Wish Day and Our Last Supper

Trip Start Jun 15, 2013
Trip End Jul 17, 2013

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N/a'an Ku SÍ

Flag of Namibia  ,
Thursday, July 11, 2013

Slept horribly again last night. Woke up to my alarm going off and had absolutely no desire to get out of bed. But today was my "wish day" so I hoped it would be enjoyable. I didn't really feel like breakfast, so I skipped out on that today. Normally I eat bread with jam and peanut butter, but there was no jam. Not a fan of just peanut butter on bread (toaster takes too long for the bread because of the low power).

Since it was my last day at the farm (well tomorrow or today, wasn’t sure at that point, but I’ll get to that later), I got to pick what activities I wanted to do. I decided that I would do Meerkat/Mongoose walk, research, and game count for the day.

Before bed last night, it was decided that it might be better for me to arrive in Windhoek on Saturday and spend only Saturday night with Sophia, so I waited and finally heard that that was indeed the case. I saw Chacha and changed my transportation booking. Disappointed that I won’t be leaving tomorrow… was ready to get into town and see Sophia again, but at the same point I am glad to spend another day with my group of people here.

First this morning I got to take the meerkat and the mongooses back out for a walk. One of the girls in the group had the idea for us all to switch cameras with someone sitting across from us so we could get pictures on our camera of us with the animals on us. Since they randomly climb up everyone’s shoulders and then jump off, it’s easier to have someone already designated to take pictures. Last time they did not climb on and off of me as much as they did today. Most of the time, one of the mongooses has a fluffed out and thicker tail, whereas the other one has a much smaller tail (this does change occasionally, and sometimes they both have a fluffed up tail). The one with the thinner tail seems to be the one that is a bit more sociable and takes away from its digging time to climb on people. (Side note: I’ve learned that the names of the mongooses are Fred and Wilma… can’t tell them apart though and I think I heard that they are both boys despite what the names indicate…). A couple of the girls managed to get several decent pictures of me with the critters. At least ten times I had a mongoose on me, climbing up my fleece or up my arms, scratching at my face (claws are incredibly sharp, so when you see pictures of me grimacing and pulling away, that’s why), trying to stick its nose in my mouth, yada yada. Polo even decided that he would see if my face made a good scratch area as well. He was on one of the girls beside me, I put my arm out, and he crossed from her shoulder to my shoulder. His claws are just as sharp as Fred and Wilma’s claws. It’s so incredible just to watch the animals dig, find bugs, chase them, and eat them. They are appreciative if one of the volunteers finds a bug, catches it, and puts it in front of them.

Abraham went with us on this walk. He walked around for a bit, and ended up a small distant away at one point. When he came back all three of the animals were standing up and anxiously waiting for him to return. It’s so amazing the bond and respect that all of the animals have for the African men that work at the wildlife sanctuary.

We had muffin break (oranges today) and then went back to work. I was with Flo on research next. We were going to remove camera traps and set them up in different locations. The original two locations were about 2 kilometers apart from each other in a riverbed. The new locations were near the captive leopard enclosure. The research team knew that a wild leopard had been in the area, and it was speculated that it was a different male from the large adult male that has already been identified. All locations were chosen based on male leopard tracks (smaller than the ones of the male that had already been identified). Based on spot patterns, much like a human’s unique fingerprint, if a picture of the leopard’s side is captured on the camera traps, the leopard can be identified as either the same or a different leopard. Duke Matt at Neuras had showed me how to easily find unique spot patterns, so I already had a good idea of how this worked.

We walked to the riverbed from the farm. Because the riverbed is an ideal daytime hiding spot for leopards, Flo asked for volunteers to walk to one of the cameras, making noise the entire way so the leopard would not get spooked, and retrieve the camera trap. I, along with Fiona and Brittany, proceeded with Flo to the camera trap on the opposite side of the riverbed. We made sure that when we came to an area that looked like an ideal spot for a leopard to hide, we got out of the riverbed and walked on the bank.

I had made sure that I avoided anything to do with baboons during my wish day, but of course that seems to be impossible no matter what precautions I take. The riverbed that we walked crossed the location where the junior baboons are taken to forage on their walk. Of course we couldn’t have missed them… that would be too convenient. And they definitely did not neglect to see us. We made it to the camera trap without them wandering towards us, but on our way back we were joined my at least 3 baboons (I do not know the exact number… I simply walked forward, ignored them, tried not to let my fear radiate too much, and prayed they would leave soon). I asked Brittany if they were all gone, and they were. Thankfully they didn’t test bite or jump on any of us. I really was not prepared to run into them today.

We met back up with the other half of our team and headed toward the leopard enclosure. Once we got there we had the task if finding a couple of locations to mount the cameras. Due to the nature of the picture we want to capture with the cameras (the side view of a carnivore), the best view required the camera to be mounted about a meter from the ground, on the opposite side of the road as the enclosure, with an angle of about 45 degrees from directly facing the enclosure (note, the angle measure may be a bit off and may vary, but it is consistent with what I observed on several camera trap set ups).

Wish Day: Meerkat/Mongoose, research: removed and set up camera traps where leopard walked, game count

Lunch: veggie and bacon wraps

Supper: Lodge - Cheese and corn rolls, shrimp, filet, yummy ice cream and brownie for dessert.

We went on a game count to a newly acquired part of the farm. Eventually the 8 female wild dogs will be released there as well as other animals (including rhino that the sanctuary is going to bring in!). One of the main points of the game counts is to make sure there is enough prey to sustain the carnivores that currently live there plus those that are planned to be introduced. We then viewed camera trap images after going on the game count. We saw one of the male leopard that has recently begun living at the farm. The pictures were good enough for identification, and it was amazing to see that progress on the work we were doing was being made. Got back to the farm to realize that we were all locked out after supper… We were all dressed quite nicely (I was in a maxi dress) and ended up having to climb the fence to get over to our rooms and tents.
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