Carnivore Feeding and Poacher Watching

Trip Start Jun 15, 2013
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Trip End Jul 17, 2013


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Where I stayed
N/a'an Ku SÍ

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Friday, June 21, 2013

Today, as expected, Sheila woke me up around 6 am with a dirty diaper in my face. As if that wasn't enough to wake me up, she proceeded to sit above my head on my pillow, look down at my face, and bite the upper cartilage of my nose. I managed to stay in bed until my alarm went off at 7 as she continued to take over our room, jumping from the cabinet to my back, stomach, and legs, hanging from our window shade (which is simply a tarp tacked up), pulling the towels off the towel hangers when she tried to swing on them, and of course moving from one person to the next to antagonize.

First thing this morning after my pb&j breakfast sandwich, I finally had my orientation. Jo told stories of tons of the animals, about the mission of naan ku se, about the programs, etc. I learned that the goal of the owners is to convince all of the farmers to tear down their fences and let nature run. No more enclosures, no more unnecessary killings, etc. I learned about the care clinic and that volunteers are welcome to spend time there, but it was preferred that they have a medical background or a strong desire to help people. The clinic is free to bushman, as they are considered lower in the eyes of other tribes and they feel that, are ashamed, and rarely seek medical attention. The clinic is available to anyone, but anyone other than bushmen must pay.

I inquired about volunteering at the clinic after the induction. Jo and Tess told me that this week the clinic is taking volunteers from Tuesday to Friday, which is odd because normally volunteers go for two weeks. I thought this was unfortunate as I didn't want to spend a full two weeks there, but I had already committed to going to Nueras this week. They told me to go and speak to ChaCha about it all.

I went to muffin break. Today we had donuts, every Friday we have donuts. When I was told this I envisioned Krispy cream donuts with the glaze running off of them... Wrong again. These were homemade donuts with powdered sugar. They were still warm and fresh. And let me tell you, better than Krispy Creams. Not even kidding.

Then I rejoined my group. We were assigned enclosure patrol today. During the morning, while I was at induction, they power walked around the carnivore enclosures to make sure the electrical fencing was set at the right current and to make sure there were no damages to the fences. The later morning shift, the one that I was back for, was the carnivore feed. We take large slices of meat to each of the carnivores (leopard, cheetahs, lions, wild dog, hyenas) and throw them over and into the gate. It's incredible to watch the animals behave instinctively and get annoyed, charge the fence, growl. The power of the big cats is so breathtaking. Despite the beauty of the massive leopard and the grace of the cheetah, the lion is still the most feared. We were instructed to stay inside of the vehicle when feeding Meatball and his sister, even with the electric fence.

We checked on the wild dog that we tranquilized yesterday when we went to feed him. He didn't come running when we called, and normally he is there at the gate awaiting his food. Hildagarten and Tess found him and phoned for Flo (the other researcher) because they felt he didn't look quite right. I was so nervous sitting in the car. I definitely did not want to witness an animal having to be put down or anything like that. Flo wasn't far away and arrived quirkily. He took a look and said that the wild dog was just scared of the vehicles after the previous day's incident and was simply shaken up.

Also, I managed to see my first giraffe while feeding the cats. There is a female, bull, and baby that reside on the farm. The bull was the only thing I saw.

When we got back for lunch, we enjoyed wraps with a bit of ham in them as well as cheese and veggies. I talked to Jo and told them I could do watchtower duty tonight. Essentially, three days a week (monday Wednesday and Friday) two volunteers go and sit in a watch tower all night. The point is to detour poachers. Because I said I would do that, I didn't have to do my afternoon shift which would have been project work aka more digging for the baboon enclosure. 

I asked Emma to take me in with the oldest and tamest cheetah on Naan Ku Se, Samera. Standard big cat rules applied: no sunglasses, don't turn your back, don't get below their level. Samera didn't really feel like obliging to our request to take her picture in good lighting, so she rolled around in the shade and made us come to her. About the time that we gave up on our endeavor and headed to the gate, she realized that we were leaving and wanted more attention. She made her way to us, right as we shut and locked the gate. We reentered the enclosure and got a few good shots of her lapping up water. I plan to return sometime later whenever she is in the sun and I can get better pictures.

I talked to Chacha and she suggested that I go to the clinic this week, and do Nueras next week. I then decided to do the three day camping safari this weekend.

I showered since I didn't have to report to duty and packed my things for my next couple of adventures. During this time, I also had my first encounter with our farm jackal, Mia. She managed to get ahold of some trash and found something tasty.

Supper arrived. We had steak and mashed potatoes. I even went up for seconds tonight.

Then at 7:30 Tess picked Danny and me up and took us to the watchtower, where we now sit. Danny, Tess, and I lugged everything up the wooden ladder and into the tower. Tess left. Danny and I laid out our sleeping mattresses and sleeping bags and layered up. We are listening for hunting dogs, vehicles driving without lights on, gun shots, etc. and if we hear any of fhose we have a cell phone and instructions on who to call. About ten minutes after we got settled, we heard howling all around us. Of course we didn't even know what to do. Since then, we have determined that these howls are jackals, as they are all around us. We have also heard the leopards (we are right by the leopard enclosure) and I have managed to catch sight of a shooting star.

To say that I am scared up here is an understatement. There is something so eerie about being out in the middle of no where, up so incredibly high, in the wild, all on your own.

If I gain nothing else out of this experience here, I will gain the knowledge that I have more courage than I ever dreamed of.

And also that sometimes in order to sleep somewhere aside from where a baboon will also be sleeping, you must take jobs that are cold, tiresome, and wanted by slim to none.


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