Stuck Between Two Roaring Lions

Trip Start Jan 17, 2011
1
16
Trip End Ongoing


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Where I stayed
Siyafunda
What I did
Siyafunda Conservation Initiative
Kruger National Park

Flag of South Africa  , Limpopo,
Friday, May 6, 2011

We've been pretty busy this month so I've decided to do a month overview instead of the normal shorter time frame.
We've had a lot of people heading on holidays so this is why we've been busy but we've had some super volunteers coming through so they helped everything run relatively smoothly (yey!). It means the mood is also kept up beat and cheery which means better holidays for everyone... and when everyone's happy they tend to produce better data (hey, it happens oddly enough).

There have been some good sightings this month. We have new baby buffalo - one boy and one girl. FINALLY A GIRL! To make up a breeeding herd the girls are pretty important and this is the first little gir born here. We also have new baby elephant too. We've worked out there are 2 baby babies and one a little bigger baby baby. The 2 younger ones are still to be confirmed as to which herds they're from but we saw both of them in the one sighting by Ranch Dam and think one is in Dracula's herd, the other in Queeny's herd. Oddly enough, as the best sightings happen, it came about as a surprise to us. The vols found a flower (which I explained was a type of hibiscus) and they wanted a picture. While they were taking a picture, an elephant popped into the background... then a whole herd... the 3 herds! Bombyx trailed along the back near Dracula's herd and stopped right in front of us to check us out. He was heavily in musth to the point of dribbling urine (not dripping, dribbling!) He then decided it was a nice spot for a little dust bath which can be agressive sometimes but he was comletely calm in every way. Then he moved off to follow the herds again. It was very cool. 
Hyaena-wise we had a great sighting of a bunch of hyaenas with a carcass at a dam near home. Hyaena Norway was lying on top of a hindquarter from a zebra and protecting it from not only the other hyaenas but aso the vultures too. Arrow came along later in the game and actually started trying to catch a vulture or two after being turned away from the zebra. He was so close to catchign one - it would have been fabulous to see that but even still it was a fantistic sight! Snoopy though had a bit of a wound on his back, it didn't seem to bother him but hopefully it wont grow into something more.
In more recent days we went up to Pidwa North to try and find Renee again. While we were there we literally ran into the two male lions, Xinpoko and Million, who were on the road. We stayed to watch them then as we moved off they started yawning so we stayed a bit longer for some more photos. We tried to move off again but nothing was happening, not even the lights were coming on... we were stuck in the furthest part of the reserve between 2 lions... crap. The radio in that area isn't the best but luckily I had mobile signal so I called for help (which would take a while to get to us but none the less...). The odd thing was, I realised then I had a message on my phone that Renee had been seen by the other group at the other end of Pidwa North right back close to home... Alanis Morrisette irony to a tee. We sat there and enjoyed the lions (well, some sat there and tried not to think about having to go to the toilet but most of us simply enjoyed the stars and lions.) The boys gave us a show too - roaring right next to the car which is always incrediable. I worked out Million has a very distinct voice too - it's very high pitched before it settles into a normal call. This will be usefull if we hear lions calling in the future to tell if he's there or not.
So finally, a car came up and we got excited that our rescue had come... they stopped and looked at the lions, and we all thought ok but it would be nice to at least radio to make sure we're ok. They finally drive next to us and they ask about animal stuff and we're all a bit confused. Then I mention that we're a bit stuck. Turns out they weren't our rescue just a group driving past. The driver then says "well, let me know if you're still here in an hour and I'll get help" Oh, umm, ok, thanks?? I think the guy in the back pushed her a bit then so they got hep from some of the workers nearby. By this stage the 2 boys had moved off far enough away from the car that we didn't have to tow or anything, we could push start instead. Our actual recuse arrived just as we started going again... Alanis Morrisette appears to sing again. The volunteers came back quite excited about their adventure and I emphasised to some who were a little overwhelmed that the best stories always come out of situations that don't go to plan.

So Renee had been seen, she is appearing a little more again - she was seen by the volunteer project, Askari, who are in Pidwa North and now by one of our teams so we're greatful she's been checked on to make sure she's not injured or anything like that. She's is definatalye spending much more time up north though so it seems I too will be spending more time there. 

We did also get a very rare sighting too - a pangolin. For those that don't know what one is they are a very funky looking mammal that looks almost reptilian because it has scales covering it's body. It curls into a ball at any thought of danger and they are VERY hard to find. Because it was at Twines, we decided to move it to a nearby dam so it wasn't near any people and didn't have the threat of being poached for any traditional medicine because word might get about as to it's location.It was in this trasnfer that it peed on me - it was very special because not only have I now seen a pangoling, I've been peed on by one, not too many people can say that!

I'm getting to run more errands around the reserve now I have my licence too. I actually really enjoy it because it get to go out on my own and have my own little animal encounters, and all at random. I got to see a jackal hunting (it was jumping up and down in the grass by the road but I'm not sure what it was after) and the other day while I was picking up a chain block (to lift an engine out of a car) I got to see a Common Purple-Glossed Snake. Let alone it being quite a good sighting, I had to come back and ID it and they're apparently quite rarely seen so I feel a little special about it too now.

I've been able to take some volunteers to Kruger lately too. I'm glad that some of them are enthusiastic to see it because it's not only a world renown National Park but it's so close to us. I know many of the same animals are there but thye also have baboons that stay near the vehicle
(we don't encourage our baboons to stay around people or vehicles) and animals like wild dog and roan that we don't get here. We had quite a few rhino, buffalo and elephant sightings - elephants bathing was the girls favourite but we had a fantiastic sighting of 2 white rhino that got too close to an elephant bull and they ended up having quite a noisy stand off. The car in front of us moved off straight after this but then another elephant bull came in front of them. They immediately started reversing but the elephant was very calm and was noticably playing with them. So I decided to read the signs and stayed put. The bull did investigate a little but did go around, he greeted the other bull still to our right who was previously busy feeding and then they moved off. The car that almost reversed into us wasn't very happy I have to say though.

Easter came with a huge amount of public holidays this year but at Siyafunda we did put on a special surprise Hoppy Easter brunch. Do brought egg painting equipment from Germany and we painted up some eggs for the volunteers to find around Bush Camp while Ro and Cl made up some pancakes and other foody stuff. It was loads of fun, we even ended up doing egg and spoon races! Most of the races were people who were from the same country or like me and De - "The Rangers." Even if it wasn't Friday, it was still fun, fun, fun, fun ;o)

In simple news, I finally got a chance to get my hair cut and dyed. According to the hairdresser it was in "terrible condition" but I simply couldn't get in sooner because of driving and other appointments I've had to do... which continue as I try to process my PDP and FGASA assessment stuff.

We're now into May and we've already had colder nights starting. The trees are losing their leaves and the grass is shortening, even the impalas are fully into their rutting season. Winter is setting in but I refuse to pull out my super jackets this early.... maybe by the end of the month. (Because the gloves are coming out for the next drive)


**Note that I will try to sort pictures into the story but the "sort option is currently not working..."
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