What a week!
Setup is done as well as half of my first week of checks. First all I have to say this place is GORGEOUS, it is breathtakingly beautiful. I wish I could share where I am currently at, but unfortunately due to the high poaching risks, I am not technically allowed to say. But remind me towards the end of the year and I will let you know my top picks of must places to visit in South Africa (this will definitely be on the list). My colleague, Gareth, flew down from Cape Town and helped me with setup, which I am super grateful for because the ground here is so rocky and hard and hammer in 80 poles by yourself is not a fun task. We spent Tues-Thurs setting up then drove back to Joburg Thursday evening, I dropped Gareth at the airport, moved some Panthera vehicles around and then settled in for the night at my dear friend Lisa’s house. It was so wonderful to spend time with her, her Gareth (yes, another one, there’s four in my whole story), and their adorable son, Jayden.
I woke up super duper early Friday morning and drove about 4 hours north to another one of our Panthera sites to pick up a survey kit. This site is generally ran by the reserve ecologist so we just have to help with setup and then pick up the gear after the survey is complete. When I got to the reserve, I was told I can grab gear super quick and be on my way, or if I have some time I can help out on something interesting. Of course, I chose to help out and am so glad I did! I got to “help” (more or so just tagged along and took photos and videos) dart two bull buffalos, move them back to a boma and watch the vet perform TB tests on them. So cool! Another one of those right place, right time moments for me. The crew at this reserve was so friendly and sweet and I am definitely looking forward to helping them with setup later on in the year.
After my buffalo adventure, I loaded up the survey kit and drove the 4 hours back down to Joburg. Lots of driving around, but it means I got to spend another wonderful night with Lisa and fam! Saturday was a bit more chill, I dropped off the survey gear at our storage unit and did some lekker shopping in Joburg for items I can’t easily find out in the middle of no where (aka protein, supplements and egg whites). Lisa took me over to their new house that they will be moving into this week and I got to see my room. The house is STUNNING! They did such a great job picking the perfect home, and the garden is huge too. Ryno will be coming up next month and will be staying with Lisa until the end of my field season, and I will be using my room there as my home base between surveys and every so often as a getaway when I need some puppy time. I know Ryno is going to be so happy there and so well loved! I can’t wait for him to come up!
Saturday evening, I headed back to my site and settled in for the night. Sunday, I oriented myself a bit more on this reserve by going for an evening drive and got some beautiful photos. There are tons of white rhinos here! I have yet to go a day here without multiple rhino sightings!
Yesterday, I started my first round of checks. They went well, though it turned into being a really long day (about 13 hours in the sun). I lost two cameras to who-knows-what, they were completely missing, pole and all. And had one camera that got absolutely demolished by a rhino, it looks like a car had ran over it, backed up and ran over it again. But when I checked the SD cards the last photos are of a rhino walking by, stopping and looking at the camera and then super close up of the rhino before it stopped taking photos.
Oh, the life of a PantheraCAM. They live out in the harsh elements, get stolen by naughty humans, thrown high into trees by eles, chowed on by lions and hyaenas, melted by wildfires, demolished by rhinos and trashed by baboons.
This can got a little too close to a fire.
Some hyaena thought this one would be fun to chow.