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Somkhanda Wild Dog Tracking December 2015

 

Introduction

 

Many on here will know that I had been planning a trip to Ethiopia to see, amongst other things, the Ethiopian wolves. I would still like to get a group together to do this trip at some point, but unfortunately this time it was not to be.

 

So I was left with a lot of leave to take before the end of March scrambling to find something to do in December with not a lot of time left to organise anything. After exploring a range of options I decided that I would for once like to do more than have just another safari and give something back. So with @@Big_Dog's help I identified Wildlife ACT as the perfect organisation to work with.

 

I contacted them and gave them my dates and was offered the following projects:

 

SOMKHANDA GAME RESERVE

Somkhanda Game Reserve is a community-owned game reserve managed by “Wildlands Conservation Trust”, in partnership with the Gumbi community. Somkhanda is the first community-owned reserve to be proclaimed under the Protected Areas Management Act, meaning that this community has committed their land to biodiversity conservation for the foreseeable future.

Somkhanda is supported by the WWF “Black Rhino Range Expansion Project”, and has a healthy population of both Black Rhinos and White Rhinos, that Wildlife ACT and the Wildlife ACT Fund helps to monitor. Besides breathtaking scenery and pristine bushveld, a number of naturally-occurring game species can be found on Somkhanda, such as Nyala, Impala, Wildebeest, Zebra and Kudu, as well as some rarer species such as Leopard, brown and spotted Hyaena, Aardvark, Honey Badger and Caracal.

Wildlands Conservation Trust has assisted with re-introducing a number of different species into the reserve to boost game numbers.
African Wild Dogs were introduced to the reserve in 2014 to fulfill the conservation objective of saving endangered species, and reintroducing natural predation into the system.
Planned future introductions include Buffalo, Cheetah and eventually, Elephants.

 

Wildlife ACT’s main focus on Somkhanda is to assist with the daily monitoring of African Wild Dog and Rhinos, as well as general biological monitoring of other priority species (Vultures, Hyaenas, Leopards) and the compilation of species lists.

 

This is the bit that got my attention:

Somkhanda has a critical need to ensure daily sightings of the Wild Dog pack.
The pressing need to track this particular pack of Wild Dogs is due to the fact that Somkhanda Game Reserve suffers from an influx of poachers from local rural communities, who consistently trespass onto the reserve to set snares with the intention of catching bush meat (mostly antelope).
Tragically, these snares have a large unintended by-catch, which includes any unsuspecting animal that walks into the snares – including Rhino, Elephant, and very often the Wild Dogs since they cover such large distances daily in search of food.


For this reason it is absolutely vital that the monitoring team devotes the majority of their time to locating the Wild Dog pack each morning and evening, to ensure that all the dogs are accounted for and unharmed. This does involve early starts to the day, and getting back late to camp in the evening, but is a crucial part of the work we are doing!

 

SOMKHANDA RESEARCH CAMP ACCOMMODATION:

 

Somkhanda volunteers are housed in a large house within the reserve, and the camp offers twin rooms, an indoor bathroom and toilet, a large kitchen and a braai (barbecue) area.
The water is good for drinking, and the house has electricity and hot water.

Due to limited cellphone (mobile) signal in the area, the “Cell-C” mobile network receives the best signal.

To view images of the accommodation (research camp) please click on the link below:

http://wildlifeact.com/about-wildlife-act/reserves-we-work-on/somkhanda-game-reserve/

 

The other project that was available was:

 

TEMBE ELEPHANT PARK

Situated in Northern Zululand, and adjoining the Mozambique border, Tembe Elephant Park is most widely known for having over 200 of the world’s largest Elephants, which are also the last remaining indigenous herd in KwaZulu-Natal and includes the legendary big “Tuskers.” (“Tuskers” are elephants whose enormous tusks weigh more than 45.45kg.)

Tembe is comprised of 30,000 hectares – the land was historically owned by the Tembe tribe, the ancestral custodians of the area. Nkosi (Chief) Mzimba Tembe donated the land for the formation of this Game Reserve, and it is still owned by the Tembe tribe community, while its precious bio-diversity is managed by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife; the KwaZulu-Natal conservation service.

 

Tembe is a “Big 5” Reserve (Lion, Leopard, Black and White Rhino, Buffalo and Elephant), but there are no Cheetah on the Reserve. It is home to a rich diversity of other wildlife such as Hippo, Zebra and various antelope species, from the majestic Giraffe which stand at 5 metres tall, down to one of the smallest antelope in Africa - the Suni, at only 35 centimetres high!

The area now known as Tembe Elephant Park is real wild country. The park is situated within the sand-veld ecological zone and consists mainly of closed woodland and secondary thicket formation.


The zone falls within a transition area between tropical and sub-tropical forms and therefore is home to a great diversity of vegetation as well as over 340 bird species, making it a delight for bird lovers.

We are proud to partner with and carry out work for "Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife", our provincial park authority, on Tembe Elephant Park.

Wildlife ACT’s main focus on Tembe is the monitoring of the Wild Dog, Lion and Elephant populations.
There are two monitoring sessions per day, focusing on Lion or Wild Dog.
In addition to this, there will be
one session of Elephant monitoring, twice a week.

 

TEMBE RESEARCH CAMP ACCOMMODATION:

Tembe volunteers are based in a research camp within the natural sand forest. The camp offers three wooden cabins nestled amongst the trees and thickets, with a separate toilet & shower block, and laundry facilities, for Wildlife ACT volunteers. The research camp has a communal kitchen, dining, lounge and braai area that is shared with other scientists and researchers who may be carrying out studies in the park.

To view images of the accommodation (research camp) please click on the link below:
http://wildlifeact.com/galleries/photo-galleries/tembe-volunteer-camp/

 

At the time I wasn't really concerned about seeing lions, elephant or buffalo and I understood that the dogs in Tembe had a habit of going AWOL to Mozambique.. So Somkhanda seemed to be the obvious choice for me, I was getting goosebumps just thinking about the project!

 

 

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PC090762 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

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Sunday 6 December

I flew KLM at 0615 from Norwich via Schipol arriving a little late into Johannesburg whereupon I was collected via the free airport shuttle to overnight at the Airport Game Lodge.

 

Monday 7 December

I was able to enjoy a lie in and spent a little while enjoying the resident springbok, blesbok and ostrich that are kept in paddocks in the lodge ground as well as the more "exotic" fallow deer.

 

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My room by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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view from the restaurant by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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view of the lodge grounds by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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Springbok by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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Blesbok & Springbok by Jo Dale, on Flickr

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By the time I wandered upstairs to the terrace for breakfast there wasn't a lot left to graze on.



I got the courtesy bus back to the airport for my onward connection to Richard's Bay at 1315 arriving there at 1430. All the projects changeover on a Monday so there were several participants heading to different reserves. Now it's my understanding that normally those going to Somkhanda arrive the same evening. But in this particular case there was a change and we were told we would overnight at Zululand Rhino Reserve.



We didn't get to see anything of the reserve whilst we were there as we arrived late afternoon and were not given the opportunity to go out. The accommodation there has some gorgeous original artwork for sale. I was very tempted by a wild dog painting. I met two of the ladies who were coming with me to Somkhanda, both French, Alex and Daphne.


Everyone has to chip in with the chores and we were soon serving up spaghetti bolognaise for dinner.


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Tuesday 8 December



Those working on Zululand Rhino Reserve had to be up at 0300 for a 0330 start. Those of us going on to Somkhanda were allowed a lie in as we were not due for a pick up until 0700 (or in other words we missed out on a morning session of monitoring!). I woke early and spent some time birding around the lodge, seeing a scarlet-chested sunbird and grey go-away bird amongst others (no pics as I didn't get my camera out).



Then we were driven the short distance to Somkhanda, picking up Maya, our fourth, Swiss, tour participant on our way. There's a petrol station at Mkhuze, which is the last (only) opportunity to get snacks etc before transferring to our wildlife monitor's vehicle and heading to the reserve. Our initial monitor was Axel and his partner. We had Axel for two nights before they headed off for Christmas and for the remainder of the time we had Graeme, the relief monitor.


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Great starting pic! Glad you got to see a little bit of ZRR too. :D
Itching to hear about what you saw there, can't wait for more!
Also...very embarassing on my behalf. You've uploaded yours the month after returning, I haven't even begun my first post from my July excursion!

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~ @@kittykat23uk

 

I've been looking forward to this, ever since reading your post from the airport as you winged towards South Africa.

I'm so moved that like @@JohnR in Namibia, you've found a means of using your talents to support the ongoing effort to monitor and protect wildlife.

From my perspective that's both selfless and exemplary. My university students will hear about this trip report, as they heard about @@JohnR's Namibia trip report.

I'd never heard of Tembe Elephant Park before.

I like your photos of the accommodations and wildlife at the Airport Game Lodge.

I've never seen a Blesbok or a Springbok, thus appreciate your photos.

It was very thoughtful of @@Big_Dog to assist you in setting up this experience.

Thank you for writing this, which broadens the possible options for would-be safari visitors.

BTW: Spotting a scarlet-chested sunbird would have been a highlight for me!

Tom K.

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Thanks both, yes @@Big_Dog you need to get writing! It would have been nice if we could have joined the monitor on the first morning at ZRR and experienced that reserve, particularly as Somkhanda is not a Big 5 reserve, but it wasn't practical as they don't have room in the vehicle.

 

@@Tom Kellie I, too, have never seen wild blesbok or springbok. Obviously being captive, these ones weren't "tickable".

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We had time to settle in to our accommodation. We were actually based outside of the reserve itself, in a reserve on the opposite side of the main road. Aside from the rhino monitor, there was nobody else staying there.

 

There are three bedrooms, so the two French ladies shared a room and Maya and I had rooms to ourselves. These could do with a bit of a spruce up, and better fans, and insect screens on the windows to allow the air in, would have been welcome. There is no AC and at this time of year it can get uncomfortably hot. I believe the only project that has AC rooms is Tembe. Also my door handle kept falling off and when it rained heavily our shower flooded on a couple of occasions, but Graeme opened up one of the other bungalows for us to use the shower there whilst he fixed it. The water here is safe to drink and the malaria risk is low. I believe the maximum number of participants at this reserve is 5. The fridge and freezer were well stocked, I would say thanks to Maya in particular, ours was better stocked than most, as she brought a lot of meat and wine with her. There is an opportunity to restock once a week.

 

We had a welcome briefing, in which we were told about our wild dog pack. At the time I was there, the pack numbered seven individuals as they had sadly lost two of the puppies after I had booked. They are not sure what killed them, as the bodies were never recovered, despite a very thorough search. The best guess is that they were predated by leopard or hyena as they both went missing on the same night. The alpha male is called Pinotage, Pino for short, and his brother called Merlot. Pino's collar wasn't working so we tracked Merlot.

 

A new female, called Battie, was being held in a separate enclosure, referred to as “the boma”, with the hope that, once the dogs returned to the area, she would be released to join the pack.

 

We generally set out in the afternoon at 1600 and in the mornings at 0430. This was later than in other reserves where people were typically out at 0330 and occasionally even earlier. The explanation given was that our dogs were “lazy”. There is only one monitor to do all the Wildlife ACT monitoring at each site so typically those with more than one priority species will have more to do compared to us. So one might go out, find one pack of dogs in the morning, then locate lions on the way back, then changeover some cards in the camera traps and then do cheetahs and/or dogs in the afternoon. So in Somkhanda I think the monitors are enjoying a more relaxed pace while they still can as lions, etc will be coming soon..

 

Around the lodge we saw vervet monkeys but they were really very nervous of people, running off as soon as they sighted any “two-legs”.

 

At 15.30 we left for the reserve and stopped briefly to watch a few giraffes and a grey duiker. We saw lots of impala and nyala but did not stop for them.

 

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PC070076 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PC070085 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

Our first task was to feed Battie, so we stopped at the main office and cold store and collected half an impala along with fresh water and headed over to the boma. We entered her enclosure, dropped the impala off and cleaned out the dirty water from her trough before replacing it with the water we brought her. As we were leaving we saw one of three black backed jackals that we'd often find hanging around the boma. These little guys are part of a pack of five that have been introduced. There is a separate team that monitors the jackals.

 

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PC070096 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PC070106 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

After the jackals moved on, we headed on to find the pack. Axel found them without much difficulty as they were in the same area that he'd found them this morning. They were resting under some bushes just off the road and not very easy to see. After sleeping for a while the puppies started to get active, chasing and playing, dashing back and forth across the road. Eventually the pack moved off along a fire break, pulled out a dead impala which they had killed earlier in the day and began feeding. Afterwards they rested and, as it was now getting dark, we headed back to the camp.

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There are three bedrooms, so the two French ladies shared a room and Maya and I had rooms to ourselves. These could do with a bit of a spruce up, and better fans, and insect screens on the windows to allow the air in, would have been welcome. There is no AC and at this time of year it can get uncomfortably hot. I believe the only project that has AC rooms is Tembe. Also my door handle kept falling off and when it rained heavily our shower flooded on a couple of occasions, but Graeme opened up one of the other bungalows for us to use the shower there whilst he fixed it. The water here is safe to drink and the malaria risk is low. I believe the maximum number of participants at this reserve is 5. The fridge and freezer were well stocked, I would say thanks to Maya in particular, ours was better stocked than most, as she brought a lot of meat and wine with her. There is an opportunity to restock once a week.

 

At 15.30 we left for the reserve and stopped briefly to watch a few giraffes and a grey duiker.

 

~ @@kittykat23uk

 

The plain realities of logistics and amenities far from the comforts of home...

Your description rings so true, recalling comparable situations throughout my life.

Commitment to a project combined with a resilient spirit enables one to look past such passing inconveniences.

Many of my students could learn from your example. Research project lodgings seldom share much in common with Xanadu.

The few Sylvicapra grimmia, Grey Duiker, sightings I had several months ago were transitory at best.

Your excellent image is inspiring — I'll hope to approach it later this month, if I happen to spot one.

Tom K.

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I'm enjoying reading your report @@kittykat23uk. It very much reminds me of my time on the game farms in Namibia which were 15,000-20,000 hectares in size. Several had rhino and one had elephants but none had wild dogs which I would very much like to see.

 

How hands-on are the volunteers? We were expected to provide the muscle power, do the driving, spotting, vehicle maintenance, record keeping but not trusted to cook.

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Thanks @@Tom Kellie you're right, one should not expect luxury, but I did feel there were a few general maintenance issues that, if addressed, would definitely have enhanced the volunteers' experience with out too much investment. In addition, Graeme had a lot of trouble with his radio and I felt that was a bit of a safety issue that really should be addressed ASAP.

 

@@JohnR we certainly didn't do any of the driving or vehicle maintenance other than helping to clean it out. We got involved in telemetry, recording sightings of key species, triangulation and GPS logging, checking camera traps, logging data and tagging images, as well as feeding and watering Battie and rhino tracking.

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~ @@kittykat23uk and @@JohnR

 

Your back and forth discussion of the realities of volunteers is a valuable addition to Safaritalk.

My experience has been that there's a sizable population of unregistered Safaritalk visitors who aren't in a position to head off to a posh game-viewing lodge, but who have the time, energy and interest to visit Africa as a volunteer for wildlife conservation.

Television programs, on-line articles and HRH Prince Harry inspire the young, the retired and the idealistic with visions of where they might lend a helping hand.

What both of you have described concerning your respective volunteer experiences in South Africa and Namibia encompasses the sort of practical details of interest to potential wildlife conservation volunteers.

I chuckled when @@JohnR noted that the volunteers weren't deemed competent for kitchen duties.

Where @@kittykat23uk mentions that they did no driving or vehicle maintenance, I laughed to myself and thought that if Elizabeth II were to appear, her motor repair talents learned during WW II would go to waste.

As one of Safaritalk's many functions is educational, the information which both of you have provided about volunteer life offers precious insight to “another type of safari experience”.

With Appreciation,

Tom K.

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Wednesday 9th December

 

South Africa has been in the grips of a terrible drought for the past two years and this was supposed to be the beginning of the rainy season. But everything was still very dry. Thankfully for the reserve, it rained heavily during the night. This had the effect of making some of the “roads” very treacherous as the black cotton soil had become sticky and coated the tyres of the Toyota Hilux truck. Somkhanda has no tarred roads, and only really one main graded road. The rest of the reserve is covered by a network of rough tracks, so one really requires a decent 4x4 to get around. Unlike other reserves, the tracks are not officially closed off whenever the weather turns, so it's up to the monitor to determine whether it is safe or not to continue when driving in these conditions.

 

We managed to locate the dogs who weren't that far from where we had left them the previous evening. They trotted along the track towards us, and then veered off into thicker cover, only to re-emerge and descend towards a pool of rainwater to have a drink.

 

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Pinotage by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PC080169 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PC080196 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PC080229 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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Merlot & puppy by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PC080296 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PC080313 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PC080375 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

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~ @@kittykat23uk

 

Your wild dog photos are sensational!

What bowls me over is the pin-sharp clarity and superb luminosity.

Were the images generally made at around f/5.6 or at a larger aperture?

Tom K.

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@@Tom Kellie Thank you, the camera I used most for this trip was my Olympus OMD E-M1. I used my trusty 4/3 50-200 F2.8 - 3.5 ED with a 1.4 converter (sometimes) on the MMF3 adapter until one of the tour participants knocked it off the bench seat and broke the barrel mechanism. At which point I switched to the native m43 Olympus 75-300, a slower aperture, much lighter lens. This morning was overcast and difficult to get decent pics.

 

if you wish to see the exif for any of the images, click on the image and it will take you to Flickr, then if you scroll down under the image you should see the summary of the exif data and you can click further to bring the whole lot up (for example to see if i used the 1.4 extender in a particular shot).

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@@Tom Kellie Thank you, the camera I used most for this trip was my Olympus OMD E-M1. I used my trusty 4/3 50-200 F2.8 - 3.5 ED with a 1.4 converter (sometimes) on the MMF3 adapter until one of the tour participants knocked it off the bench seat and broke the barrel mechanism. At which point I switched to the native m43 Olympus 75-300, a slower aperture, much lighter lens. This morning was overcast and difficult to get decent pics.

 

if you wish to see the exif for any of the images, click on the image and it will take you to Flickr, then if you scroll down under the image you should see the summary of the exif data and you can click further to bring the whole lot up (for example to see if i used the 1.4 extender in a particular shot).

 

~ @@kittykat23uk

 

Your explanation is excellent!

I tried and it worked, albeit slowly, due to Internet security measures here on any photo-sharing sites.

Thank you.

Tom K.

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We recorded the sighting, which involved counting all the dogs, recording what they were doing, and their GPS location. They then moved into thicker bush and we could hear them crunching on some bones, so they must have had a kill stashed there. As they didn't come back out and we got a steady resting signal from Merlot, it was time leave the dogs and go have a cuppa. So we headed to the Boma to see Battie. I also photographed some crested guineafowl.

 

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PC080392 Crested Guineafowl by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

 

We had hot drinks and rusks with her, spotting three jackals as well. Axel wanted to see how much the rain had filled a new reservoir close to the Somkhanda lodge (quite a bit as it happened). There was a very manky swimming pool in which a scorpion was clinging to the edge.

 

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PC080396 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

The lodge owner (I think) picked up the scorpion to show us and we also noted a water scorpion in the pool as well.

 

 

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PC080397 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

As we walked to the reservoir we heard a commotion as a very angry violet-backed starling mobbed a spotted bush snake. Violet-backed starlings seemed common in this reserve, as we saw a lot of them.

 

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PC080407 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

23414560084_ad48e4e3ea_k.jpgPC080414 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

 

We stopped to watch some giraffes and a red-chested cuckoo.

 

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PC080431 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PC080460 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

 

Axel wanted to locate some white rhino as he was concerned that this particular group had moved to an area where they could be seen from the main road. The white rhino here have all been de-horned and the fenced reserve is protected by an anti-poaching unit. We tracked them with the telemetry and found a group of three. They were hidden in cover for the most part, although I was able to capture this reasonable shot of one of them.

 

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PC080472 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

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A red-chested Cuckoo sitting out in the open! And then Violet-backed starling mobbing a snake! I am extremely jealous.

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How many adults are there in the pack? Sad to hear that even in a small, fenced reserve snaring is a problem. Do they find many snared antelopes?

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At the time I was there, only two adults, Pino and Merlot. Originally there were four adults I think. When they lost the Alpha female, Chardonnay, they found over 100 snares had been set in one small area and the dogs had chased an impala through the area, two becoming ensnared. The anti snare collar saved one, sadly the snare slipped past Chardonnay's collar and she didn't make it, nor did the impala they were chasing. The situation with poaching is improving although we did still find evidence of poachers on the camera traps!

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Another thing I should mention is that we were pretty much the only people in the reserve, aside from the other researchers and the anti poaching patrols and park staff. There is a lodge, but no one was staying there at the time. So we never had to share a sighting of the dogs here. But this was obviously not a photographic safari so we drove faster than you would on a typical safari, especially when getting to the area where we would start to scan for the dogs and when leaving the reserve, particularly at night. We stayed with the dogs usually until we either lost sight of them or they rested and we stopped much less frequently for other game, especially the commoner stuff. Consequently, you will find that this trip report is a bit limited in terms of what I was able to see and photograph.

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Another thing I should mention is that we were pretty much the only people in the reserve, aside from the other researchers and the anti poaching patrols and park staff. There is a lodge, but no one was staying there at the time. So we never had to share a sighting of the dogs here. But this was obviously not a photographic safari so we drove faster than you would on a typical safari, especially when getting to the area where we would start to scan for the dogs and when leaving the reserve, particularly at night. We stayed with the dogs usually until we either lost sight of them or they rested and we stopped much less frequently for other game, especially the commoner stuff. Consequently, you will find that this trip report is a bit limited in terms of what I was able to see and photograph.

 

~ @@kittykat23uk

 

Not a problem!

Research is seldom a 24/7 joyride.

The lack of photographs is more than compensated by the insights you're sharing about the overall volunteer experience.

As with @@JohnR's Namibia volunteer trip reporting, what sets apart this trip report are the nitty-gritty details of what it was like, what you did, and what you observede.

Service to humanity through volunteering isn't a form of entertainment any more than compensated employment is.

I was especially interested to read that the camera traps captured evidence of poaching. Hmm... They're another means of gathering incriminating evidence.

Such an enjoyable trip report!

Tom K.

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Glad you are enjoying it @@Tom Kellie

 

We returned to the research base for breakfast around 08.30 and most of us decided to have a siesta. Then later we all decided to take a walk to the entrance gate and back again. The trouble with going at this time of year is the heat and humidity. It really sapped my energy. When I return to do one of the other projects, or back to this one, I will definitely be taking that into account when deciding where and when to go. I prefer not to be sitting around for long periods, but I do find that if I go out in the middle of the day that I can get too much sun, even with a hat and covering up and then feel really rubbish the next day. If I go in the summer time again, I'd probably be more inclined to choose Tembe since they have AC or go at a cooler time of year to make more of the free time we have. On most other days, I tended to just relax around the lodge, photographing what wildlife I could find.

 

Most days, we saw a couple of purple crested turacos around the lodge. These are one of my all time favourite African birds which seem to enjoy confounding my photographic efforts! I also found a Pin-tailed Whydah, along with commoner birds. A bird list will be appended at the end of the report.

 

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P1015117 Pin-tailed whydah by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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P1015105 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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P1015099 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PC080499 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PC080525 purple crested turaco by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PC080535 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PC080553 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

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These tracks were seen on our walk:

 

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PC080562 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

Anyone want to guess what they are?

 

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PC080563 Centipede by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

That afternoon was Axel's last session before heading off. Due to the rain, termites had built new towers to aerate their underground colonies. We repositioned two camera traps and collected a lot of wood and thorny branches to place around the camera to deter rhinos. We saw the three jackals at the airstrip next to Battie's boma and also noted that the rivers had started to run strong, following the heavy rain. Two African pygmy kingfishers appeared to be making a home in one of the banks. We had a brief sighting of a skittish herd of zebra. We also saw a mother warthog and her little piglets.

 

 

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PC080587 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PC080608 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PC080632 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

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PC080640 by Jo Dale, on Flickr

 

This was the first session that Axel instructed us in the use of the telemetry. We all had a go at getting to grips with it and were able to get a reading on the dogs. Unfortunately they were well hidden in the thornbush and we were unable to get a visual on them that afternoon. It was sad for Axel and his partner that the dogs didn't come out to say goodbye, he was really hoping that they would be at the boma so that they could release Battie.

 

Axel showed us how to take a triangulation reading. This involved determining the direction of the dogs using the telemetry and walking with the GPS to get a heading and position. Then we drove on a little way and repeated the process to get a second bearing, so that we could triangulate the two positions.

 

We had a really uncomfortable drive back as the rain caused the emergence of swarms of flying termites, with Axel driving so fast we got continuously pelted by them on the way back to the research camp.

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At the time I was there, only two adults, Pino and Merlot. Originally there were four adults I think. When they lost the Alpha female, Chardonnay, they found over 100 snares had been set in one small area and the dogs had chased an impala through the area, two becoming ensnared. The anti snare collar saved one, sadly the snare slipped past Chardonnay's collar and she didn't make it, nor did the impala they were chasing. The situation with poaching is improving although we did still find evidence of poachers on the camera traps!

 

Any pack with less than 5 adults has only a small chance of raising any pups, so the fact that two of them raised 5 is pretty remarkable! I guess the safety from lions, as those were absent, might have played a role in it.

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