Update from our working holiday volunteering with leopards, elephants and cheetahs in Namibia, Africa (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/namibia)

Four box traps are in place. Everyone worked hard to build leopard-proof kraals around the trap entries by cutting and arranging thorny Acacia branches. The ground was then flattened and the bait hung up in a tree. Leopard-woman Kristina co-ordinated the workers from above (see picture). For the leopard the only way to get to the ‘lekker’ meat is to walk into the trap (‘lekker’ means tasty, good, nice – my favourite Afrikaans word!).

Leopard woman Kristina
Leopard woman Kristina

Kirsty, Philipp & Giles were the first to check the traps this morning. They reported fresh leopard tracks around one of them – very good news! If the leopard doesn’t eat today, he might be hungry enough to walk into the trap later..

Cate, Sanya & Brian also reported fresh leopard tracks on one out of seven walking routes they were on yesterday. Led by Jesaja, one of two local trackers here to share their knowledge with us, they bravely walked 9 km and finished the survey only when it was dark.

Leopard calls were heard at base early in the morning today – they are all around, we only have to catch the buggers if we can ;).

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Update from our working holiday volunteering with leopards, elephants and cheetahs in Namibia, Africa (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/namibia)

The pictures below show survey teams (1) trying to get the elephant herd telemetry signal before leaving base so that they know where to drive to ;), (2) finding the elephant herd and observing its behaviour and (3) filling in the  datasheet (what do they feed on?). This is one of the questions we want to answer with your help this year as surprisingly little is known about the feeding ecology of these magnificent animals.

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Update from our working holiday volunteering with leopards, elephants and cheetahs in Namibia, Africa (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/namibia)

Our trailblazing group 1 has survived introductions, training sessions and a 4×4 driving course and is now out in the field to set up the first box trap. In the last couple of days we learnt a lot about Namibia, the ecosystem we are working in, our study animals and their prey, research methods and safety procedures in the bush.

We also had our first elephant sighting yesterday afternoon – three mothers and six juveniles showed up for us at ‘Frankposten’ waterhole. They were busy drinking, playing and taking a dirt bath when we came across them just as it was getting dark. It was a thrilling experience and unsurprisingly everyone is keen to go out for more.

Elephant
Elephant

I am happy to report that group 1 did not have to join in the dirt bath shenanigans, albeit a minor teething problems incidents at our brand new field base (a broken water pump) has split the group into hot shower wimps and cold shower hardcore expeditioners. The wimps, however, showed great esprit de corps by letting the hardcore contingent use their showers…

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Update from our working holiday volunteering with leopards, elephants and cheetahs in Namibia, Africa (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/namibia)

This is a quick hello from Kristina, our helpers and I. We spent the last couple of days (and nights!) with preparing paperwork and and getting set up with the work you will be doing. Group 1 will be the first team ever to survey the herd of nine (wild!) elephants in the study site. And wild they are indeed, and agressive they can be, so this will literally be no Etosha / Krueger cushy drive in the park where you will know where the pretty tame and vehicle-habituated animals are by spotting all the safari vehicles around them! More on the dangers and how to avoid them when you get here.

Elephants
Elephants

We’re about to move into camp – believe it or not, construction work is still going on all around camp with a small army of workers swarming around in a good termite mound impression. But the houses look good and habitable (sort of). You’ll be glad to know that the furniture has turned up and also the mattrasses. We also think that the bathrooms will be connected soon to the water line, otherwise it’s dust baths for group 1 to get into the spirit of elephant surveys. And we all know that no true expedition is ever complete without getting really dusty. As to the bar, you’ll have to find out when you get here.

These minor comfort issues aside, we are as excited as you hopefully are and we are looking forward to meeting trailblazing group 1 tomorrow morning at Casa Piccolo.

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Update from our working holiday volunteering with leopards, elephants and cheetahs in Namibia, Africa (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/namibia)

It’s great to be back in Namibia! Kristina and I went out for a drive around the study site yesterday. We found a baboon caught in a cheetah trap…

Construction work is still going on at base camp. The huts are being painted and the furniture will be delivered soon (we hope) while Kristina and I have taken two more Land Rovers to Windhoek to be fitted with new tyres and batteries. It’s all the usual last-minute African mayhem, which for us Krauts is hard to deal with 😉

Trailblazers in group 1, please be prepared for teething problems at camp and everything else you can imagine. Here’s the first thing we’re throwing at you: there will be limited electricity at base camp for the first couple of days (or weeks). We are still waiting to be connected to the main electricity line and while we wait, a generator will be used to feed our power-hungry equipment, so don’t bother bringing your hair dryers 😉 And by the way, plugs at base are type D (see http://users.telenet.be/worldstandards/electricity.htm for more details), so bring an adaptor.

The days are sunny and warm (25 deg) but it gets chilly once the sun has set. There will be a fireplace to sit around in the evenings, but (as per the dossier) bring an additional warm fleece or jacket.

I’ll let you have more details once we have moved into base.

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Update from our conservation holiday volunteering with jaguars, pumas, ocelots, primates and other species in the Peru Amazon jungle (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/peru).

Hello my name is Malika and I will be your expedition leader for our Peru 2012 expedition, in our new location near Iquitos just off the mighty Amazon river.

I am early with this diary entry, because I am about to leave for Namibia where I will lead the first group of our big cat & elephant expedition. I will pass the baton in Namibia on 11 August and then fly via Johannesburg, Sao Paulo and Lima to Iquitos to meet our scientist Alfredo there and prepare the expedition. So this is just a first entry to say that I am off and you will hear from me again when I have hit the ground in Peru, and perhaps before.

Click on https://biosphereexpeditions.wordpress.com/category/expedition-blogs/namibia-2012/ for a short video of me saying hello, details of what I am up to in Namibia and a picture of the packing crisis I am currently having 😉 As it says on that blog: don’t pack the way I do!

See you in Iquitos

Malika Fettak
Expedition leader

 

Update from our conservation holiday volunteering with jaguars, pumas, ocelots, primates and other species in the Peru Amazon jungle.

Update from our working holiday volunteering with leopards, elephants and cheetahs in Namibia, Africa (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/namibia).

I’m packing up for Namibia & Peru.

Best practice is this. Step 1 (accumulation) – throw it all in one place, step 2 (selection) – what items do I really have to take??, step 3 (packing) – make it fit in the bag somehow. I have completed steps 1 & 2 (see picture) and am confident I will master step 3 before tomorrow evening.

Packing for two (continents and expeditions)
Packing for two (continents and expeditions)

Note for rest of the team: please do not try and pack as much as I do! The picture scenario is “packing for a seven-week trip and preparing for two expeditions on two different continents”.

On Monday morning I’ll meet up with our scientist Kristina at Windhoek airport from where we will go straight into town for extreme pre-expedition shopping and picking up one of the Land Rovers that has been serviced and equipped with new tyres. I’ll write again once I have made it to base.

Good luck with your very own packing

Malika

Update from our working holiday volunteering with leopards, elephants and cheetahs in Namibia, Africa.

Update from our working holiday volunteering with leopards, elephants and cheetahs in Namibia, Africa (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/namibia)

Hello my name is Malika and I will be the first of three expedition leaders for this expedition. I will lead group 1 and then fly off to Peru to our expedition there. Kathy, our Strategy Director, will lead group 2 and then go back to the UK, and finally Jenny, who is currently chasing snow leopards in the Altai, will take over from Kathy to lead the rest of the expedition.

As you can see, this is will be a total girl power expedition. There’s a short welcome video featuring yours truly (and more pictures of base camp taking shape) on WordPress now.

Our scientist Kristina is a German TV star on http://www.zdf.de/ZDFmediathek/beitrag/video/1477312,

Kathy is one on

and Jenny you can “meet” at Frankfurt airport jetting off to the Altai

There will also be a few men around, such as our esteemed Jörg Melzheimer, but they obviously come much lower down the pecking order 😉

Anyway, the scene is set and I will fly off to Windhoek on Sunday to be met by Kristina and Jörg, and together we will be going through the final preparations for the expedition, including putting mattresses on the beds and stocking the bar, if you are lucky.

The official expedition leader mobile number in Namibia is +264-81-8339507 and this will be active as of next Monday. Remember, though, that this is (a) for emergency purposes only, for example missing assembly and (b) that mobile phones do not work at base and around much of the study site, so sending a text is best.

I’ll write again from Namibia with a weather and preparations update. I hope yours are going well and I look forward to meeting group 1 at Casa Piccolo in due course.

Best wishes

Malika Fettak
Expedition leader group 1

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Update from our working holiday volunteering with leopards, elephants and cheetahs in Namibia, Africa

Update from our conservation holiday volunteering with jaguars, pumas, ocelots, primates and other species in the Peru Amazon jungle (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/peru)

With the expedition not too far away, we thought you might all like to see this recent camera trap picture of a jaguar taken not far away from the research station by our scientist Alfredo. With your help we are hoping to get more of these kinds of pictures, which are crucial for our research and conservation work.

Jaguar, camera-trapped near the research station (picture courtesy of Alfredo Dosantos Santillan)
Jaguar, camera-trapped near the research station (picture courtesy of Alfredo Dosantos Santillan)

Update from our conservation holiday volunteering with jaguars, pumas, ocelots, primates and other species in the Peru Amazon jungle