Elephant Epicness, the Impala Incident and Murwi the Warrior

One of the things I love most about this project is just how much we are learning about anti-poaching: the team, the training, the risks involved and the experiences they’ve had whilst trying to achieve their (massive) goal. This week was ridiculously exciting, as we saw the arrival of the conservancy’s first anti-poaching dog. I LOVE dogs and am one of those annoying people that will stop every dog and its owner on the street to pet it/ play with it. So when this 1 year old pup came out of the car, I naturally started cuddling it… and she loved it!! A military trained anti-poaching dog was laying on my lap in a matter of seconds enjoying belly rubs and ear scratches. Incredible.

Murwi (meaning ‘warrior’ in Shona) has come from Wales with her handler Darren, who has spent the past year and a bit training her up for this moment. She has been specifically bred with this job in mind and I was amazed at the intelligence she displayed on her first walk, despite all the ongoing excitement.

Murwi obeyed every command and knew the difference between work and play instantly. When we filmed her first tracking exercise, Murwi definitely noticed the unfamiliar sounds of wild animals (just a little different to Welsh pigeons!!), but didn’t let them distract her from the task at hand and succeeded within minutes every time…. even when a 2 week old giraffe and its mother blocked her way!

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To reward her for a job well done, Darren and her new family (the anti poaching team) strengthened their bond by playing with her. And Murwi, who’s still a puppy on the inside, was always up for it:

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I am IN LOVE with Murwi and am beyond excited to be filming the start of her epic anti poaching journey at the conservancy.

Another animal that just keeps fascinating me is Mack the elephant… He accompanied us for a nice outdoor breakfast on one of the mornings this week and it was spectacular, as usual. Anyone got a suitcase big enough for this guy??? (…and the dog…..  and last week’s baby sable….)

A not-so-cute incident this week was discovering that an impala had died of natural causes and to avoid wastage, we now had to cut it up and feed it to the croc, hyena and only lion at the conservancy. WARNING: If you are squeamish, look away!!

I realise that the head is quite Godfather-ish, but I now know that:

1. Impalas are HEAVY despite looking like the lightest airiest things when they bounce around.

2. They go through so much pain and fighting just to remain a part of their herd… and sometimes, fights between males do not end well (which is how this guy died). Their horns are so sharp, hard and heavy that I am now considering replicating one to use as a weapon in case of… well, you know, when somebody doesn’t share chocolate with me…

In any case, the lion, croc and hyenas were delighted with the treat, and I feel better knowing that nothing went to waste.

Also, can we please take a moment to look at this MAGNIFICENT butterfly we came across. It’s a Citrus Swallow Tail. So cool:

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We have 2 more weeks of filming left (whhhaaaaat!?) and I am starting to freak out again because as usual, I don’t want to go home!! Everyone here says I’ll end up moving to Africa, but I don’t know…. some days I really do like the idea and other days I just need my Deliveroo and Ubers too much…. aaaah the dilemma !

Volunteer of the Week

Lucy (from the UK) has done the dream: taken a gap year to travel to sick places like China, Israel, Africa and Thailand. She is volunteering at the conservancy for 2 weeks and then going to another part of the country to visit family for the rest of the month. Lucy has had some wacky experiences during her travels, including attending a Ping Pong show in Bangkok with a group of people she had met earlier that day. Let’s just say they were surprised at the erm… ‘unexpected’ contents of the show and that it felt a little awkward! Lucy’s number 1 country is Israel and she was fascinated by the diversity, history, people and culture there. Her favourite activity at this program has been elephant training and Lucy is NOT looking forward to leaving Africa… even though she will go on to study History of Art when she’s back home in London, which does sound pretty cool! Oh, and in case you were wondering… the pics are from a fence building activity where poor Lucy spent 40 mins trying to cut a piece of thick wire, only to be shamed by the superhuman volunteer coordinator, who did it in one swift move. Ouch.

Next Time: Horse riding with the conservancy owner, the elephant who thinks it’s a buffalo, Murwi goes for a swim & more!

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