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The Elephant Technician

VOLUNTEER TRIP SOUTH AFRICA
Tembe Elephant Park

Tuesday, 10th January 2017, 4 AM

Today was definitely dedicated to finding Freddy and Albie, the African Wild Dogs, as we needed a good sighting. As you remember from the previous post, they moved location. We managed to pinpoint them to a location and the waiting game began. As they were stuck deep in the forest, we were hoping that they would come our way, so we were hanging about.

A very good opportunity to play with my camera, the new Olympus OM-D-10 Mark II, a nifty little thing, and I have 3 different lenses I can play around with. There is enough nature around to see how creative I can be. I am actually very pleased about my new toy. I bought this mirrorless or MFT (Micro Four Thirds) camera upon recommendation of someone in the business, and it means I don’t have to carry around a big DSLR with a super big lens. My biggest lens is 75-300 mm, which according to what I’ve read is comparable to a 600 mm for a DSLR. And I can’t complain, it’s sharp, I haven’t missed a shot yet. A photography course might give me even better pictures, but for now, I’ll wing it.

One of the little flowers we saw, was a little blue/violet one and according to Hayden, who actually knows his stuff, is as good as an eye drop. Heather, Miss Canada, had an irritated eye, and decided to test it out. On her knees she went and doctor Hayden administered the drops. The funny things we do.

Sunrise - Tembe Elephant Park
organic eye drops
Dew - Tembe Elephant Park

The dogs were not going to come out to play today, we had to rush back to camp as at 10.00 we were going out with Leonard, the elephant technician. Mmm, I was looking forward to that.

Leonard, is not part of Wildlife Act, but of Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife who manages the reserve and has been an elephant technician for 20 years. There are approximately 220 elephants in the sand forest, quite a few Big Tusks and he knows at least 90 elephants by name, their character and personality just by looking at them. I was properly impressed. Some of them you can see they are different, but a lot of them just look all the same. It’s apparently all about the notches in the ears, the tusk and shape of their head.

We were going to one of the hides, which is a watering hole where a lot of the animals are found, if you are lucky. We just left and in the middle of the road was the most endearing scene, 3 little baby warthogs, mum and dad going head-to-head with a male intruder. It was heavy going between those two, mum followed after dad and the 3 little piglets didn’t know where to run anymore, they were all out of sorts, running everywhere and nowhere. Dad came out again, gave us a grumpy look, collected his babies and went to the side of the road, a little bit later, mum came out to join her little family.. Mr. Intruder followed suit, he obviously didn’t get the message he was not welcome.

Warthog piglets - Tembe Elephant Park
Warthog dad - Tembe Elephant Park
Warthog mum - Tembe Elephant Park
Elephants cooling down - Tembe Elephant Park

After that little interlude, we went on in search of elephants, we reached one of the Pans (these are natural watering holes) and a group of elephants crossed the road in front of us, running actually to the water. They were having so much fun, I wanted to jump in it with them. Click here to see the video of the elephants playing with water.

 

 

We came across more elephants and as Leonard recognises them, he knows how close he can drive to them, which was fabulous.

We finally arrived at the hide, and a few elephants were enjoying the water and having a bath, some waterbucks were fighting. They are easy to recognise as they have toilet seats on their bums. That’s the way I remember it, I’m sure it’s not the scientific explanation. We stayed an hour there, watching the different animals and birds coming and going. There were birds building their nests right at the entrance of the hive, beautiful bright yellow/black ones, they’re called Lesser Masked Weaver. It’s the males that build the nests and there are more nests than needed, because if the female is not satisfied with her new home, she refuses to move in or at some occasions tear it apart and the male has to build a new one. It seems we are not the only one who can be finicky. A couple of Woolley necked stalks were near the water edge and quite a few birds of prey were flying around, in particular the Yellow billed Kite. It was all extremely fascinating.

Splashing elephant - Tembe Elephant Park
Lesser Masked Weaver - Tembe Elephant Park
waterbucks - Tembe Elephant Park
Volunteers Tembe Elephant Park
nyala leg - Tembe Elephant Park
call-out - Tembe Elephant Park

Back at camp for 14.00 and our evening session was at 16.30, just enough time to cook some food, feed everyone and off we went again. The weather was gorgeous and we were going to do our first call-out. I was quite interested how that was going to turn out.

The ecologist was coming along, nyala leg in the back, however half way in our journey, 20 minutes in the reserve, Hayden remembered he had forgotten the speakers. No call-out without equipment. Back to camp, then we were in a rush as we needed to do the call-out just before the sun went down. Like a true racing driver he flew over the bumpy tracks, ladies a good sports bra is not a luxury but a must, and we reached the location where we got a signal in the morning.

The bleeding nyala leg was first dragged behind the car over the track to give the dogs a good scent and then tied to a tree with a big chain. We moved away to a 20 meter distance, the speakers were set on the roof and the sound of hungry eating African Wild Dogs was playing to entice them coming in. Unfortunately when we scanned, they had moved away further into the forest. After 2 hours waiting, playing the call sound, we went back to camp. Another day we’ll have more luck. The leg was left where it was and we were going to check at it tomorrow.

Another educational day and another fabulous sunset in Tembe to end the day.

Sunset - Tembe Elephant Park

About The Author

Dagmar

Hi everyone, I'm Dagmar and I'm born in Belgium, at 27 I moved to the south coast of Spain, initially just for 6 months, however 22 years later, I'm still here. I have a big passion for animal welfare. I have 3 dogs and a cat, all rescues. In September 2015, I turned vegetarian and over the course of that year, I have leant more and more towards veganism. My aim is to eat as 'clean' as possible.

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