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"There's a deer just outside eating fruit from the orchard!"

Second to last week in South Africa...

sunny 31 °C

I’m so excited for next week, Katie got the call saying her research permit was accepted (Brian the reserve manager can be very persuasive on the phone apparently), so we’re all manically trying to get everything ready in time for the brown hyena darting and collaring! Katie’s University professor is visiting as he needs to check out the project himself, so he will be here next week with his wife, plus all the Pidwa staff and then the vet’s team, there may be up to 18 of us at the darting! So Katie has given me and Emma a list of things that she needs us to be in charge of on the day, e.g collecting the measurements, data, photographs, and making sure the correct collar goes on the correct hyena! I really hope it all goes to plan!

Brian radioed to say that a dead civet and eland had been found on Langa over the weekend, so we went up so Joe could collect the civet head (he has a carnivore scull collection) and to set up a camera trap for the eland.
Next we did some alien plant removal in the area behind Askari house, and I accidentally knelt into one of the spikes of the ‘Queen of the night’ plant. My knee hasn’t been able to bend properly all week and I’ve been nicknamed ‘The Hobbler!’
After lunch we did some river clean up with some quite impressive finds! We walked across the weir which was pretty cool!
Katie has given me the August report data input to start on. It’s interesting to see how the report is done, what information is put in and how it’s selected. I’m sure report skills will come in handy for the next few years!

I fell in love with a spider today! I got to hold a gorgeous golden baboon spider at the reptile park! They’re so badly endangered there is a R250,000 fine for killing one! Emma has a pretty bad phobia of spiders so there are no photos to prove I held it!
We bumped into Bernet and Adam from LEO at ‘Three Bridges’ when we stopped for lunch. It’s weird how you can be based an hour apart out here and yet bump into each other every week!
That night we went on night drive and saw 3 spotted hyenas pretty much as soon as we left Askari. They were just lying down in the road chilling out!

We left early to do route drive 2 and saw some impala antics. A few females must have become spooked by the car and they started running around doing massive jumps and leaps to show that they are fit and healthy as a way of deterring predators. The male got annoyed with them and started snorting and chasing them trying to get them back under control. It was so funny to watch!
We went on a cool bushwalk down a drainage line, and I’ve realized how bad I am at tree identification, so I’m determined to learn at least a few more by the time I leave.

We had a long morning today – left early to head towards the lodge and Pidwa South to set up a new Southern Ground Hornbill nesting box. Ground hornbills have been recently seen and herd in the area, so in an attempt to encourage breeding pairs in the area, nesting boxes are put up in appropriate trees. This meant using a ladder and pulley system to get a massive plastic barrel up a tree which Joe then secured to the branches with wire. Now we just have to keep out fingers crossed that the nest is successful.
Whilst we were putting up the box, Katie got a call saying lions had been spotted at the dam in Garonga, one of the neighboring reserves. We all jumped into the car and sped towards the dam, hoping to catch them. It was a good half hour bumpy drive, so they had gone by the time we got there, but instead we saw a herd of bull elephants all trying to fit into a small pool and have a mud bath! It was an awesome sighting!
After lunch we started packing for sleep out. Sleep out camp was down in the dry river bed in Langa today! After collecting fire wood, Emma and I helped Katie prep some banana chocolate dessert things to go on the hot coals after braai! Phil joined us so each watch was only1 and a half hours long. Not much happened during the night, some very loud baboons calling and some zebra alarm calls, but that was about it. Me and Emma got up early and sat by the fire to warm up, having morning marshmallows! Yum!

Me and Emma cleaned all the sleep-out stuff, and then we went with Joe up to Langa to collect the camera trap memory card to see if any good pics had been taken. However, we only got a few shots of a side-striped jackal, so we left the camera trap up and hopefully will have another look next week to see if anything else has found it.
Katie then took us to HQ to drop off her research permit application for Brian to look through, and then we headed to the Buffalo camp bomas to see how both cheetahs were doing. Hwaqile and Kusala both seem to be doing really well, the only problem is where to release them. Brian has suggested back onto Langa, but I’m really hoping not, as the rogues will no doubt just break straight back in and kill which ever cheetah tries to stop them.
We went on another river clean up, but most of the rubbish was only really accessible by canoe… and the hippo that’s lingering around somewhere in the river wouldn’t make that particularly safe!
Brian then called over the radio saying could Katie and Joe stop at his house on the way home, so looking a right state and very filthy from clean-up, we all sat on his veranda over-looking the river having a cold drink. Brian then explained that he’d looked at the permit application and decided it would take 3-6 months for it to go through the system and be accepted, so instead he made a few quick phone calls to the right people, and got a verbal acceptance of the permit, so long as the man that accepted it is at the hyena darting in person to see how the procedure is done, and so long as he’s satisfied, then all is well and it’s as good as done! Katie was so ecstatic! We all are! So we all then sat and brain stormed how best to go about the darting, what would need to be done and what information Katie needed to be collected, Brian made a quick phone call to the vet booking him for Tuesday afternoon/evening… before we knew it we were planning the darting and collaring after Katie has been waiting for a year!
That’s one thing I really don’t understand about this country. You need a permit to have an animal, a permit to have it darted, a permit to move it onto your reserve, and then a permit to do any research involving it…these all take 3-6 months to apply for and get approved…and yet a poacher trespasses on your land, kills your animals, leaves snares that kill even more once he’s gone, and the worst he’ll get is a slap on the wrist and a few months in prison where he has a roof over is head and is fed! You try to do a good thing and you get stopped at every step along the way, you do a bad thing and nothing stops you from doing it again. The system is just so backwards here!!

Up early for route drive, but not much was about. We did see lots of bushbuck which was cool, we don’t often see them. And loads of birds of prey!
After drive, Katie went through the whole hyena darting with us, gave us instructions as to what we’re in charge of and what she needs us to make sure gets done. Me and Emma get clip-boards and everything!
The afternoon was mostly spent sunbathing and just relaxing. In the evening we made a banana cake whilst a couple of nyala females walked past the kitchen window! It was a real ‘Friends’ moment when Ross is on the phone and says “There’s a deer just outside eating fruit from the orchard!” Couldn’t stop quoting it all evening! They’re still my favourite antelope, just so pretty! We had a chilled out evening, watched ‘Quantum of Solace’ and just chatted.

Anyway, looks like it's going to be a busy week, not long till I'm home now either! Eeek!

Posted by Rachellina 13:52 Archived in South Africa

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