Well, what can I say about today, again it was amazing. We started the day out by going to do some ‘alien plant control’. On the way to chop down loads of prickly pear plants, we bumped into some White Rhino, which was (I don’t want to keep using the word amazing but there really isn’t another word to explain it) amazing. They were grazing about thirty metres from the truck and didn’t seem to be bothered by us watching them. It’s such a shame that even in this day and age these magnificent creatures are still being hunted for silly things like status trophies and medicinal purposes. This year alone 504 Rhinos have been poached from South Africa, 66 of these in the last 2 weeks (thanks to Cindy for all this information). Once we had finished with the Rhino we got back to the job we set out to do this morning.
Cindy started by showing us how to remove the prickly pear, which involved lots of hacking it up with a machete. This is a great way to release any access anger/ stress that you may have. Removing the prickly pear helps the ecosystem because it is not native South Africa and Elephants eat it and spread the seed/roots even father across the land, where it will grow and spread even more. We spent the morning doing this, Aaron (one of the guys with us) loves chopping up anything with a machete, so he managed to remove a lot of it from the ground (even if he got lots of it stuck in to his skin) and then the rest of us followed him and put the plants that he removed onto a trailer to be disposed of later. They were really, really prickly we had to be extra careful handling them as we didn’t want to get the prickles in our hands, though we soon realised that this was inevitable).
After a yummy lunch we headed out elephant monitoring. This involved finding a herd and then monitoring what they were eating, to see what plants they eat seasonally. Before we could go anywhere though we had to change the flat tyre on one of the trucks, which we all got to learn how to do. To start with we found two male elephants and pulled up to monitor them for a while to see what they were eating. They primarily ate needle bush and sweet thorn (our wonderful guide Cindy taught us their names). While we were sat in the truck monitoring and taking thousands of pictures of elephants and trying to contain Lauren (who wrote the blog yesterday) from jumping out the truck and running screaming towards the elephants to hug them, another 16 elephants turned up out of the trees to browse where we were watching the original two.
Being surrounded by a herd of elephants is quite a surreal feeling. Knowing that if you stuck your hand out the side of the truck you would be able to touch them. It’s a once in lifetime memory that I’m sure I will never forget. Watching them interact with each other within their family group is such an amazing experience and something everyone should be able to witness, as it shows what great animal’s elephants are and again like rhino are killed for stupid things.
After returning to camp and having dinner, we had a debrief to see how everyone was enjoying the trip so far. It was all positive feedback and then we had a discussion about tomorrows activities where we all be going into the local town to work in their high school. I’m looking forward to it but I am little apprehensive of what to expect and how to act once I am there. Now we’re back in camp and are just relaxing. some of the guys are going to start a camp fire in a bit, while the rest are just going to jump in some very freezing beds. It’s very cold at night. Six layers, a sleeping bag, duvet and a heated blanket and I am still really cold every night in bed – But don’t let that put you off it’s all worth it when you get that close the animals every day and get to see them in their natural environment. Anyway looking forward to tomorrow and am now going to go and enjoy the camp fire – So I’m out for now, Jane.
Abingdon Witney College – Diary – Day 2