Saturday morning Kristina, Jo and Mike had one of the rarest sightings you could have in Africa – a pangolin. Although covered in scales and looking like a reptile, a pangolin is actually a mammal. It is mainly nocturnal and feeds on termites and ants.
Rare too over the last few days are our carnivores. But our box traps are surrounded by hyaena and leopard tracks, so we hope it is just a matter of time – fingers crossed!
Two days after we activated all the box traps and baited them with fresh meat, our juvenile friend, the hyaena, came by for a third visit to box trap 3. It seems he wanted to come for a fourth visit too last night, but unfortunately the box trap was already occupied by a porcupine (that we released early the next morning).
Yesterday evening we had a “mains power party” to celebrate the arrival of power to our research site (see below). Mike is already missing the sound of the generator and was confused by all the bird sounds he could suddenly hear outside his chalet. Malcolm had a “knock-out” experience at the waterhole as was knocked clean off his chair by Helen (by accident, she claims). Apparently the animals liked the shenanigans and came by in big numbers.
Lunch time we now spend sitting in the shade and taking siestas as the midday sun is hot.
After a week’s break, we’re back in full swing again with training sessions and now data collection. With the days getting longer, we have shifted breakfast to 06.30 and start activities soon after. While I am writing this, everyone is out in the bush, searching for our elephants, tracks & scats and activating the box traps. Let’s go get and and collar the adult female leopard who is roaming around in the North-East!
As usual, we spent the last day of the group with a re-org, cleaning cars & equipment and finishing off the data entry, followed by sundowner with a spectacular sunset (see pictures below). Thank you everybody for your great support. We collected important data and had fun whilst doing so….it’s been a great two weeks with you. Safe travels back and hopefully see you again soon. We now have a week’s break before group 6 starts on 21 October.
The sun now rises at 06:15, so on Tuesday we left camp at 06:00 for our vehicle game counts. When group 2 passed box trap 4, there was a young male hyaena in it, this time one we had caught three weeks earlier. This was the sixth hyaena capture within five slots. It seems there are at least four individuals roaming on the farm.
It gets pretty hot during the day now and we observed that even the elephants are now taking a siesta. Our “man power” group 1 volunteered to cut thorny bushes on Monday afternoon and Bob came back looking like he had been in a serious fight. Thanks for the effort!
Yesterday morning we changed the SD cards of most of our camera traps and in the afternoon Anja, Suse and Susanne will have the pleasure of looking through at least 3000 pictures.
The juvenile hyaena we have caught in a box trap twice already seems to like them. Last caught on Tuesday, she was in the box trap again Wednesday morning. We let her go and then decided to remove the trap from Bergposten.
Anja and the two Susannes found an emaciated kudu at one of our waterholes on Wednesday. By Thursday nature had taken its course and the kudu had turned into a carcass, already half eaten by predators. We decided to set up the box trap next to it (see below), but no action so far.
Stephanie, Eva, Michael and Julia were very lucky when surveying the waterhole on Thursday. A honey badger came along, but realised after a few seconds that human eyes were watching and disappeared. On their way back they also witnessed a Southern pale chanting goshawk catching a snake…another great sighting!
Bob had the job of cleaning a box trap yesterday; to make up for it we went out for a night drive after dinner 😉
Eleven people for group 5 have arrived. Poor Bob is the only native English speaker in the whole team amongst seven Germans, two French and a Swiss. But Bob is coping very well so far. I feel like we have made a trip back in time to group 3: the non-driving group (Catherine, Stephanie, Susanne & Eva ) went out Sunday afternoon and activated the box trap at Bergposten while everyone else was busy learning how to drive our Land Rovers.
Then on Tuesday, our first day with research activities after the training phase, the box trap group had to check Bergposten and found a hyaena in it. On our first day! Does this sound familiar, group 3? If it is, then wait until you hear that it was the same juvenile hyaena we caught and took blood samples of in your group. So we let her go straight away.
Also very lucky were the groups that were on elephant survey yesterday as both groups came across the white rhino family with their offspring. We don’t see them very often!
Another great piece of news was delivered by Christian (the landowner) who rang Kristina on Monday to tell her about two leopards (a female and a male) he observed for about ten minutes not far from his house in the morning. Guess where we set up the next box trap…
The last few days have been very busy. On Tuesday morning we checked the box traps on our vehicle game count and in box trap number 3 (where we caught our big male leopard) we found a small juvenile hyaena. We first thought that this might be the female we had caught at Bergposten three weeks ago, but when she turned out to be a he, we decided to get some blood samples and measurements on Saturday. He was sedated, weighed, measured and then placed back into the box trap and finally released when he was fully awake just before dinner.
We didn’t expect to find so many different hyaenas in this study area and this is very interesting additional data about the other predators on the farm, thanks to all of you being our constant eyes, ears and data collectors in the field. Yesterday was group four’s last day. We spent it cleaning up, entering data and having a few farewell drinks in the evening. Thanks to all of you for your help and your kind words. Safe travels back home. Roll in group five.
On Friday morning we had an early start to count prey animals just after sunset. Soon group 1 (Jesaja, Linda, Allyson and I) came across a very fresh leopard track close to where we caught our male two weeks ago. Then, just after we had finished our vehicle game count, Allyson and Linda spotted a freshly killed impala next to the road. We decided to set up a camera trap on the spot straight away. On our way back to camp after setting the trap, we found more fresh tracks: cheetah this time.
The new camera trap yielded great pictures straight away (see below) with two different leopards feeding on the carcass at different times. A female leopard was there first and a few hours later our recently collared leopard male “Omusamani” took over. It seems the kill is the perfect new spot for live trapping. As I write this one trap is already set up. The second one is being set up as I type by our research team, who decided to give up their free day. Thank you.