Each time we check the cameras we are discovering new things…species we didn’t know lived on the mountain, new leopards, interesting animal behaviour. On yesterday’s camera run we found serval at two stations! This is extremely special as this is the first time serval have been recorded during our survey. We’ll be putting up a post sometime soon of our favourite camera trap photos.
About a week ago Sam, Russell, Ian and I went on a jolly trip off Lajuma to a farm near the Limpopo River. The managers of the farm wanted our help to analyse their camera trapping survey. Before we went I sifted through 9,319 photos of animals and put together a report about the biodiversity of species on their land. We then went to their property and saw where the photos were taken and advised them about improving their methodology for a second survey.
It was a really good day out. It was hot, dry and we loved the landscape. When I was looking through their camera trap photos I noticed that one of the camera stations was called ‘Dooie kremetart’. I thought that this might be some type of delicious Afrikaans dessert! However it means dead baobab. We certainly saw plenty of baobabs. In one tree there were horns from an antelope which a leopard had hauled up there to eat undisturbed.
Our day in the northern most part of South Africa finished with a trip to visit an old friend who taught us about training dogs to sniff out leopard scats and told us stories about free roaming lions on local farms. She also made us a really nice quiche.
Russell came to visit last week and amongst other project equipment he brought us a poo tent!! The definition of a poo tent is as follows:
Poo tent (noun): a canvas tent used to dry poo samples for scientific purposes
At present we have 50 samples of leopard and hyena poo. That’s pretty good considering we only started our collection in June. Here’s a step by step guide to what we’ve been doing with the excrement!
Step 1: A hyena or a leopard comes along a does a big smelly carnivorous/omnivorous poo. Here’s a photo from one of our camera traps of a brown hyena doing a poo!
Step 2: Collect poo in Ziploc bags and label them with the GPS coordinates.
Step 3: Catalogue all the poos on the computer.
Step 4: In the poo tent the poos goes into poo trays where they dry out. Once dried it is returned to its bag ready for sieving.
Step 5: The poo is sieved and the hairs and bones are separated out. They then go back to (…you guessed it) the poo tent to dry. Julia (who is a star) gave me and my new assistant (who is also a star) a master class in how to sieve and clean a leopard poo the other day. It was very informative.
Step 6: You then identify what the animal has eaten from the bones and hair! We haven’t got to this point yet! Stay tuned!
August in South Africa is getting warmer, sunnier and less misty. These are things I like. The past few weeks have been busy with Wonder’s visit, trips to town, checking cameras and an Earthwatch group. The most exciting thing that happened recently was that on July 26th at about 10 am I saw a leopard!! Now this might not seem that exciting considering the fact that we live in an area with a very high density of leopards, but it is. Some people stay at Lajuma a year or more and never see one because they are so elusive and secretive. I was hiking out to one of our camera stations and Andrew (one of our assistants) spotted some rustling in a bush just ahead. We looked at it and out popped a young leopard who jumped up over some rocks in clear view and then disappeared. It was fantastic! Unfortunately I didn’t have time to take a photo but just imagine how you would feel to see a wild predator unexpectedly just in front of you.
At the end of July I had another interesting adventure….we went out to do a recky for some new camera stations and one of the local workers told us about a waterfall. He told us that we might get wet, maybe the feet or the waist. This seemed a bit cryptic but it turns out that the waist was entirely accurate. We hiked down to a stream which was in the rock valley. The vegetation looked prehistoric with all the giant ferns. Then we started to walk through the river. And it got deeper and deeper until we were wading up to our waists. We turned the corner and there was the waterfall. It was fun even though the water was freezing. I also had a leech on me!
So all in all lots of good things are going on.
Our friends Wonder and Mpofu recently came to visit us from Zimbabwe. We used to work with Wonder on the cheetah project in Zim and we became best friends. We hadnt seen each other for two years so it was great to finally catch up. Unfortunately this time we only had beer in cans, so Wonder couldn’t do his party trick of opening beers with his teeth.
Legendary skills demonstrated in Zimbabwe
We dragged them to the top of the leopard trail to the viewpoint. They dealt with the climb admirably, especially considering that they were knackered as they set off from Bulawayo at 3:00 am and drove through the previous night, and Wonder only had a pair of flip flops so he ended up tackling most of the rocky climbs barefoot. But the view from the top, and the sundowners and braai back at the tent made it all worth it.
Incentives: views; beer; meat and beer
Thanks for stopping by – come again soon. Next time please bring some Inzimbe!