As I watch the pipe smoke drift lazily up towards the crystal blue sky it is with much happiness that I think back on the year that was 2009. Much has been achieved and 2010 holds much promise. Our work here is progressively bearing more weight and is being recognised by role players in the area… it is only a matter of time before we become chief ecologists of the world and can afford to hire scantily clad Brazilian models to fan us with palm leaves. Additionally it would be nice to hire that specialist Burmese mongoose etiquette trainer we saw on the internet, but alas we must remain realistic in our objectives.
In the space of two weeks Balule has transformed. For months it has been a dry, hostile forbidding landscape, a landscape where White-Back Vultures would ominously circle lonely rangers, crawling on all fours back to base after they had forgotten their water bottle. But suddenly with a monumentous crash of thunder the rains came and the lonely rangers lifted their parched lips to the sky and were revived by the heavens. The vultures screeched with frustration and made their way to the local vulture restaurant. The bush is now so green it resembles a forest in places and new life abounds throughout the region. New born impala cling nervously to their mothers’ side and warthog piglets are cute enough to make even the hardest rangers lip quiver. Flowers are out in abundance and we are currently compiling a species list of these splotches of colour which punctuate the landscape.
As sad as we are to have the great Mr. Fox noticeably absent from our team we are excited to welcome a new student to our team. His name is Shaun Hill. With hair like phoenix’s fire and the determination of a hungry honey badger we are sure he will prove to be a valuable addition to Transfrontier Africa. If he doesn’t get skin cancer.
I am glad to announce that I am no longer a student. November saw me completing my course in Nature Conservation after I handed in my dissertation and faced an assessment panel in Cape Town composed of the Conservation gods of the world. I passed and have been offered a position here at Transfrontier Africa which I gratefully accepted. Apart from the fact that it’s a good way to get rid of my girlfriend, I really believe in what we are trying to do here. This place offers much promise and the last year has been one of the most enriching of my life. My research project on the elephant damage to trees was well received and will serve as baseline data for next years studies. Our hypothesis was proved and we have found conclusive evidence that trees are not being negatively influenced by elephant action. The specific survival strategies exhibited by a variety of species demonstrate that they anticipate elephant damage, and through millennia of co-existence with elephants they have evolved to withstand elephant damage. In some instances elephant action proved to be beneficial for the ecosystem. No evidence was found that trees were declining in numbers, therefore no forms of elephant control is deemed necessary in the region.
An additional project which involved the quantification of African Elephant numbers was also well received. The project uses a variety of sources to quantify the effects poaching and human wildlife conflict have on elephant numbers. We are currently elaborating on this project and aim to distribute it to a number of sources. We hope it will allow people to understand that elephant numbers are dwindling and are in great danger of extinction in the wild within a decade.
Eva the mongoose continues her reign ofterror and we obediently obey her every command. We leave offerings of chicken stir fry but she fixes us with those smouldering hate filled eyes and we cower in submission. It is not only us humanoids which face the wrath. The other dayshe chased an entire troop of baboons away from camp. Ironically she is scared of the pheasants which frequent our camp. This makes me think I should fear them too. Strangely when night falls she transforms into the cutest little creature you’ve ever seen and curls up on your lap and purrs like a kitten.
Last week we said goodbye to one of ourfavourite volunteer groups of all time. They were a group from CVA (Conservation Volunteers Australia). Not only did we really enjoy their company but we managed to make some good headway with our research thanks to their assistance. The volunteers, armed with huge bottles of sunscreen and functional (but really nerdy) hats spent many an 8 hour day in the boiling sun helping us devise our visibility index and spent an equal amount of time bent over during our grass surveys. We sincerely thank them for their assistance. Whenever Craig sees a discarded CVA hat lying around camp his eyes become misty and he begins to hum “Daniel” by Elton John. I think he misses them. But we look forward to welcoming the Aussies back next year.
In conclusion it should be said that this past year has been a challenging one, but we have risen above the challenges and we are always moving forward. We thank our past volunteers of 2009 for assisting us in achieving our objectives for this year. Without them it would not have been possible for us to still be here, smoking our pipes as we watch the sun set on our beautiful Africa each evening. It has been an enriching and valuable year and we look forward to an equally successful 2010 with you guys.