In this week’s Shamwari series we’re back on the reserve learning how to manage ‘cut lines‘ and discovering what it takes to move a herd of kudu and eland by lorry! This comes after a excursion to see pilot whales during the breeding season — you can read all about that and a close brush with an elephant in the last Shamwari Diaries post: Act 2, Scene 4 –A whale of a time.
Cutting deep, leaving scars…
Monday 1st September 2008
Returned to our old home; Madolas Lodge today. We left the relative luxury of Bushman Sands hotel at the crack of dawn, moving all our luggage back to Madolas, where we were given our room key (I’m in the same room as before), and just enough time to put our bags in before being given a quick talk about how things work here.
We’re back to having Christine as our student co-ordinator, and after a morning of alien plant removal (Steph and I brought down a huge pine tree between us), she took us to through the reserve to look for cut lines.
Cut lines are areas where the farmers who used to own the land felled trees or removed plants to erect fences, presumably to hold livestock.
Even though the fences have since been removed, vegetation is still unable to grow naturally along these lines, because the ground has been devoid of life for so long. They no longer belong to the natural network of plant life.
We wanted to find and record the locations of the cut lines because we plan to plant more bushes in them soon.
When we were driving through the reserve we were held up by a big herd of elephants walking down the road! They had two very young calves and two slightly older youngsters, who were incredibly cute to watch!
A sense of Shamwari
Tuesday 2nd September 2008
Some new volunteers arrived at Madolas last night; always an exciting time! Even more so when, to my surprise, one of the guys is from my hometown! Given that it’s a fairly small town in Norfolk, he even knows a lot of the same people as I do – yet we’d never knowingly crossed paths before!
Unfortunately, I won’t be spending much time with this group of new arrivals, as they’re specifically out here to do a field guide training course.
We spent the morning at the Shamwari Breeding Centre watching some of the pilot episodes of the new Shamwari TV series for Animal Planet, followed up with a visit to the Southern Born Free centre.
Sinbad is very small for an adult male, but his stunted growth was a result of the tiny cage he had previously been kept in. It’s shocking to see the physical result that living in a small cage has created. Such cruelty!
We came back to Madolas for lunch and afterwards the new students were given a chance to practise air rifle shooting with our group, for when they use the shot gun during the week. Again I chose not to do it – I seem to have a strong aversion to guns of any kind.
The day ended with a screening of two documentaries about the history of Shamwari as a ‘rewilding project’. The films showed the story of Adrian Gardiner acquiring degraded farmland and turning it into the famous Shamwari Game Reserve we have today, including the complicated business of capturing game and releasing predators onto the reserve.
Caring for kudu
Wednesday 3rd September 2008
Back to working on the erosion site this morning. This basically meant breaking up lots of branches and using them to make dam walls.
I quite like this kind of work, as it isn’t too strenuous in the heat, and there’s a sense of achievement with it, as you can actually see a physical result at the end.
We’d been doing erosion control work for about two and half hours when we got a phonecall from the Shamwari vet to say they needed a hand with moving some kudu and eland, which had been purchased from another reserve.
These animals were to be released here on Shamwari’s property, but the transportation is challenging and stressful.
Our role was to climb on top of the vehicles they were being moved in and keep a watch inside, to see how they were doing; cooling them down with water sprays if they appear to get overheated from stress and agitation.
Unfortunately, one of the kudu had been trampled before we even reached our vantage point on the top of the truck, and another fell and broke its neck – a risky business indeed. There were four relatively healthy kudu remaining when we reached our destination.
Their release didn’t go too smoothly either, as it took a long time for the first three to leave the truck – leading to fears of overheating and an increased likelihood of further injury and trampling. The fourth animal had to be physically dragged out and received a minor leg injury in the process.
A quick check over from the vet assured us that the injury would not cause too much issue for the animal, thankfully. Though I suspect it puts him at definite disadvantage around predators!
All of the eland were released successfully though, with no moralities or casualties, thankfully. It was quite a rush to see these huge creatures run to their freedom.
Join me next time as my first experience of camping in the bush sees us surrounded by hyenas at night! Plus I climb the tallest trees in South Africa and descend from the top of the canopy at Tsitsikamma rainforest!
Want to go back to the start? You can read the series from the very beginning here.
HAVE YOU HEARD?! This first post of my Shamwari Series features in a 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