I told some of you that during this holiday/volunteer work I would probably have to get up by 4am. I was wrong. We actually had to be in the truck ready to go by… 3:50. A.M. that is.
But it is so worth it.
First up is a short drive to the beacon: a tower which we climb to check which animals are around. We use telemetry to check the whereabouts of those collared animals. Over here at Umhkuze that would be lion, cheetah, wild dog, elephants.
Once that is done, we head down to the wild dog den, which is about a 50-minute drive from camp. Hence the reason why we have to get up so early as we want to ‘catch’ the dogs before they leave their den.
Just before we reach the den, we check again to see if they are still around. They were, but definitely on the move. Before we continued, we did stop by the den. I must say you can feel the adrenaline rush though your body whilst searching for their whereabouts. Every so often we stop to check the telemetry, 3 o clock, 4 o clock. Love it.
After searching for the dogs, we finally saw them crossing the road in front of us: goosebumps!! And it wasn’t because of the cold & wind this time around (yeah, even though it is spring, 4 am is COLD, especially on the back of the truck).
After being on the road, out in the cold and of course out of bed that early, we had to stop for some morning coffee (of course I had some before we left!) and the famous South African RUSK cookies. You don’t find those anywhere else in the world. You’d come to visit even just for that 😉
What do you think happened next? We were just about to start and there they were, running past us! So, bye bye coffee and let’s begin to follow them.
This is not an easy job for the person handling the telemetric antenna. She/he has to keep it up in the air, whilst we are driving, and also check and listen to the receiver to hear where the dog is. You can only track one dog (or other animal) at a time.
The two other ladies who are here have been to this or other Wildlife act places, so they know how to use it. One of these days it’ll be my turn.
Only catching a glimpse of them is truly enough to see what magnificent, intriguing animals they are. Sure, they look like a lot of gods we have at home.
On our way back to camp we always do a few more telemetric searches of one or some of the other collared animals.
Today we also had to change batteries and SD-cards on the camera traps. Wihan (one of our guides/monitors showed us and explained step by step what had to be done.
Everything that is recorded that morning (and every other session) is also written down on a data sheet.
When we got back to camp all of us were so ready for breakfast!
Around noon we all got together and had our briefing, Q&A with Wihan and Anel (guide/monitor 2). It was nice to all sit around outside and hear all about Wildlife Act’s past, present, goals, achievements. I am even more convinced that I came to the right place.
During this session we also got our lesson in how to use and work with the telemetric antenna & receiver. And to give the practice more of a hands-on feeling, Wihan let us search for an unused collar. That was actually great to do as it gives you a feeling of what to do and when for when you are really out there. And was able to use my newly obtained skills the day after. You will just have to read on to know more about that 😉
We left for the afternoon session at 3:30 pm in search for MCF16.
Let me explain the number to you:
M = uMkhuze Game Reserve animal
C = species (Cheetah, Lion, Wild Dog)
F = gender
16 = their given number
All the numbers are in the telemetric receiver, so it is easy enough to switch from one animal to the other.
Because all the data is collected for research and we need information about that specific animals’ whereabouts and of course physical condition, we will only search for that particular animal.
Of course, if we do come across another one, we will take all the data needed.
In our case, our search was unfruitful. This female lady was nowhere to be tracked. After stopping for what seemed like a zillion searches, we decided to look for the lions as well.
We were very lucky in finding a lioness with cubs. With
finding I do mean, telemetric tracked her. We knew she was so close but yet we
could not see her at all. We tried a few
others but decided to go back to her and wait. Wait, check the exact
But the wait wasn’t in vain. By that time the clouds had finally started to disappear, and the most breathtaking night sky opened up for us. There she was, the milky way. Absolutely amazing to see. Us humans are so futile!
Anyways, after about an hour we decided to call it a night. She wasn’t going to pleasure us with her presence, so we went back to camp.
Bring on tomorrow.