VOLUNTEER TRIP SOUTH AFRICA
Mkuze Game Reserve
Thursday, 19th January 2017, 5 AM
After yesterday’s elaborate rather exhausting day, my body decided it wasn’t having another 2.45 AM get-up, so I had a lie-in and finally got up at 5 AM. Camp was quiet, the sun was up, woody woodpecker was giving it his best, the cardinal woodpecker, a beautiful little bird with a red quiff.
I used the opportunity to wash my hair, which is a luxury here in the bush as water level is still at an all-time low and find a spot where I could get some internet, as I was getting behind on blogs and some emails and messages from back home. Even on the other side of the world, I can’t escape some duties and obligations.
My volunteer colleagues, went back to where we left the dogs the night before, hoping they were still in approximately the same place. This is the reason we are on the move so early, as the animals will start to move from their resting place to hunt for breakfast, so it’s the ideal opportunity. The wild dogs can travel an average of 30 kms a day if they want to, you can imagine trying to get them back in the reserve if they are so far away is a mammoth task.
We left them at approximately 6-7 kms from the fence line of Mkuze. They apparently had a sighting, but they moved into community land, which is not very good, as they will shoot the dogs if they get to see them. They still had some bait in the truck and used that to lure them in Kube Yini Game reserve, which has its borders with Mkuze. They left the dogs there, hopefully they’ll be still there in the morning.
First there was talk about doing a push and pull tonight, but we need more manpower and guns, as we have to do this on foot and we need to protection of field rangers. So, management decided it’s going to happen in the morning. We already have been advised to take lunch, snacks, plenty of water as we aren’t coming back until we have the dogs near the fence line or in Mkuze. I’m quite looking forward to it, tough or not, this is what I’m here for.
The afternoon got spent in Mkuze reserve, which is nice for a change as I obviously haven’t seen much of it yet whilst chasing the dogs. We needed to monitor the elephants, as they have been seen on the road and we needed some IDs. They were not far from camp, they were on both sides of the road and walking across, nobody could advance until they decided to trot off a little bit further. I got some good ID shots which is mainly the ears, so you have to wait until they flap their ears, so the cuts can be seen.
Just a bit further down the same road, I saw my first buffalo, jet black on his own. These are not to be messed with. The buffalo is one of the Big 5 endangered species.
We were scanning for lions, cheetahs and WD4, which is another pack of wild dogs, existing of 3 dogs where one has been caught in a snare and her leg is badly injured. Unfortunately they haven’t been able to dart her yet, as the day the vet came down last week, she was nowhere to be seen. They want to amputate the leg, so she can live pain-free on 3 legs. Luckily it is the back leg, as they use the front legs for jumping their prey.
Whilst circling the reserve we saw a couple of giraffes, and this rather young one, was laying down, this is something you don’t see very often. As I mentioned in former posts, I can watch them for hours, giraffes are so majestic and inquisitive, and their gorgeous faces are very fascinating.
Whilst we were scanning for the dogs, we saw them on the side of the road, it was close to nightfall and they were travelling to their resting place for the night, so we got a good look at them and we got a couple of good photos. They’ve been rolling in the mud, so we couldn’t see the state of her leg, but when I zoomed in, I saw some raw red patch. She’s not in a good state, poor puppy. It was quite interesting to see how the other 2 were looking out for her. They were scanning the area for any danger and one of them stayed real close to her. They also feed her, as she’s very weak and very skinny, they actually take to food to her. I found that quite endearing, as normally in nature they leave the injured and weak ones behind. The African Wild Dogs are known as a very close family unit, they play, sleep and walk together. If one of them has strayed too far, they start ‘hoo’ calling, it’s a stress call, asking the others where they are and find them. It’s quite an amazing sound and when they find each other, they start twittering, it’s very high-pitches and adorable. The wild dogs don’t bark, they do growl and it’s menacing.
When the sun was going down, we left them in their resting place. After monitoring them we knew they weren’t moving anymore.
Another gorgeous sunset to finish the day. Early bed and alarm is set for 2.45 AM