VOLUNTEER TRIP SOUTH AFRICA
Tembe Elephant Park
Wednesday, 11th January 2017, 3.30 AM
What an exciting day we had, as the the African Wild Dogs didn’t come out for the call-out last night, Hayden decided we’re going to do another one this morning, but without the ecologist. Something about seize the day kinda thing.
Bright and early we left as it is about an hour drive to the location and we weren’t sure if they were there or moved on. On our way, a little Suni got caught in our lights and got blinded it was running around as it was probably temporarily blind. You see them very rarely and also they normally only travel alone, in pairs or with the baby as they are monogamous.
The bait was still there, untouched, and the telemetry scanner showed that they have moved. We went back to the western fence with the nyala leg and got quite a strong signal. We tied the bait on a tree and after the first 15 minutes of calling over the speakers, a very chirpy young dog appeared in the middle of the track, maybe 100 meters away, then a second one joined him. Then 2 more pair of ears appeared above the grass, 5 dogs in total, which was the entire pack.
You’ve got mum, Albie, a very dominant female, who separated herself from the previous pack and started her own pack. She went out of the fence, and rounded up Freddie, a dominant male and Ozzy also a male. There are 2 pups, about 3-4 months old. You have to love those big ears and the colouring and pattern on each dog is like a fingerprint, it’s unique, but they don’t bark, they twitter..haha, yes, they communicate in a twitter-like fashion. When they meet other dogs, they get so excited, and the volume of the twitter goes up. They love to talk.
We moved back from the bait and the dogs came running towards the car and the scent of their breakfast. We saw that the rangers were making their way towards us as well, which was a shame as the dogs most likely would disappear in the woods again. However, they stopped and pulled aside. One of the young pups was quite bold and inquisitive, he came close to the car, approx. 20-30 meters, and just sat there and laid down watching us, probably as fascinated by us as we by him. The rest of the gang started devouring the leg tied to the tree, no growling or arguments, they each took turns to eat, the other pup was coming out to say hello as well, but wasn’t as bold. We saw Albie and Freddy with their collars on and after they had their breakfast, they were happy playing beside the road in the grass not really bothered with our presence. After an hour they said their goodbyes and we recuperated the chain. They left the skin and the bone, all the rest was polished off. I could watch them for hours, they are so interesting. See how they interact and feed, watch the video.
The previous pack had to be darted and removed from the reserve and they’ve put them in Botswana, as they kept going out of the reserve. It’s all double-fenced and the second fence has got electric current on, however, they dug under the fence and escaped. This brought a lot of hassle, stress and relations with the neighbourhood were deteriorating very fast as the dogs got hold of livestock from farmers. This is quite an issue as people don’t have much around here and their livestock is their bank account. So, the pack got moved. This one is behaving and because Albie’s collar can be tracked and her steps can be traced, we could see that she not once has tried to try to escape.
When we left the dogs on our travels through the reserve, we saw giraffes, nothing special as we see them almost every day, except… there was a new-born baby there, couldn’t have been more than a few hours old at the most. Wobbly legs, placenta still on her or his coat, adorable, so we obviously stopped and got some precious photos and video of mum cleaning up her new-born baby. The miracles of nature, I keep absorbing it and can’t get enough of it. It’s intoxicating. Watch mother and baby giraffe.
That concluded the amazing morning session, can this week get possibly any better?
We were back just in time, to get out with Leonard, our elephant technician, two of the girls decided to stay home and catch up on some sleep whilst Heather and I went out elephant observing. We drove straight to the hide, no interruptions this time. The hide was busy, it was a very warm day, around 36ºC, the animals were looking to cool down. You really never know what to expect and what you’ll see, so every day is a surprise and expect the unexpected.
I counted at least 8 elephants, a lot of males and where you have too much testosterone, there you can find the battle of masculinity, two elephants were doing just that. The way they do it, they entwine their tusks and see which one reaches furthest. It’s quite a spectacle to watch. Then at the top of the hide, I saw an elephant rubbing his trunk with his leg in the sand. He actually stood on it. The lovely waterbucks, with their toilet seats, were present as well and a range of birds. Time flew by and we stayed 1,5 hour just watching how nature interacts with each other. Much more civilised than humans at times, that’s for sure.
The evening session was uneventful, at least in the rainforest. We were offered to eat out in the Lodge, which is where the tourists stay. It’s very beautiful there and they even catered for vegan/vegetarians like myself. It’s been another interesting day and the moon is out, tomorrow will be full moon. The rangers will be on full patrol against the poachers.