the US, also via Germany. Girl power indeed.
Meanwhile a male particpant is clearly struggling with the Buff that you will all receive when you get there (he won his in a competition).
And usually it’s only male cheetahs that get caught in a box trap repeatedly. Females, once trapped once, will by and large never be caught out again. Draw your own conclusions 😉
The weather in central Namibia is sunny with temperatures during the day in the twenties (Centigrade) and dropping to single figures at night. Getting up in the morning will feel decidedly cold – there is no culture of heating in Namibia anywhere, so bring warm clothes group 1. The good news is that as soon as the sun comes up over the horizon, you will quickly be able to shed those layers.
The girl power team will be in touch from Namibia once they have settled in and awoken the expedition gear from its Sleeping Beauty lull in a shed near the expedition base.
Alisa will send her mobile number for emergencies a few days before we start and update us all on final preparations.
We hope yours are going well too. We have attached the plan so far as well as some datasheets for you to swot up on – and dispel any last myths there may persist of anyone joining some kind of safari holiday 😉
Two weeks to go for trailblazing group 1…
P.S. In case you were wondering what the heck a Buff is, have a look at
It has been a while since I arrived at our Okambara study site in Namibia, so it’s time to give you an update on my work here. I have already seen lots of wildlife and let me tell you, it is hard to miss! There hasn’t been one day without seeing an animal but although I was very excited to see rhinos and giraffes for the first time on the farm.
I was still hoping for a leopard, as this is the species I will focus my main research on.
Finally, after a few weeks of waiting (not so) patiently, Fortuna had a female leopard go into a trap, which had actually been set up for capturing cheetahs on another farm! We (that is the people within our research group here in Namibia) took the opportunity to collar her, which will now give us the chance to monitor her movements in the following months. The picture was taken to help us identify her unique fur pattern in case she walks in front of a camera trap or gets captured elsewhere.
I also learned that the male leopard collared during the 2012 expedition is hanging around in the northern part of Okambara (see his GPS-positions).
In addition, tracks of a big leopard have also been found in the south as well. Not far from the farm house, we found a hole in the outer farm fence, which could serve as a gateway for all kinds of animals, including a leopard. I have set up a camera trap to find out who/what is using this (no longer) secret entrance to Okambara. My camera trap captured porcupines and warthogs but then…a leopard showed up also. As you can see on the picture, it is quite a big individual and if you look even more closely, you will notice that a part of the upper lip is missing, which may have been caused by territorial fights with other leopards. Box traps have now been set up in various places in order to capture and collar this leopard to find out more about its usage of the area.
I have just hit the ground running in Namibia, arriving a few days ago and learning the ropes with people here on our Okambara study site. My flight with SAA to Windhoek was great, but their broccoli and beans vegetarian meal takes some getting used to. But brocolli and beans was followed by a leopard and two cheetahs within a couple of days. The leopard needed some attention from a vet and my colleagues here captured and collared two cheetahs just in time for my arrival – what a welcome to Africa and incredible piece of luck!
Anyway, over the next three months, I will be sending you some irregular updates of my work here and the preparations for the expedition, starting in August. Watch this space and the links below.