What a weeeeeek!! It’s honestly during weeks like this that I cannot BELIEVE this is ACTUALLY MY JOB!! I have SO many highlights, but let’s start with some swimming. As in…. elephants and rhinos swimming…. at the perfect moment, right in-front of us, when we were walking with them… as if they were trying to put on a show. Unreal. The elephants especially become so playful and it’s one of my favourite sightings in the wild, as I’ve come to realise last time.
One morning, during one of these spectacular walks, we saw a big hole in the ground. I peeked in and there was a warthog in it. Standard, except the rangers told us they can be very aggressive and territorial and can easily break your legs by running at you if they ever feel cornered.
So we approached sloooowly…. getting closer, and closer and closer. This warthog did not react and there were flies around it and a weird smell. We got the game park manager in, who prodded the warthog’s leg and still no reaction. Clearly, it was dead. We were instructed to get the thing out and assess cause of death. Cool!! I love stuff like this, so here I am getting all excited and discussing with the rangers and volunteers how best to drag it out, as it’s lodged in there pretty deep. One of the rangers eventually grabbed a long stick, tied a rope to it and decided to loop it around the warthog’s tusk to slowly pull it out.
And as he does that….. this ”””’DEAD””” warthog SHOOTS out of his hole and RUNS like Usain freakin Bolt, past us, into the distance, followed by a shocked camera man.
Everyone around the hole scattered in surprise and the ranger ran away like a little girl (which he will never live down whilst I’m here). In conclusion: it was fo sho the LEAST DEAD WARTHOG I have ever seen. Definitely made for some hysterical footage. And the smell and flies? Well, Pumba was probably just stashing something dead in there. #charming.
That same day we had to do a Game Capture. It’s basically capturing specific animals and relocating them to another area of the conservancy to improve their breeding. That time we had to find nyala, which are my faaavourite antelope, and normally we see them every day. On this occasion, it’s almost as if they knew something was up- because we spent THREE HOURS tracking them on foot.
In cold, wind, rain and through waist tall grass surrounded by rhinos. Now that’s what I call dedication. After 8km of solid tracking with no food, no water and lots of blisters, we finally found them…………….
……………..right next to our starting point…………….
AANYYYYYYWAAAAYYYYY, We had specialists come over to dart them which was incredible to see. These are professionals who know exactly what they’re doing and it’s like watching a military operation every time.
Touching a nyala was extra special for me because I can never get enough of their beauty so being this close and helping their breeding was pretty rewarding. The nyala feels no pain and before she knows it, she’s in a new place with new bachelors ready to… umm….. get to know her:
We also got to track rhino with the anti poaching team this week. The anti poaching team aren’t really people, FYI. They’re superheroes with extra human senses like I have never seen before. They spend their lives tracking rhino and tracking poachers, so they know the signs from a mile away. Shiray, the Head of the conservancy’s anti Poaching Unit, can see tracks on the ground from up to 20 m away… and these are tracks that have been stepped on , covered with dust, rain etc. IT. IS. INSANE. By looking at a piece of grass or a patch of dirt, he can tell which way the subject has gone and how long ago that was. IT. IS. MINDBLOWING. I was just following his lead, pretending to understand what on earth he was doing.. and HOW he was doing it, but in reality, all I could think of was gfjfxdjfgzsukhfouzskdxhgvbouwrshfpc!?!?!?!?!
Shiray answered some of my (never ending) questions shortly after he’d found the rhino for us aaaaand it turns out that sometimes, they have to track poachers for up to 60km NON STOP …and throughout the night!! These poachers are clever and know exactly how to cover their tracks, so it’s important that Shiray and his team stay ahead of the game.
These guys put their lives at risk every single day to protect one of the world’s most endangered species, and I cannot even begin to explain the kind of respect I have for what they are doing. I hope to learn more from them in the 6 weeks I have left filming this project!
(Ps. This is their code sign for ‘elephant’ and I kept saying it looked more like a chicken. Who’s with me here?)
And I know this is completely unrelated, but I couldn’t not share this gorgeous sunrise. See, there ARE benefits to waking up at 5:30 in the morning (most of the time).
Lastly, check out this amazing Eland skull I came across in the bush! They are the biggest of the antelopes so their skulls are pretty impressive. And I love finding bones and skulls in the wild so this was definitely a treat. (Am I weird??)
Volunteer of the Week
Peter is from the Netherlands and has been an amazing addition to the volunteer program at the conservancy. Not only did he let me beat him mercilessly at table tennis (or at least that’s what he tells himself), but we also shared the experience of seeing a friend’s 7 day old sable at his farm in town… adooorable!! Peter used to play football professionally, until he suffered a knee injury and now kicks ass at managing a big office supplies company. 3 Fun Facts about Peter:
- He is passionate about anti poaching and hopes to get some proper training with an anti poaching team next time he’s in Africa.
- Peter toured the world for a year with his friend who was a successful DJ at the time.
- He is obsessed with colour and apparently, his place in the Netherlands resembles a stylish rainbow!
Next Week: The antelope who thinks it’s a dog, Obstacle Courses, the ‘Spider Removal Committee’ and many other surprises!