In this week’s Shamwari series, we release Lightfoot the male cheetah onto the reserve and help launch a new initiative at the Amakhala Conservation Centre to help the local community manage an HIV and AIDS epidemic. This follows a luxurious stay at one of Amakhala’s guest lodges, and a unique opportunity to assist the vet with treating a lioness. You can read all about that in the last Shamwari Diaries post: Act 4, Scene 2 – Lion territory. Or, read the series from the very beginning here.
Monday 22nd September 2008
This morning brought with it the brilliant and exciting task of releasing Lightfoot the male cheetah from a boma (temporary enclosure) and onto the main reserve. He had been kept in the boma after getting into a fight with another male cheetah and sustaining an injury to his eye. (See image at the top of this post).
It took a substantial amount of enticing to get him to come out though, as he’d been in the boma for a month and had clearly gotten comfortable there.
Afterwards, we went in search of the lion pride — which we located quite easily in their segregated area — and spent a fair bit of time monitoring them.
An unexpected turn of events for the afternoon; we visited the Harold Trollope Museum, which is located on the reserve. Harold Trollope, it transpires, was a ranger who is credited with saving the Sabi Reserve in the 1800s by reducing the number of predators there, apparently at a time where they were overrun with them. He is also responsible for starting the world renowned Addo Elephant Park.
I must confess, I’m not entirely convinced by the museum and its place at the reserve, as it consisted mostly of taxidermy of the many lions he’d shot. A strange place to visit having just watched a beautiful — and very alive — pride of lions ourselves.
While I understand that management is necessary in places where wildlife is ultimately contained and unable to move great distances to new territories; was shooting them and glorifying their carcasses into wall decorations the best thing to do? I think his conservation efforts (especially Addo), should be commemorated, but maybe this museum is not the best way of doing so?
We finished the day with my first experience of canoeing! It was such a hot day, so it was great to sit back and enjoy the cool river and its scenery —including the hippos and crocodiles seen en route!
Community care at the Amakhala Conservation Centre
Tuesday 23rd September 2008
What an interesting day! I feel so privileged to be able to enjoy so many unique experiences.
Started out with a trip to the orphanage/community centre to do some activities with the children. We made faces on the sides of blank tins, which involved the children colouring in the facial features and gluing them on.
Next on the agenda was a talk at the Amakhala Conservation Centre (the ACC) attended by much of the local community, for AIDS Awareness Week. There were several people present who had tested positive for AIDS, who were there to share their stories of what they’ve been through and what it was like to discover they were HIV positive — and the subsequent support and care they’ve received.
The main purpose of the event was to encourage as many people as possible to get tested, as it is statistically likely that a portion of the audience in attendance are living with AIDS without knowing it, and of course diagnosis is hugely important for taking the first steps in appropriate management and care.
It was up to us students to set the example by getting tested first and demonstrating how quick and easy the test is. It consisted of a simple pin-prick on the finger and a drop of blood being dabbed onto a test strip. A line then appears at one point on the strip, and depending on where that line is, you are either determined as testing positive or negative.
Although entirely expected, I was hugely relieved to test negative. It’s amazing how much doubt and anxious over-thinking goes on when suddenly thrust into that situation; what if the needle I was tattooed with wasn’t actually clean? What if my boyfriend’s been unfaithful? What if I kissed someone with bleeding gums when I had a cut in my mouth? And all sorts of hypothetical insecurities.
Counselling and medical professionals were on-hand for those whose insecurities weren’t hypothetical.
Ended the day with assisting with the capture of blesbok and wildebeest, to be moved to a different part of the reserve. However, it wasn’t going to plan, so the decision was made to return there again tomorrow and try again.
Next time: We find ourselves face-to-face with a lion at nighttime and discover what happens when you try to remove algae! You can read the series from the very beginning here.
CHECK IT OUT! The 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