Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Pictures and Thanks

Thanks to all of you for writing entries for the blog and a big thanks to Louis for updating the blog regularly during this expedition.
Also thanks to the staff at Mankwe for the good food, the guidance by the trackers while in the field, the electricity for charging our camera batteries, iPods and phones, for the campfires in the evening and the African drumming session.
Dougal, Lynne and Louis have done an excellent job educating us all about the African bush and African wildlife. A special thanks to Lynne for using a different gate in Pilanesberg so we could see the magnificent herd of elephants with their young. Also for making it possible to see the pack of wild dogs in Pilanesberg and making the brown hyena expedition a wonderful experience.

The teen team at the sundowner

Lynne, Rick, Gill, Dougal, Louis and Sean

African Drumming at Mankwe

Looking for dens

Antelope tracks

Forrest playing his mandolin


Wild Dog
Young Elephant


Picknick at Hide before start
of night work at Pilanesberg

View from the hide


Lion close to the car at night

White Rhino


Lions at Predator Park

Campfire at Mankwe

All photos by Yoka Heijstek

Sunday, August 17, 2008

August 16th 2008.

August 16th 2008.

After waking to our usual delectable breakfast we separated into our teams and embarked on our final round of latrine surveys. The teams met up again after completing transects (routes which we travel along to count number of scats) at the Mankwe vulture ‘restaurant’. This area is used to attract and feed vultures. Louis, one of the researchers at Mankwe, focuses on bird research and in particular, vultures. He hopes to use this area to lure vultures, tag them with tracking devices and then work out which areas are most important for their feeding and breeding behaviour.
After returning for a filling lunch we relaxed around camp.
At 16.00 we all loaded into an open vehicle and went on a short game drive to the highest point at Mankwe - the kopjie. Here among beautiful scenery, good company, music (Forrest graced us with his mandolin talent) and chips and soda. We enjoyed our final African sunset. Here we also received certificates recognizing our research efforts at Mankwe.
After the sun dipped below the horizon we once again loaded into the vehicle and returned for the “last supper” at Mankwe. Post-meal we all went to the second fire pit at camp where were up for a special treat – a night of African drumming! We were all taught the basics and technique of the art, and then participated in creating several drum sequences and chants (“Africa!”). Along with learning the drums we were also exposed to shakers, a kudu horn, and a Swiss instrument called a “hang”, which resembled a pair of symbols glued together. To play the hang you had to bounce your fingers along several dimples to produce a sound similar to a marimba.
After our drumming session finished we sat around our final campfire at Mankwe, enjoying a pickup game of night soccer and raps from Louis, Lynne and Dakota (written by Kevin!).

Saturday, August 16, 2008

August 12th-15th

August 12th 2008.

We woke at 9am on day 7 not knowing we were about to embark on our greatest day of animal sightings to date. After a hearty breakfast we were given the morning off. Group members spent it doing various activities, including several people deciding to go for a run!
Three hours after breakfast we had out lunch of chicken with rice – delicious. Once lunch was finished we spent about 45 minutes packing the equipment for that evening. We arrived at Pilanesberg at 2.13, almost exactly the same time as the day before! The afternoon was spent doing latrine surveys and record numbers were found by both teams.
After supper in a wonderful hide overlooking a huge lake, we headed out to our call-ins. Both teasm now saw a hyaena. Team A had the better luck with the hyena coming to within 20 metres! After the initial success the second call-ins were less successful! On the way back to the gates both teams spotted 2 more male lions! Team A also saw a jackal trying to hunt impala, much to some members amusement! The evening was concluded at about 11.45 after one of our most successful days so far.

August 14th 2008.

Today was our break day after 3 days of gruelling hardcore latrine searches and call-ins. We had breakfast at 9.30 and went to Pilanesberg at 11.00 to shop for items of interest. We then moved on to a spot to have lunch with a gorgeous scene – truly exhilarating. Then we went to the Pilanesberg Centre for tea. We then went game spotting where we saw huge herds of elephants – they were enormous and truly beautiful.
We came back for dinner and had some free time that night, which was very relaxing – what a superb day!

August 15th 2008.

We woke up to a nice breakfast that we all enjoyed. After that we had Dougal brief us about our next assignment. Our assignment was to help find poaching snares in common poaching areas around the reserve. Dougal explained to us the different types of poaching there is and what they do to prevent it. When we went out to look for snares we found 6 – a great success. Later that day after lunch we went to Pilanesberg to watch them feed the wild dogs. It was an awesome but gruesome sight to watch the dogs devour the meat. We then came back to camp for dinner. Afterwards we sat around the camp fire and then went to bed.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

August 10th and 11th 2008

August 10th 2008.

We woke up and had a delicious breakfast, and then we went latrine searching. Team A won triumphantly, finding leopard dung, but Team B found antlers. Later we had free time and did an activity with Yoka. We then went spotlighting for a night-time activity.

August 11th 2008.

Yesterday we started our day investigating and discovering plants that can be used as remedies for different illnesses. Dougal, Stephen and David were a big help in this.
After lunch we went to Pilanesberg National Park where the ‘big dogs’ are. We went on a hyena poop search (latrine survey) and found 88 hyena latrines in total. Then we ate fried chicken and sandwiches for supper.
After supper Team A and Team B did separate call-ins using the brown hyena call. During the call-ins everyone saw several jackals close up. On the way home Forrest (Team B) spotted a male lion. Amazingly Forrest spotted a second lion!! We observed the lions for 10 minutes and saw them cuddle and play with each other. Team A came after the exciting parts and saw the lions for several minutes. One hour later we were back at Mankwe, warm and asleep.

August 9th 2008.

August 9th 2008.

Today we went to a game auction. We first viewed the animals in a boma, a wooden box that holds wild animals, and then we had to wait for the auction to begin. In the bomas there were antelope of all kinds.
While waiting for the auction to begin we went into predator park where we viewed lions, hyenas, jackals, leopards and reptiles. Our guide was very enthusiastic and made the tour extremely entertaining. After looking at the predators we had the chance to play with baby cheetahs.
After coming back from the auction, of which nothing was understandable, we had lunch.
After lunch we went out into the field to locate dens and find out what was living in them. We laid out meat and veggies near a camera. We will check the camera which takes a picture every minute again on Monday. We came back to camp after setting up 2 cameras and we have the rest of the night off, so until tomorrow, ciao.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

8th August 2008.

8th August 2008.

We woke up early today before the winds to help Dougal burn the bush. We all loaded into the truck for the freezing drive to the burn site. When we arrived we were taught how to use beaters, which are flung in a whipping motion at the ground to smother flames that spread in the wrong direction. For the next hour or so we followed the fire path and ensured that it did not spread past the water line. What an experience! We returned to camp and washed up before enjoying a lovely African afternoon relaxing. After lunch we met up with Dougal again as he taught us about tracking animals in the bush. We drove around stopping to follow footprints and identify spoor of specific creatures. We tested dung and freshness of tracks. After spoor tracking with Dougal we returned to the campsite to eat and dress warmly. Tonight we were off to our first night call-in in hope of finding a brown hyena..............

7th August 2008.

7th August 2008.

First we enjoyed a lovely breakfast at 8.00am. After breakfast we started our morning training on the hyena ecology and conservation. After breaking into three groups of four we moved to three different stations to learn skills that would aid us in performing our research during the next 10 days.
At one station we learned to judge distance and determine angles using compasses.
At a second station we were taught how to operate a GPS and plot points. At the third station we practised operating the hyena call-in system using speakers to project their shrieks.
Later Dougal spoke to us about reserve management. After the talk we all got to know each other better by playing ice-breaker games with Yoka.
At dinner we all geared up for our first night drive......