Always looking for animals

Sam, Katy, and Noggs in Africa

England and leopards

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On June 6th I had my PhD progression viva. This is essentially an oral exam based on the assessment of a report I submitted outlining the relevant literature, aims and methods for my PhD.

Sam and I went back to the UK at the very end of May for this. We drove down to the airport and stopped at Sterkfontain (also known as the Cradle of Humankind). Scientists discovered some of the most important hominine skeletons of all time there such as Little Foot and Mrs Ples. Basically there is this cave network underground and there are slits in the earth’s surface and ancient people were doing their thing, running from giant hyaenas etc and sometimes fell down the holes and couldn’t get out. They would die down there and then millions of years later they were found.

Sam and I went to see the actual Mrs Ples skull at the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria. This is us with Mrs Ples and Dr Francis Thackery, an important paleo-anthropologist who did a lot of the dating work on the skeletons found at Sterkfontain. Somehow I managed to take the worst photo ever. I look horsey and scared all at the same time. This photo also is reminder not to cut your own fringe with a Swiss Army knife.



Sam has pictures from our visit to Sterkfontain and I hope he’ll share them on the blog later.

We flew back to the UK and I was there for 1.5 weeks. Sam stayed longer so he can spend time with his family.

In my flying visit we went and visited Sam’s dad in Yorkshire.



Sam is enjoying being back in the land of real ale.



We went to London for two nights and visited old friends, Tom and Sally. Here is us drinking on a street corner in London. Now I think about it booze did feature quite a lot during my quick trip to the UK.




I had awesome weather in England. Apparently summer arrived the day we arrived and I think left again when I did!

My viva went very well and I passed with no corrections. Thank goodness they didn’t tick the last box on the sheet.



Since I got back to Lajuma things have been hectic!! I opened leopard and hyaena traps the next day.

Noeks, Marion and I baited the traps with cow lungs which were still warm because the cow had been killed that day.



I checked traps the first night with Gregoire. We didn’t catch anything but we did see bush pig on the road. Later this week while trying to track collared leopards on the quad bike I saw a family of three bush pigs on the road at the bottom of the mountain.

However on the second night of trapping we caught BB, a young male leopard that Sam and I first saw as a cub on the camera traps in October 2011 when he was only about 6 months old.




We collared BB and here’s Adrian checking the collar is on securely! You have be sure.


Here I am with BB.


We put BB in a recovery crate until he was ready to be released. I like this picture because it looks like Oldrich is making BB sniff his finger.



Also this week we’ve had a few parties and braais which have been good.



My dad sent me a book of campfire recipes and activities. I was reading it while waiting for guests to arrive at my braai the other night. One of the jokes in the books was ‘Why did the moon stop eating?’ Answer ‘Because it was full’. It made me laugh.

Yesterday I went to a trophy hunting farm to do an interview and try to track my collared hyaenas. I learned a lot about the process of trophy hunting and it was really interesting. Here’s a hide they use to shoot leopards from. I was standing at the baiting station so that’s how far the shot is.



Sadly on the way home yesterday we witnessed an almost certainly fatal car accident and as witnesses, we waited till the police came to try and give a statement. The response time was so slow, about half an hour, and even when help did arrive there was no urgency or order. It made me appreciate the emergency services in the UK and also made me realise that when driving in South Africa I always need to drive the speed limit and be cautious because if something happens I might not get the help I need in time. Very very sad all around.

So June’s been pretty eventful. Sam’s back later this week (yay!!!) and we’re going to Kruger National Park for three nights on the weekend. I canny wait.    


One thought on “England and leopards

  1. Horray your car wasn’t stolen! 🙂 was lovely to see you both… see you next year for adventures! t+s

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