Category Archives: South Africa

Bye Bye Botswana, but first more lions, leopards and wild dogs

For the moment in Johannesburg, waiting for my bus to go to Cape Town and Stellenbosch to visit a friend.

First more stories about Botswana:
17/07 I MISSED A LION KILL
Me and Ugo woke up early to go again to Marabou pan to conduct some interviews, on the way there we saw to young male lions. At first they were resting on the road, but one of the tourist cars came and the lions took off… we followed the for a while. At some point it looked like they were stalking a giraffe. One of the two lions was really stalking, to other was just a bit behind and taking it a bit easier… The last one was not that much into stalking and suddenly he sneezed as well, so I guess to first one was a bit frustrated and so far the hunt… although I’m still not sure if they were really hunting or just looking around. At the Marabou pan we saw a Hyena passing by, very nice…

Also our first tourists arrived, and we got the information there were some lions on the other side of the river. The PhD student wanted to try an other protocol on behaviour of tourists around predators, so we went of to search for this lions… After a while we found the pride of lions, but they were not doing much, so after 20min, half an hour we left them. We went on the search for the cheeta, cause I was giving it a try to see all big predators in 24h, what was kind of a fail…

In the evening we heard about a cheeta being seen in the morning in the area where we were searching in the afternoon, but there was more craziness… Apparently just 5-10 min after we left the lions, our other team arrived there and a buffalo was coming to close to the resting pride, so suddenly they started to hunt the buffalo and they took it down in front of our other team… so I just have some nice pictures of it… but I missed it myself. The hunt took about 1,5h. So I had seen lions and hyena this day, and wild dogs the evening before, but now I was a bit disappointed…. I guess I’m spoiled with wildlife sightings.

In the evening everything got clear as well, in the afternoon we also so a big herd of about 75 elephants moving very fast… so probably they knew about the kill and moved as far and as fast as possible away.

This was our last day of field work, the day after we went for a 2 day trip to Khwai, in the Moremi national park, not so far away. There we had hyenas passing by our tent at night, pretty awesome. but the best has still to come.

One morning we went of to Hippo pool, cause it is nice with hippos and crocs. Just when we got there, there was a wild dog standing on the road, it was collared (gps collar around its neck). Suddenly we saw more of them, and they were on a mission… they got really organized, some of the pack moving to the bush, others were just waiting in an open area. I saw them chasing an impala and a Lechwe, but these survived and the impalas and Lechwe were just standing in the deep water. Apparently we missed the actual kill, but we found the pack of wild dogs a bit further shewing on bones and meat, bloody all over… this was an other great experience, we were just driving our car back and forward, try to follow the hunt. the wild dogs didn’t care at all.

Already time to write about my last day in the bush in Botswana. Me and Ugo woke up early again in our last effort to find a cheeta, but we didn’t. We saw 2 hyenas and at some point we were tracking some fresh leopard tracks on the sandy road. Suddenly a mixed herd of impala and tsesebe (looks like a wildebeest) came running towards us, so that shouldn’t be because of us. we waited a bit and yes, there was again a pack of wild dogs, 11 of them, just traveling around. It looked like they had made a kill earlier that morning, because some were again bloody on their face… circle of life.

As it couldn’t end better, we heard about a leopard a bit further on the road, so we speed up a bit… and yes, there was a leopard, if I remembered correctly, it should be my 6th of the trip. I just saw a glimpse of it. But this one just had killed an impala and carried it in a tree. it was really fresh…
And so ended my wildlife experience in Botswana.
On the way to Johannesburg we got a fine for speeding, oops, but after talking a bit to the police men, we just left without paying anything…

So now I am in Johannesburg. It was quite contrasting to see the differences between Botswana and South Africa… Botswana just had the protected nature reserves, but very few… During the small time I’ve been in South Africa, I have the feeling South Africa is better organized. I’ve seen a lot of private reserves next to the road, although also some advertisement for hunting and stuff… To me it felt like this private game reserves are more like farms… but at least some stuff to think about.

Now it’s almost time to take the bus to Stellenbosch, from there I’ll organize things further for my next project. First need to survive the big city of Johannesburg and Cape Town.

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More pictures

I will just make a bit more use of the internet here in Johannesburg to upload some more pictures.

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Roan Antiloppe

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leopard in the tree :-)

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wild dogs feeding on an impala

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Wild dogs and more leopard stories

Always new stories from the bush in Africa…
15/07 we got up very early to check at Marabou pan (Savuti, Chobe national park) for animals…
We saw a civet in our spotlights of the car, but at the pan there was not that much to see, except for tsesebees and some warthogs. So we waited for some tourists to interview.
In the afternoon we decided to check some road we had checked before… never a good idea… so after 620m we got stuck. And of course our shuffles were in the other car and at camp, so it was digging with our bare hands. We finally got out and we took some pictures, not knowing we were stuck again. After digging out our car 3 times, we managed to get back on the ‘good’ main sand road… a well deserved shower afterwards and bedtime it was.

16/07 again we tried to get some tourists interviewed at Marabou pan, although we didn’t got up that early this time. Around 11 in the morning it was time to leave the Marabou pan and go for the transects… guess what… on our way to the transects we saw an other leopard. This time the film crew vehicle was standing a couple of meters away from it, so we knew there was something. And it was a leopard… but once again, the best thing of the day had yet to come!
In the evening when returning from the camp ground form interviewing tourists, we saw wild dogs, first about 4 of them! Aparently they just killed an impala and where dragging it across the river, it was awesome… It was close to an office of the parks staff, and I think they tried to scare them away a bit, so I got over the bridge and was waiting for the wild dogs to get back in the bush… and they came. I got on my knees and the wild dogs were looking at me, still about 100m away, but they came and ran towards me, so I stood up again and after that they disappeared in the forest. All the other tourist as crazy behind them… as trained biologists, we knew they just made a kill and will come back, so we took the best spot on the carcass and after 5 min the wild dogs were back, as all the tourists around us. This time about 10 wild dogs. We could see them pulling the whole impala carcass apart. Crazy wild dogs… it was quite dark, but I have some good pictures.

Craziness in Botswana, I had never expected this, leopard and wild dogs on one day…

I still have more stories, I just need to find the time to write about them.
For the moment back in Johannesburg. First project almost finished. Now I’m checking busses to go to Cape Town/ Stellenbosch to visit a friend and make my way slowly to Namaqualand, where my next project about leopards and lifestock starts…

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hopefully I uploaded some pictures below :-)

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Botswana

Hello my friends, finally I found some Wifi, so here a bit of an update…
it’s mostly about wildlife and crazy leopards though :-) Enjoy:

Chobe National Park
After some delays we finally made it to Botswana (Maun airport). Time to get into Chobe National Park. We are 4 of us here and we have 2 4×4 vehicles with rooftop tents. I’m not sure if I’m able to upload pictures soon, but at some point it will work.
We were heading to Savuti camp ground in Chobe National park. On our way there we saw already a lot of animals. The first wildlife we encountered was an elephant crossing the road. After entering the gate we passed by some plains with more wildlife (giraffe, impala, wildebeest, warthogs, more elephants, zebras,…). I didn’t know where to look first. Althought there where also some less interesting parts of the drive in dry bushy area.
As if it couldn’t get any better, near the end of our day, suddenly there was a leopard just next to the road enjoying some shade of a bush! We the leopard for some time, took a bunch of pictures and enjoyed it’s presents. It didn’t bother at all about us, it even came closer and closer, it took a rest in the shade of our second car… this was an awesome experience! After a while the leopard desided to take a rest in the shade in a bush a bit far away to have a proper look, so we continued. We also had to meet some guys at the gate to check where we could stay…

We ended up near a riverside close to other camps, but it looked like a great place… and it was, in the morning I found already tracks for hyenas and leopards from the nigt before just about 100m from our camp. Up till now I haven’t seen any of these 2 around, just their tracks.

During the day we conduct transects and we are looking for tourists to interview. Basicly we drive around fixed transects and count the animals and the tourists we see in these transects. So far so good.

In one of the transects there are lions, now already for the 4th day in a row. It looks like they ‘ve managed to kill at least 2 buffalos in the past 3 nights…. The first day they were really just next to the road, so we spent about 3 hours just watching them, taking pictures and videos. Although it was daylight, so they where not that active. However, there was one small cub, really cute, walking around all the time, climbing trees, trying to interact with other lions, who just wanted to sleep. We named him Marco (Polo), although some wanted to call it Sam, cause he was eating grass once in a while as well….
The pride of lions probably consisted out of 11 individuals, one big male, about 4 females and 6 cubs (2 very small ones, 2 medium ones and 2 larger ones).
For the interviews we go to camp sites and ‘stretch points’ to ask people about their sightings and where they have been, in combination with what they think are important features of national parks and some questions about vegetation. Always interesting conversations.

We also took the time to watch some games of the world cup, as our international team consists of French, Belgian and Dutch researchers. We were invited to watch it in the house of one of the locals, although I think it’s the only television around, cause at some point we were watching the games with about 15 people or so. Unfortunately we just could celebrate the victory of the Netherlands in the world cup.
After spending some time in Savuti, our next stop was Chobe River front, very nice, but more tourists.
We were lucky again and saw a pride of lions when entering the park, although it got more excited… the other car had a flat tire next to the lions, so they changed it there. I was just on the look out for the lions if they did not come any closer.

In the next days a saw a lot of wildlife and the river bank was wonderfull. A lot of elephants, hippos, crocodils,… Sable antiloppe, Puku and Lechwe are the more scares antiloppes around, but I managed to see them. A lot of lions around here as well, some just sitting on the road and blocking our way… but that’s life :-).

During my free day I took a boat safari on the Chobe river, which was amazing, monitor lizards, waterbuck, buffalos,…In Kasane, there was also a Biodiversity Centre. It was a very interesting place, too bad they didn’t had volunteer opportunities for the moment. But we had a good talk with the chief about the life in Botswana and how nature management is done (if there is any management).

I’m also still working here though… counting animals and interviewing tourists… the other day I was interviewing tourists and they were talking about a leopard in a tree, just 500m from the picnic spot where I was conducting the interviews. So I quickly asked all the questions I needed and off we were to find this leopard… and there it was, sitting in a tree… we were just in tine time to see it and see it going down the tree whereafter it disappeared in the bushes… so leopard sighting number 2!

while writing this, it’s July 12th, almost 10pm. And facinating things happened today…
While doing transects, we saw a snake on the road and the other assistant wanted to check it out, she took some pictures, and enjoying the presence of the snake. I’m not the biggest fan of snakes, so I kept my distance… the snake took a rest in the shade of our car, after a bit it was sitting in the wheel of our car, we still liked it and took some pictures… suddenly the snake moved more into the bottom of our car. We tried to get in out, but the snake didn’t want to cooperate, so for the rest of the day we had a snake somewhere near the bottom of our car. I was told it wasn’t a dangerous one, which it wasn’t in the end.
During lunch we tried again to get it out, but it didn’t work, so we just drove further and maybe now there is still a snake somewhere in the bottom parts of our car.

But that’s not all, we arrived at camp in the afternoon, just doing stuff, entering data, take some rest… around 8 or something, one of the research assistants went to a tree to take laundry from the line when suddenly she screamed… I turned around and I saw something big running away, definitely some cat spieces…

I thought to myself: WTF….

It was a leopard… it didn’t touch the research assistant, but at some point it just stood next to her, looked at her and took of… so we think it was just in the tree for the whole afternoon sleeping like about 20m away from us…
So, after we all figured out what just happened, we were armed with spade, torch and camera to check out if it was still around, and yes, it was just lying next to a bush, watching us. We tried to scare it away, but it didn’t care that much about us, finally we got it to about 150m from our camp in a tree. It was just sitting there, watching us… so we decided to go back to camp and stay next to the fire and the lights… pretty intensive day.

Now I’m at Marina Lodge in Kasane, probable able to post something on my blog. We are heading out of Chobe River Front and back to our previous research area, Savuti (chobe). As if the leopards wanted to say goodbye, there was a leopard on the way out of the park… although there were like 13 vehicles with tourists around, so I just could get a fast glimps of it…

Getting there

already over 48h hours of travelling and still not there…
It all started in Amsterdam and apparently some people in Belgian and France were striking.
So we finally made it to Paris with some delay… So the flight to Johannesburg was already gone (as the flight to Brasil for some german guys on our flight).
So free hotel room with breakfast it was. Next flight 24h later.
Last night we finally got on a plane to Johannesburg, but this morning we just had 70 mins to pass by passport control, get our luggage and get on the flight to Botswana, so we didn’t made that either. So an other hotel room next to the airport of Johannesburg… thanks to Air France…

Tomorrow we will finally fly to Maun in Botswana!
I’m getting used to the hotel life and waiting for ages, but it’s going to end soon, as the internet access, but at least I already managed to get on update online.

I’m really looking forward to get out there!

Summer 2014: It’s time for Africa!

It’s time for a new blog, a new adventure (or the other way around).
I’ll try to update this blog a couple of times in the next months, although I’m not sure how much internet access I will get over there….

First of all, here is my plan:
First I’ll join a research project where I applied for in December 2013
http://afriseb.net/CallForFieldAssistantsInLargeMammalBiodi?show_comments=1
I’ve met the PhD student before when I was studying Wildlife Biology at the Grimsö research station (Sweden). Somewhere during my stay in Slovakia we arranged a skype meeting with crappy internet, but it worked out… I was accepted.
Title of the project:“Relationships between environmental factors, large mammal densities and visitor abundances in African Protected Areas”
This trip will start on the 25th of June when I’ll fly to Johannesburg, so I’ll watch Belgium-South Korea from Johannesburg, at least I hope :-). The next day I’ll fly to Maun in Botswana. From here I’ll join the rest of the team and we go to Chobe National Park to count some animals and tourists.
In the beginning there was also an other South African National Park and a Namibian National Park included, but there were some problems with getting permissions. After roughly a month or so we will move on the Namibia to check out why we didn’t get a permission and stuff and we ‘ll try to get as much data as possible, or try to find some other solutions…
This project is a bit flexible, but I hope I can stay there till the middle/end of September…
Cape Leopard Trust
The second part of my adventure will be in the Namaqua land in West South Africa, where I’ll join a research project of the Cape Leopard trust from end of September till the end of November. I was lucky to meet these people last year in Canada and now I get the opportunity to work with them in South Africa. I’m really looking forward to this as well.