Friday, 1 February 2013

New Job in the Heart of Africa

I don't know why I haven't posted about this, probably because I have been busy preparing for my next African adventure. I am off to a country that I have not been to and not many tourists either. I am off to the Heart of Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo with my new job. I am going to be a bonobo researcher for 9 months.
After flying into the country I take a small plane into the interior then hike 25km across savanna, swamp, rivers and rainforest to reach a remote camp in the middle of the dense rain forest. One there I will not leave the rainforest for 9 months.
I found out just days ago and leave in 2 weeks so its all rush. For those who dont know what a bonobo is think pygmy chimpanzee and you get the idea.

A bonobo

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Rhinos at the Picnic


The drive ended at a vlei or waterhole with a meal of salad and apples. I enjoyed the salad, which is very odd for me who likes to have some form of meat in a meal. It was probably due to the location than the actual food though. The vlei was located in the middle of a large plain a few kilometers wide encompassed by towering cliff faces on all sides of sandstone and limestone creating a mini crater. The center of the plain contained a depression of a almost circular bowl around 100m across which is where our vlei sat.
Enjoying our picnic
We left our trusty landrover on the road behind a bush some 50m from the vlei and headed to the waters edge. Our “guides” for the evening served up the food from a small pop up table on the waters edge where we sat eating and listening to the calls of frogs just waking from there slumber to begin the deafening night chorus. From the aptly named babbling kassina’s who sound like a bubbling water to the pain inducing pierce of the painted reed frogs we had them all.
Once everyone had polished off there first helpings and collected there seconds or an apple we gathered round the table to debrief and give feedback to the afternoons guide and tracker before handing over to me for my first night drive and my tracker. It was a normal feedback session with the standard comments of “ The drive was a bit bumpy” or “Make sure you know what the species we are looking at is”. These can be of great importance and help you to develop your guiding skills if they are not taken too personally which unfortunately for some they did.
After I had said my piece I felt an urge to look around before the last of the light faded. Coming over the rim of the small bowl containing the vlei not 20m away from us was a female white rhino and calf. We where in the open with the safety of the vehicle in the direction of the rhino. As calmly as possible I casually said “Rhino” so as not to panic everyone. I am sure they thought I was on about the rhino sighting from the drive and about to give feedback. It didnt sink in so I pointed to the rhino slowly plodding along directly to where we stood.

Rhino approaching our picnic
Rhino have very poor eyesight but extremely good hearing and smell. Lucky for us in the fading light its vision was greatly reduced even more and the wind was in our favour. Being in the bowl next to the frogs steadily increasing calls our talking was lost in the croaks and rattles. Once everyone was aware of the very close mother and calf we dropped everything and slowly moved off. Walking rather than running is a golden rule with wildlife but feels wrong especially as what you are trying to escape is keeping pace.We circled out away from them and around to the safety of the vehicle. Wesley stopped to take photos to which Mike wisely made him put down the camera and keep walking.
After spotting the table
We made it safely up the slope, around the bushes and back to our trusty landrover, Eleanor. The rhinos walked casually towards the exact spot we had just been sitting. The had not even known we had been there and was only when she basically bumped into the picnic table they she became aware of our presence. She panicked, jumped back and the two took flight over the far rim of the bowl while we watched from behind the bush in Eleanor. Once they had disappeared from view we returned to our picnic, finished the last of the food and packed it all into Eleanor. We then got back on with our plan of looking for frogs in the dark.



Off they go




The mothers print




Monday, 21 January 2013

Im a Field Guide!

I have just received my results from FGASA and achieved 92%! Thank you everyone at Ulovane. If anyone is thinking of doing a field guide course I fully recommend them. Go here (link).

Anyone looking for a field guide I have level 1 and a BSc (Hons) in applied zoology.

Newly qualified field guide (not the caracal)

Sunday, 13 January 2013

My Ultimate Capture

I have had this video in my collection since September but being at Ulovane I never got around to actually using it on a post which is strange as it shows the animal which I most want to see in the wild. When I was checking through the videos with my family after collecting it in Blue Hills I nearly dropped my drink. I was extremely excited and had to put my drink down before watching it again. 

It is a shot of that elusive creature, the honey badger. And not just one but two!

video

After watching it is obvious that the second one is a youngster and it is following its mother. You can see the youngster check the camera out before realising its mother has just carried and runs off in pursuit. Young honey badgers may stay with the parents for over 2 years and since this guy is pretty big he cannot be far off leaving. 

During my whole time out there I never once saw the honey badger. I captured this video, seen damage they had done to a bee hive a few days before and on a morning walk during tracker duties at Shamwari there where fresh honey badger prints on the road out of camp. I have come so close so many times but I will not give up my search. I will return to find the honey badger.