12 Hour Water Hole Count!

Here is a detailed account that I typed out while I was in a cement hideaway box today. I had to sit in a super uncomfortable plastic green chair and count the wildlife that is on CCF’s game reserve.
No pictures yet. Sorry! Internet is too slow.

**** Taken from the ipad ******

Today is 12 hour water hole count day. I’m planning to journal as I sit in front of the watering hole. It’s 6:29am. W e woke up at 4:20am to get ready for this. I packed my backpack full of snacks and water. There is no toilet so we need to go to in the bush to relieve ourselves. The watering hole I’m at is called Hog’s Heaven.

Just so we are all clear – this place is FREEZING COLD. I have on a sweater, fleece, and jacket and I’m still cold. We are supposed to remain silent so that animals will come.

Right now it’s 6:34am. No sign of animals except for some birds here and there flying around getting a drink of water. No birds big enough to record.

My hideaway is literally a green box built out of concrete with cement floors and two green plastic chairs. It has a slit in the front so that people sitting on the inside can look out. The door is literally a hole cut in the cement. It’s a wooden frame with black mesh on it. There is nothing glamorous about this.

There are three other watering holes: Erik es Pos (two story hideaway), Kindergarten, and Cycle Damn (the prettiest one). Here we go…I will try to give frequent timed updates.

6:38am
No action at the waterhole, plenty of beautiful birds drinking water.

6:44am
5 zebras arrived at the water hole. 4 adults and 1 subadult. They walked out tentatively and slowly and headed straight to salt lick. They fought over the salt-lick – there was a bit of hind leg kicking involved.

I was cursing myself for not having all my equipment out. Each time I dug into our bag, the zebras’ ears perked up. I had to dig to get my longer zoom lens (perk and stare) and then my binoculars (ears perk, stare, and freeze). My fingers were freezing cold after observing them.

7:07am.
Zebras left slowly. We are waiting. It is so cold. Thankfully the sun is out a bit now. It hasn’t completely risen yet so the hide is still cold. We have realized that we are a bit too noisy and may have scared them off.

7:31am
A adult oryx showed up. They may be my favorite game animal They are a type of antelope.

I love the coloring on the oryx. It’s body is cream – an even beige. There is a wonderful, solidly black stripe ribbons along the torso of its body. Its tale is also black and swishy. My favorite body feature of the oryx is its face. It is a beautiful mix of white and black. The muzzle is white and there is a burnt cup of black atop the muzzle with two stripes running along the sides of its face. The eyes and ears are white – with a little tuft of black on top its head.

7:53am
Our friend Mr. Oryx has been licking salt non-stop for 25 minutes now.

The sun is finally coming inside our hideaway. My arms and toes are beginning to thaw. But, its not warm enough for me to take off my 3 layers of jackets yet. Man.

8:42am
Our friend Mr. Oryx spent about 15 minutes not moving, skittishly staring into space. He then spent another 10 minutes standing by the watering hole doing nothing. I’ve decided to name him Mr. Indecisive. He finally, after much standing around, decided to get a drink of water.

In the middle of the oryx’s indecision, a large male warthog showed up. Boy, was he a mean looking scrubby thing. Behind him came a mother warthog with two little baby warthogs. They came in and dashed toward the watering hole.

8:50am:
Our hour long oryx finally left. Before he left, he charged at the warthog. My goodness they are ugly.

9:06am:
Temperature is much warmer. A lot happened in the last 15minutes. We had two wart hogs come very close the hideaway. One had a MVB stache and looked me straight in the eye and ran away. Then, as he was leaving, another one came, ran around and left.

4 oryx showed up and sauntered toward the watering hole. They spent most of their time licking salt. I guess herbivores really like salt.

As these guys came, 9 zebras showed up to our left. I started one of them by lunging for my camera. They generally stayed out of the way of the oryx. They stood to the side and hung around. They finally approached the watering hole after the oryx left.

9:10am:
Zebras still here drinking. Some have hid behind the water tank and some are camouflaging in the trees. There is one brave soul licking salt.

9:25am
A flurry of activity. We were waiting for the warthogs to leave and a flurry of warthogs arrived dashing in from our left. A streamline of little feet pattered by. A family of 6 showed up (4 babies). Then as we were recording this another family of 5 dashed by us on the right side. They all headed straight for the watering hole.

There were a group of 6 beautiful birds that showed up, we had no idea who they were.

10:00am
More activity in the past half an hour. A group of 30 guinea fowl showed up in a large flock. 4 more oryx showed up to drink water. Then, stealthily, out of the woodwork, 5 majestic elands showed up. They look like cows with with a loose chicken neck. The elands are beautiful. They amble slowly, have huge humps and horns.

Then, out of the bush came 5 kudu. They are beautiful. They have a black face with a thin white stripe across the eyes. They came gracefully and slowly toward the watering hole and dipped down to drink. They are just so beautiful.

The warthogs just keep on coming. They keep running out of the bush towards the hole in flocks of 5 or 6.

10:11am
This whole scene in front of me is just so beautifully pastoral. We are looking at a bunch of animals, who I don’t think know we are here. They are standing around, grazing, doing their herbivore activity.

A group of zebras came in and laid down in the back. Chilling, just having a good time.

11:14am
Oh man. This is insane. At around 10:53, all our amazing zebras, elands, oryx, guinea fowl, and warthogs darted off because of some noise. Our watering hole was empty for quite a bit. I wonder what scared them off? At any rate, 5 warthogs returned to the watering hole.

We also tested the sound system. Any noise we make in the hideaway is actually quite loud. So, if we talk I don’t think animals would really want to come.

11:30am
Had to “go” in the African bush. It was a bit intimidating.

Noon
Well, we are at our half-way point. Thus far, we have only had 2 oryx return and a bunch of warthogs running in and out. I guess there’s a reason why this watering hole is called “hog heaven.” I am hoping for some other type of animal. Maybe some giraffe?

12:47pm
One lone warthog, sipping at at the hole.

1:05pm
My partner kills a horsefly with a rock. Makes a resounding thud on hideaway.
No animals at hole.

1:40pm
Some lone warthogs dart in and out. Watering hole has generally become very, very quiet. Is it because it’s the hottest time of day right now?

2:17pm
Joy of joys! Some elands show up (5 of them) and 5 kudus come. A lot of nasty warthogs pass on through. Why are there so many? The animals are not seeming to mind all the noise that we are making.

There is an errant bee that flew into our enclosure.

2:20pm
This one bee keeps flying inside to harass me. I’ve left the hideaway three times to escape it.

2:43pm
CCF staff (Jenny) just drove up and checked in on us.

2:47pm
It’s now wam. All my layers are off. My pant legs are rolled up and there is no sign of activity at the watering hole. Probably scared off by the car. We’ll see when wildlife returns.

2:54pm
I told my partner that I would give her one million Namibian dollars that the next animal coming to the waterhole would be a warthog. I’m wrong. I lost one million dollars. Instead we got an oryx who literally sauntered up close to our hideaway, pooped, and left. That is, ladies and gentlemen, what I would call and “poop and run.”

3:40pm
Amazing. A herd of approximately 30 elands showed up en mass at our water hole. They showed up in a troupe formation and jostled each other as they drank and licked salt. Awesome. It was like a train of animals slowly crawling out of the Acacia bush one right after the other. Here they are, idly splashing and swaying their tails back and forth.

3:40pm
Elands still grazing. Oryx came to join them.
A lone baboon made a large yelping noise and crossed the street, lingering only for a little while. He didn’t really stay.

3:51pm
CCF car came and scared away all our wildlife. Back to square one.

4:29pm
I’ve taken to reading the book “The fault in our stars” on the ipad.. It’s actually quite relaxing to read in the slanted afternoon light.

An eland and warthog came to visit. Things here sort of remind me of the Australian outback (also filled with Acacia trees).

Slow going now. Going to head back to my book.

5:10pm
Just as thought life at the water couldn’t get more exciting…we get our most exciting viewing of the day – a baby giraffe! It sauntered it. First we saw its shadow, and got really excited. We waited for a couple of minutes, and then it surfaced. This adorable giraffe. It walked over to the waterhole and was deciding whether or not to take a drink. Finally, it did. It had the vulnerable knobby knees bow when it dipped its head. We took many photos.

It left, slowly walking away in the African sunset. What a gorgeous end, I thought. But no, it was not the end. After the giraffe waltzed off, in came a herd of 9 Elands. They came very close to our hideaway. We were able to hear the clicks of its hooves (a sound that someone described to me and I hadn’t heard before). Here they are now, licking the salt.

As I was about to close this, there are 3 zebras just waltzing toward the water hole. Will this wonder ever stop? All we need to watch to end this is a predator come in and make a kill on one of these prey animals.

5:22pm
It’s now the patient waiting game at the water-hole. We have an oryx waiting and a herd of now 10 zebras waiting as well for the elands to stop drinking. Crazy.

5:26pm
The air is starting to get chilly again. It appears that the elands have won the water hole waiting game as most of the zebras have moved on down the dirt path.

5:35pm
The sun is setting. The hideaway is darkening once more. Our time here draws to a close. I was wrong. Some zebra are still wandering about. The ipad is now a strange bluish glow that illuminates the hideaway.

I have to say. These 12 hours went by very, very quickly. It was good to be at peace and just observing nature. I thought it was going to be painful, but it was enjoyable and fun! Who knew water hole counting could be so restorative, calming, and meditative. Zebras are grazing, Elands are drinking, and the light is fading. What else will this twilight hour bring?

Advertisements

Covered in Blood

I feel like everyday has a theme. Today’s theme was donkey blood. It really isn’t as bad as it sounds. I had to help the cheetah keeper get the cheetah food ready. What do cheetahs eat? MEAT! Who has to prepare them? US!

Cheetahs eat lean cuts of meat but also need some organs to supplement for rich nutrients. Well, guess who had to cut up the organs to prepare the meals? Me (and another volunteer). Oh man. It was a gigantic bucket filled with liver and heart. I started doing it, and had to turn my mind off because I started getting a little grossed out over the steely smell and slimy consistency. I survived though.

We were able to visit all then cheetah pens of CCF that were away from the center. The cats are gorgeous, and some almost ready to be released back into the wild. They kept hissing at us. One was meowing like a cat and then hissing.

In most of the pens, the cheetahs eat out of bowls. It seems strange, but it actually isn’t too bad for them. The bowl keeps their meat clean (which is how they eat in the wild, straight out of a carcass).

For one of the pens I got to heave giant slabs of rib meat over the high fences to hissing cheetahs. It was great. The cheetahs are absolutely gorgeous and they all have different personalities. Some cheetahs will try to swipe you. Others will meow. Some like to run, others are lazy and walk.

The craziest thing I picked up was half a donkey head. I wish I had the capability of posting that photo. Yup. Cheetahs are carnivores so they eat meat. They definitely enjoyed eating the half of donkey head that we delivered to them.

Funny side note: cheetah pens are surrounded by electric wires to keep animals (like warthogs or baboons ) out. Guess who touched a electric wire by accident today while closing a gate? Me. It stung. But I’m alive! 🙂

Scat Cleaning Day

Here I am day 2 of Cheetah work. Unfortunately, I have no photos to update with. They are all on my camera. I left my laptop at home and I won’t have access to the photos until later in July.

Today I cleaned the center cheetah pens with a rake. It was very zen-llike. I had to pick up some cheetah scat, which did not smell very good. I also went on a cheetah scat hunt with a dog that is trained to sniff out cheetah scat. All I did was run after the dog, panting and out of breath. It was very tiring. We ended up finding no scat in the wild.

I spent the afternoon doing some office work to help the CCF office keep track of their animals.

I ended my day by going on a game count – this means that I get to ride in a safari jeep and go out to one of CCF’s land (called the field) and count all the animals that are there. We found onyx, springbok, fowl , wort hogs, kolhraans, and wild giraffes! I was in charge of writing down every single animal we saw. It was a lot!

The best part of today was that I got to go into the pen when the handlers fed the cheetah cubs. I got to sit down in front of the cheetahs when they ate out of their bowls. One even snarled at me when I first walked in. Their names are Rainbow and Aurora. They did not really mind us sitting down and staring at them when they ate.

That’s all for today! Tomorrow I get to go clean goat scat, do more office work, and feed cheetahs in the afternoon.

Center Cheetah Pen

Here I am standing next to the central cheetah pen where they keep four males 🙂 These cats are lazy. The whole time I was there, all they did was hang out under the tree. They only got excited around feeding time.

20130624-202950.jpg