Hi Everyone! We were sat watching a young lioness, had been there about 15 mins, about 20m away, when suddenly she got up and started walking straight towards us. Johann just said ‘’nobody move, STAY COMPLETELY STILL…’’we all just sat there frozen as she walked right by the side of the vehicle, less that 1m away! I was sat next to Don and his eyes were like dinner plates! I’ve never seen anyone so terrified! It was amazing! She sounded like she went behind and started walking down my side, there is nothing you can do but stay frozen, ½ of you wants to look, but the other half would rather not know!! So awesome huh?! Did 3 camp outs last week, two in a dry river bed and one on a raised platform where we got left! Didn’t see anything but it is such a nice experience lying under the stars listing to hyena whooping and lions roaring around you!! Shot a .375 magnum at a target of a lion (not a real one!) from 15m away, great fun. It is a proper heavy gun with a big kick and my arms ached the next morning!! I apparently had very good grouping, all my shots went in its nose! Have left the Ranger Course now, was sad to leave, but am excited bout joining the Game Capture team! Got a flight out to Kimberly and am now sat waiting for someone to pick me up. The team are out doing game counts and darting so have to wait for them to finish. Stayed in the backpackers last night with Helen, Theo and Chloe, had some food and a couple of beers and chilled out, was really nice. Chloe is off to the veterinary project I am going to in a month, so will be nice to know that I will know someone there. Anyhow, will speak to you soon. Miss you all. J XXXXXXXX
Hello everybody!! How are you all? I am having the most amazing week! on our 1st day here someone radioed to say there were 3 lions near by, so we went out to see them which was cool, but then back at the house in lectures and I was looking over the airstrip outside and saw one of the lions stalking a warthog!! We went out and watched, she chased it but it got away, the other 2 lions then joined her and they were all lying out on the airstrip! So we got in the Landrover and drove over and parked about 10-15m away and just sat and watched!! Was so cool, then got another radio message to say two cheetah had been seen, so drove off to find them and got there to find them stalking a young kudu buck!! We watched them chase it, but they too were unsuccessful! WHAT A DAY THOUGH, COULDN’T BELIEVE OUR LUCK! Then, driving home on a complete high, we came round a corner and there at the edge of the road was an elephant bull!! We stopped and he walked right up to the edge of the Landrover and then behind it – the lads on the back seat looked so scared!! It was so close, literally touching the vehicle!! AMAZING!!! Since then have had a couple more close encounters with lions (one big male got up and walked past where we were parked, about 1m away from the side of the open vehicle!!) Have also seen zebra, giraffe, rhino, mongoose, kudu, impala, buffalo, civet and genet, so doing quite well! We are also learning lots, lectures are good fun and Johann (our instructor) is so knowledgeable and enthusiastic, less than a week left now before I head out on my Game Capture mission! Quite excited but really don’t want leave where I am at the mo, there is 8 of us and we all get on really well and are having so much fun! I got to do some off road driving yesterday, pretty scary, the Landrover is so huge, I could barely see over the wheel and I am responsible for 7 people on the back and one tracker on a seat on the bonnet! A lot to think about; got to drive, watch for animals and know how to position the vehicle so everyone can see well and so the tracker at the front is safe, whilst reading the animals behaviour so you don’t get too close and scare it off and so it doesn’t attack you!! Was great fun though! I have so much more to say, but got to go meet the group for lunch, I will try and get some pictures on Facebook soon or email some or something. Hope you are all well, miss you. J xxxxx
Hello! Having a great time at matopi but leave tomorrow. Absolute highlight so far was the giraffe darting! I got to HANG out of a chopper and shoot a giraffe in the bum with a dart rifle!! Then the guys on the floor out run it and wrap ropes round its legs and trip it up, than you jump on it and they attach a headcollar and ropes and cover its eyes and ears and us students poke lots of needles in it (wormer, penicillin, antibiotic, etc) then stand it up and led it to the trailer! So cool! Also I got to work on a rhino last week too!! That was so bizarre, it was all over so quickly it was like it never happened! Rhinos are valued per inch of horn so we darted it to measure its horn to find its value!! Have also caught in the bomas: kudu, black wildebeest, red hartebeest, waterbuck, zebra, warthogs, eland and several other antelope species, all very exciting, especially when a waterbuck got lost and ran back at the curtain where I was standing! I was jumping up and down and shouting trying to scare it off and it was stood about 3m away from me just staring as if I was mad!!! Went to a festival thing yesterday where they had rally driving and rodeo riding, was a really good day, then in the eve we went to a pub and watched the England match on the big screens!! GO ENGLAND!! Off to a place near Durban tomorrow to do veterinary work, really excited about it but very sad to be leaving here, especially as this lot are heading to the eastern cape to catch mountain reedbuck in nets, so wanted to do that!! Anyway this keyboard is rubbish and so is the internet connection so not gonna write anymore!! Hope your all ok, speak soon!! Jxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Hello Everyone, I am now at Shimongwe Wildlife Veterinary Experience and having a good time! On my first day we headed out to a park called Phinda where we were working with lions and nyala! In the morning we darted 3 male nyala and loaded them in to the bakkie where they were taken to holding pens before they are to be sold as a large group. Following that we darted 3 female lion and gave them a contraceptive drug! There are currently 32 lions in the park but it can only sustain 20, meaning as well as using contraceptives, we also have to humanely euthanise some of the males. Horrible, horrible job, but no other choice. They have been trying for a year to sell them but the only people wanting to buy is canned hunters -not nice. Therefore it was decided that it is better to have them humanly euthanised (darted followed by lethal injection) than have them shot for sport (*please see accompanying note at the end of the article from ACE). They cannot stay where they are due to fighting/pride disturbance/infanticide stemming from alpha male take over and because they are hunting in large groups taking down expensive prey such as buffalo and rhino, when they should be hunting in smaller packs taking out cheap easily replaced animals such as impala and nyala. The following day we went out to where a herd of farmed buffalo where ill and 4 had dropped dead in a week. Farmed buffalo and are susceptible to all sorts of disease and have low immunity. A post-mortem on one suggested something called redwater. So the other 16 in the herd where darted one at a time and vaccinated against this and many other things as well as being given antibiotics/antiparacitcides/wormer etc. Each of us students was given a drug to be in charge of and as soon as the buffalo went down we ran in and gave our injections, whilst the vet gave the sedative reversal. So that was a really good hands-on morning!! The afternoon was spent with a small wild female leopard with a tooth ache!! It was darted and then a dentist was brought in to do a root canal on one of its canine teeth!!! Bizarre, but cool to watch! The following day we accompanied the vet up to Kruger national park where he was collecting a rhino. Within the 1st 20 mins of being in Kruger we saw 4 of the ‘big 5’ – rhino (10 of them!), buffalo, elephant and a leopard!!! So, so exciting! I have waited years to see a leopard in the wild and it was totally worth the wait! What a beautiful animal!! Driving out the next day and we saw the final one of the ‘big 5’ – the lion!! In fact 5 lion, who were walking up the road towards us and straight past the side of our cruiser practically touching it!! I think another trip out here may have to be planned for next year!!! No mention of the rugby in any replies to this email please!! Sore subject!!! As soon as the final whistle blew my phone started with texts and calls from gloating South Africans!! Not happy!!! Rubbish game though hey? All kicking, no tries! Anyway this is a stupidly long email sorry!! Miss you all loads and hope you are well and happy. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Hello! I have now moved on from the vet project now, but I did get to visit Sodwana Bay before I left and went scuba diving (for the 1st time in 6 years, I was pretty nervous!) it was AMAZING!!! Saw all sorts of cool colourful fish – the amount of different ones was astonishing! Did a swim through a little cave and went to where the sharks hang out normally, but unfortunately they were not there. Also saw a humpback whale breech whilst we were on the dive boat! All in all it was a fantastic experience and I’m so pleased I got to do it! I am now in a wildlife rehab center called Sondela, just for a week and a 1/2 and I LOVE IT here!! There are 3 three month old lion cubs, who are going to sleep on my bed with me tonight!!!!! They are so cute, pretty big and strong already tho. There are also two adorable caracal kittens, my absolute favourite! They are also three months and I am spending hours in their enclosure playing with them! There is a 3 month old giraffe also named Kallie, he has a broken leg which has been all pinned back together so we are having to sedate him and change his bandages 3 times a week, did it this morning, was very excited to be involved in that. He is still being bottle fed, but we have to stand on a chest-high box in order to reach him!! Anyway, hope you are all well, I will email again soon. I am currently trying to get some pictures on facebook, but it is taking forever!!
*While euthanizing male lions may seem contradictory to conservation principles, in many circumstances in South Africa, it is the only viable option. Lions breed well in large well-managed game reserves like Phinda and rapidly fill their ecological niche within the ecosystem. Welcome recent changes to South African law prohibits the sale of wild-bred lions into captive environments, such as those used by the canned hunting industry. Unfortunately, with such healthy lion populations on most large game reserves, there is often no-where for excess lions to go. It is for this reason that ACE does also not support lion breeding projects. ACE view difficult decisions such as these as all part of tackling sustainable conservation within a real-world context.