In this week’s Shamwari series I get to visit the Animal Hospital and Rehabilitation Centre for the first time to meet some orphaned animals. Thankfully, I avoid getting defecated on, unlike my first encounter with African wild dogs! In case you missed that, you can catch-up here: Act 1, Scene 3 – Wild days & wild dogs.
Dams and damage
Wednesday 6th August, 2008
This morning we had to drive far into the reserve to do some ‘erosion control‘ work. On the way we saw a herd of zebra, a herd of wildebeest, and a waterbuck, as well as lots of different types of birds.
When we reached the work site we could see a huge crater in the side of the hill, as though some type of space rock had slammed into the side. We were told that this was created by the soft rock (limestone, I believe) enduring a heavy (if brief) storm every single day in the summer. When the water drains off the hill, it runs into that space, creating a basin and permeating the rock sediment.
We followed a trail slightly further down the hill to an area that has been long term eroded in a similar fashion — to see what it could look like in a few years time, if left unattended… the damage was immense! It really did look like a meteor strike! A huge pit in the ground, shaped like a canyon. Certainly enough to motivate the day’s work ahead!
By helping to stop another of those pits forming, I felt like I was doing important work on the land.
Our job here was not to fill the crater, but to build a series of small hillside dams to stop the rainwater cascading into the basin (i.e. taking the rocks and soft soil with it), and instead, stem the rainflow by breaking up its path.
In-keeping with the environmentally-friendly ethos of the reserve (and further proof that nothing gets wasted; as all our land-management tasks seem to link up), we made the dams using branches and sticks from the alien vegetation we’d previously removed (catch-up on native tree removal here, if you missed it).
After a few hours of this we came back to Madolas Lodge to take plant cuttings from around the lodge garden and re-plant them in soil bags so that they can eventually be taken out onto the reserve and used to fill the ‘cut lines‘ in the vegetation, where farmland boundary fences used to sit.
Finished a busy day with a brief lecture on the history of shooting and did some target practise with an air rifle.
Thursday 7th August, 2008
We had an early start this morning as we had to get up at 5.30am and drive all the way to the Shamwari Animal Hospital and Rehabilitation Centre to see an orphaned baby giraffe being bottle-fed and I got to feed a baby elephant — they were adorable!
Exciting to watch a pilot episode of an Animal Planet series; Shamwari: A Wild Life, which was screened to us from inside in the reception area of the hospital. Apparently it will be aired globally on Animal Planet on 15th September.
Then on to a rifle shooting range to practise target shooting, but I opted out of taking part in the tournament, as I didn’t enjoy it. I’m afraid shooting is not for me.
Spent the afternoon tracking a lion, to no avail. We did, however, see giraffe, a small herd of rhinos, zebra, impala, blesbok, springbuck and wildebeest.
On the way back to Madolas we found a dead wildebeest on the electric perimeter fence. It was too ‘fresh’ (though it certainly didn’t smell fresh!) to have been killed by the wild dogs, so perhaps the culprit was a cheetah? Same story as before though —whichever predator killed it couldn’t eat it without getting a shock themselves!
Join me next week as I tackle the world’s highest bungee jump and go wildlife tracking on foot for the first time. Discover why I’m revisiting this time here.
EXCITING NEWS! This first post of my Shamwari Series will feature in a brand new book, The Wildlife Blog Collection: a compilation of 70 amazing stories celebrating some of the most memorable, entrancing and exciting wildlife moments as told by top nature writers from across the globe. Order your copy here