Always looking for animals

Sam, Katy, and Noggs in Africa

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My precious…

One does not simply walk into Mordor.

– Boromir, The Fellowship of the Ring.

No Boromir, one does not, and if one did the book wouldn’t be over one thousand pages and the films wouldn’t take over 9 hours to watch.

The Lord of the Rings is really really long. It’s longer than hair, longer than the Nile River, longer than toenails, longer than the time it took Sam to marry me, longer than the time it will take Sam to forgive me for joking about that.

And for the past few months it sort of consumed me with its epicness, and amazingly like Frodo and Samwise headed to Mordor, I didn’t quit. I actually finished the megaladon of a book pictured below.



I found a very scruffy copy of the Lord of the Rings in the Barn with pages ripped, the spine broken and tape holding it together. For two months I hauled this brick around with me to town and to the top of Mount Lajuma when radio tracking until I finished. Overall book rating: pretty good. I liked it more than I thought I would.

For a long time now I’ve wanted to rewatch the LotR films and do it back to back. I would only allow myself this indulgence once I’d finished the books so I kept reading the brick. Only yesterday, about a month after my brick reading finished, did Sam and I have a free day to finally watch the films.

Here are my hobbity feet in the sun on May 20th, LotR day.



We made a nest in our bed and began viewing at about 8:30. The viewing finished about 18:00. Epic!



LotR day was also accompanied by Middle Earthish snacks. We ate like fast food hobbits. Breakfast was Doritos and dip. Second breakfast was gummy strawberries. Elevensies was nougat. Lunch was banana. Dinner and supper were Amarula straight from the bottle.



We decided the following things about LotR:

1) There are a hell of a lot of bromances in LotR – Samwise and Frodo, Gimli and Legolas, Merry and Pippin. Only Aragorn seemed immune but instead he just wooed the ladies all over the show!

2) Gimli is kind of like Scrappy Doo. He was like ‘let me at them orcs, let me at them’. Small, enthusiastic and maybe not as tough as he thought.

3) JRR Tolkien made his two baddies – Sauron and Saruman have stupidly similar names. Don’t do that.

4) Our films didn’t have any subtitles so every time the characters slipped in Elvish, it sounded a lot like when people just start speaking Afrikaans here. We decided that is probably what Elvish is. Also the elephants were called oliphants, an Afrikaans name, thus further proof…somehow.

5) What exactly are wizards? Are they from the realm of men or elves or what? And what was with Gandalf’s resurrection? Felt a bit too Jesusy.

6) The orcs being ‘born’ reminded of us leopard trapping where you have to open up the foetus sack to release the creature inside.

7) Hobbit children are super cute with their big eyes and curly hair. Well only I decided that.

Here’s Sam watching hobbit love in a foetal position like a newborn orc (but much better looking!).




So ultimately we kinda wasted a whole day in bed with movies and junk food but I still feel a sense of accomplishment, like I can make a big tick off my life list hence the reason this is worthy of a blog post. 


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Nature, Red in Tooth and Claw

If you’re going to shuffle off this mortal coil you may as well do it in style. This is the philosophy to which Mrs Bushbuck subscribed. Some bushbuck die of disease. Others die of old age. Not Mrs Bushbuck. She met her end at the jaws of a leopard. May she rest in pieces. 


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The bushbuck as the baboons found her


On Tuesday afternoon the habituated baboon troop happened across her remains next to a river, just a few hundred meters from our tent (thanks Pete for the tip-off!). They must have spooked the leopard, who had just made the kill and had started feeding. Baboons from this troop kill and eat bushbuck young and other mammals fairly frequently, but as they had not killed this animal they had no interest in eating it. Baboons and leopards have very different killing styles. Baboons kill when they encounter prey opportunistically, which they then they rip apart, frequently feeding upon it while it is still alive. It gets messy, but then for baboons hunting is just a hobby.  Leopards are professionals. They deliberately stalk their quarry, remaining undetected until near enough to pounce. They use their sharp claws to catch their prey then kill it with a bite to the neck. You can see where the leopard grabbed the hindquarters, and the canine puncture marks from the canines on the underside of the neck where it suffocated the bushbuck. Clean, quick, and efficient.


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Wounds to the hindquarters and neck where the leopard caught and killed the bushbuck. 


We were able to put up a camera trap at the kill site to determine which leopard made the kill. Just ten minutes after we left the site the leopard turned up and dragged her prey away to safety. It was a female known as Jenny, the sister of Annakin, one of our collared male leopards. She clearly isn’t too disturbed by the human activity in this area and feels comfortable enough to make a kill.  Two nights later one of our Research Assistants, Gregoire, came across a leopard on his way home to bush camp. Maybe it was Jenny eyeing up her next meal… 



Heeeeeeere’s Jenny!

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Give us a go with gunny. Oh come on, my turn with gunny.

– Jez, Peep Show

Africa is quite different from England is a lot of ways. People ride donkey carts to work and eat mopane worms for tea. And a lot of people own guns. In England the police don’t even carry guns. They have truncheons instead. But here you see guns a lot – security guards at houses and malls, gun racks on hunting vehicles, people just wearing their handguns as they have lunch, game rangers at national parks on patrol. It’s pretty normal and very much part of life in the bush.

For my birthday last year Sam made me a bookmark voucher type thing (below) for shooting lessons.




So this April off we went to gun school. Sam and I did a gun proficiency course in Louis Trichardt. It entailed a classroom lesson about firearm safety, laws, rights and rifle maintenance. We had to pass two closed book tests and two open book tests about this content. We spent last week quizzing each other on safety rules and on the items that go in a gun cleaning kit.

Then on Tuesday after we passed our written tests we went to the shooting range. We had a couple of practice shooting sessions and then we had to pass a shooting test where we had to hit the A5 target with 10 bullets in a row. We went after someone who was passing a test with a muzzle loader gun which was really fricking loud when it went off. He was Afrikaans and I nicknamed him ‘Black Powder’ in my head.



Me with my safety earmuffs on and holding my loaded magazine while we waited to shoot.



Sam loading ammo into the magazine.



Sam’s shooting stance was spot on.



My stance was unique. I had a bit of a tilty head bum wiggle thing going on!


We both got all our shots on target and passed. At the end of course we received certificates of firearm proficiency. With this qualification we can now legally own our own firearms in South Africa if we want.




So all in all a good experience. Next up a spot of game hunting and biltong making maybe…