Oceans Research has evolved and crawled out on land, and so we have started with land based research with one intern and five projects. The studies were conducted on two private game reserves in close proximity to Mossel bay. The small mammal survey and bird surveys were done at Botlierskop for safety reasons, as the Lion on the reserve is kept in an enclosure and not free roaming as is the case on Gondwana Game Reserve.
The month kicked off the first week of Training. Camping at a water hole overlooking the rolling hills covered in indigenous fynbos must have been an experience for anybody with a love for nature. The campers were reminded of the force of nature when a huge wind storm blew the tents down on late Sunday afternoon and were they forced to seek shelter from the elements. Replacing all damaged equipment on Monday morning, they returned to the field to resume their field work.
We started our research work at Botlierskop on Monday morning with our new set of 4x4 wheels called “THE AARDWOLF”. Two small mammal trapping grids were laid out with 25 traps each. We focussed our efforts in two habitat types, fynbos and grassland.
After finishing our packed lunches, we set out to look for suitable places to deploy the two camera traps. Both were eventually deployed in two separate river beds where we expected game movement.
For the next three days we checked the traps every morning, for small mammals and after the first two escaped we had our skills honed and marked and weighed a total of 19 mice. We took 17 tail clippings for DNA analyses.
The afternoons were spent doing the behaviour study on the Giraffe and some interesting interactions were seen as one female is expected to be pregnant and the other female being in oestrus.
Week three was focussed the behaviour study and bird surveys and tracking at Botlierskop and Gondwana.
The last week were put aside for tracking and the giraffe behaviour study. We tried to find the cheetah, but could not get to see them but got a good fix on their general position. We focussed on the behavioural study on Tuesday and Wednesday being our last day at Gondwana we tracked the Rhino and were hoping to see the elephant as both these pachyderms were not seen by us. After finding them we spent the afternoon following their movements in the valley until they moved into the thicket and could not be seen anymore.
On Thursday morning we went out to Botlierskop to retrieve the camera traps and the afternoon was put aside for downloading and analysing the images. We were quite disappointed about the results, as we only recorded a waterbuck and eland on the one trap, and a giraffe on the other. I am planning to place the traps on existing game paths where there are good visibility for the next session. But that is what research is all about: not always a success. To be continued...