Sand for the masses!

Or rather masses of sand we had to move this afternoon. Now that the cub’s pen has been modified in order to allow rain to drain more easily, we are expanding it. The area that has been chosen for this has already been cleared of all the annoying plants the cubs probably wouldn’t like, so the sand we brought in was used to fill holes and make it easier for water to drain in there as well. This time the cubs could even watch us while in their pen, but they were careful and while nosy kept in the far corner while observing us.

We still have to put up a new fence, but it’s already waiting  there for us. We’re probably going to finish tomorrow, but we might take a little longer depending on how work will go. I’ve never put up a fence, so that’s going to be something new for me.

Other than shoveling, raking and looking at prospective new enclosures, I was busy… raking – me and Rhianna cleaned the cheetah’s center pens (the ones you’d be shown first when coming here) so they look nice and pretty again. Oh, and I was busy doing CD data entry afterwards, which means I had to look at 2007’s camera trap data and find out whether there were animals on the pictures, and if, how many and what kind of. Considering about 40% of the pictures were empty with only the grass in the background moving (and probably setting off the cameras), this is a rather menial task, but occasionally you stumble upon funny moments, such as people in mid-air making you think they just fell off a truck, only to realize they’re just climbing over a fence…

Tomorrow we’ll be interviewing Rhianna, and I will also work on getting more video material before I leave. After that it’s goat kraal again…



See spots run!

We ran the girls today! Usually, the pen the four boys (Little C, Ron, N’dungu and Shunga) are in is the one they use to run the cheetahs, since it is bigger and better equipped for the running of cheetahs. However, every now and then there will be an exchange and the girls get in there while the boys get the girl’s pen. This gives the cheetahs a little variety and also some time to rest after having had two or maybe three runs in a row (one per day, of course).

So I went in there and was able to record some more footage,  only that this time I set my tripod lower. Since it’s not allowed (and advisable) to crouch while shooting pictures and/or videos since the cats could mistake you for smaller prey, this was the best thing I could do to get to about eye level with the cheetahs. I’m glad it seemed to have worked 🙂

We also got to go to the feeding. Since we were four people besides Kate, one of the keepers, I opted to sit inside the car since it would become crowded on the loading area of the pickup. Besides, this allowed me to gain another perspective since I was able to film through the open window. At one point one of the males got so close to it I could have touched him if I wanted. However, since that’s not the best thing you can do with a hungry animal wanting to eat, I of course didn’t. Now, back to video editing… 😀


A slow start into the day

My first duty today was to assist during a scat walk around our cheetah pens. We didn’t find anything today unlike on the last time I helped when we found two pieces of scat, one probably coming from a cheetah, the other one likely from a hyena. Unfortunately, though, our GPS device ran out of battery so we couldn’t write down where the scat was found. Of course, this time we didn’t even need it.

Poop coming from cheetahs is likely to have been placed there by two cheetahs simply called the “Wild Boys”. They are quite interested in the Elands pen, which is full of females (of which at least one is in heat at almost any given time). We do these scat walks because we know there are other carnivores around. We are, of course, especially interested in cheetahs, meaning we are especially happy whenever we find cheetah scat. The poop is then analyzed – we extract, for example, Cortisol that we think might be involved with the pathogenesis of gastritis, but also extract hair from the scat and try to determine the prey species of the cheetahs around here.

The scat collecting was followed by CD data entry, and not only the morning, but also in the evening. Since we are now done with this year’s camera trap data entry, we are now doing the 2007 pictures since the CCF only catalogued the cheetah pictures so far. This means we’re going to be identifying oryx, kudu, eland, porcupines etc. for a little longer. 😉

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How to dip 260 goats and get a sunburn

“You’ll be on goat dipping. Oh, and you’ll be doing this until lunch.” – I was on goat dipping, but I was on it until after lunch. The goats and sheep were not always cooperative; it was hot and exhausting work.

Basically, what we had to do was to bathe the animals in water with a compound in it that is supposed to kill ticks, fleas and other parasites after they had been fed with a dewormer. This wasn’t as easy as one might think it was – while grabbing the young, small goats on their legs and literally dipping them in the solution was fairly easy, this became more challenging with the goats becoming bigger. Especially sheep were very stubborn and didn’t seem to like the bathing at all, struggling to come free and thus spilling about half of the stuff on our clothing. Not that it mattered that much, we had to replenish the solution every now and then anyway.

After one of the quickest meals in my life I left for Bruce’s and Laurie’s house, as I was again scheduled to help with the cub’s pen makeover. This time we finally finished and water should easily find its way down into the small river bed we prepared. Hopefully, working on the expansion of said pen will be less exhausting.

I also noticed I got myself a nice sunburn on my neck as well as on my upper arms… where I didn’t put any sunscreen on since I usually don’t take off my shirt. However, with all the water spilling on my clothes I decided to take it off. Not the best choice, as it seems… 😀

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A disappeared laptop

When we went by the office on our way to the goat kraal, we noticed that Markus’ laptop including his power cord, but not the mouse I lent to him, had disappeared. We usually left our stuff in the office overnight since during the day we’re going to use them anyway. But today, his laptop was missing and it has yet to resurface. He had placed a large CCF sticker on the back of the lid, so this lead us to the assumption that someone might have mistaken it for an official CCF laptop, but since asking around for anyone that might have taken it yielded no results, we don’t really think it’s the case.

Of course, camera trapping this day wasn’t as relaxing as it usually is. Again, we needed to help with the cub’s pen today, and continued bringing sand into the enclosure. Only one more afternoon spent on it and we’re done 🙂

However, we’re still a bit worried about the sudden vanishing of his laptop. It’s definitely sad, but also a bad thing not only because of its worth, but mostly because it contains valuable and important data such as many blog posts he didn’t even get to upload. I now take my laptop with me every night and feel uncomfortable leaving it here while I’m gone. I hope the thief gets caught eventually.


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