Another fun filled month has flashed by! This month Tenikwa Wildcat and Wildlife Sanctuary were so kind as to supply us with some leopard scats from their captive leopard. Although this may not excite everyone’s imagination, we are hoping that the foreign leopard scent released from the scats will entice other curious leopards in the area to our cameras. We prepared traps in which to place the scats and hung these in trees in the view of the trail cameras that we have dotted around the reserve. Lets keep our fingers crossed that soon our efforts will be rewarded with a picture of these magnificent cats!
Due to all of the rain we have had recently we were required to do some road works in places were the roads were eroding or damming up. This included filling in potholes, digging drainage ditches and generally getting muddy. While on the topic of mud I must mention that this month we took the opportunity to remodel our local watering hole outside the volunteer house. First we dug all the old mud and muck out, then we relined the bottom with soil containing a high clay percentage to seal the water in, and then we invented creative ways to compact the soil, which even included gumboot dancing at one stage! However, it seemed to do the trick and the volunteers got endless hours of enjoyment from sitting in our tree house above it and watching the animals enjoy their revamped drinking spot.
However, the weather wasn’t all doom and gloom in July, and we had some truly beautiful sunny days for the middle of winter. In fact most of the volunteers this month will even be returning home sporting a new tan! We took advantage of one particular sunny day by going for a daylong hike in Kariega’s adjoining property, Harvestvale. Harvestvale was recently bought by Kariega and is part of the reserves plan for expansion. It is a pristine piece of land with dense forests, a rich history and the bushman’s river flowing through it. We took packed lunches with us for a picnic at the old homestead and spent the day observing the game at a leisurely pace on foot. Even more recently we discovered hyena tracks at Harvestvale from our elusive hyenas, and have subsequently placed a trail camera there in the hopes of establishing how many of these scavengers we have left patrolling the property.
We had some fantastic sightings of the wildlife around Kariega this month. Two in particular deserve a mention. We participated in the release of three bat eared foxes into Kariega recently. These fluffy creatures came streaming out of their boxes and into the bush as if they had always belonged there, and the male was so kind as to stop pose for a few pictures before he too went off to explore his new home. Another incident, which will stay with me for life, took place one starry night on a night drive. We were lucky enough to witness the lions hunt and kill a wildebeest by spotlight. To be there from start to finish and watch these majestic beasts hunting with such focus, coordination and precision is an experience that I can hardly do justice by describing! Come and experience it for yourself some time!!
We had some more fantastic days spent with the children at Farmerfields school. Their English is improving each week and one can really see what a positive effect the volunteers’ time spent at the school makes. After a day at the school we usually stop by at African Cheetah Safaris on our way back to Kariega. There is one day in particular that comes to my mind when the two cheetah cubs were especially playful and active. They were chasing each other around the enclosure, climbing tree stumps and tumbling over each other, it was so cute to witness, and the volunteers really enjoyed having their pictures taken with the cubs too.
We had the privilege of assisting Jonathan Leeming, author of Scorpions of Southern Africa, in his search for scorpions on Kariega. He showed us where the likely spots to find scorpions were, as well as identifying and educating us about some of the local species. Along with scorpions we also found our fair share of spiders, lizards and even a snake. It was a great day for discovering and appreciating the little critters that are often all around us but very seldom noticed.
The volunteers this month went on some adventurous and exciting weekend excursions. This included a visit to Kwantu Game reserve where they went on elephant rides and a tour of the predator camp, which has breeding programs for Bengal tigers and the rare white lion. A group of volunteers also organized an adrenaline packed weekend along the garden route that included Bloukrans bungie jump (the worlds highest bungie) and sky diving! And for the more faint hearted there was a tranquil morning of horse riding on the beach.
Hope to meet you as a conservation volunteer on Kariega soon! Until next month then.