Paradise Camp Blog | Transfrontier Africa | Michael Scholl

Paradise Camp Blog

April Blog

Finally a computer that works. We have been out of action since that fateful night Eva the Mongoose decided to pee on the last working computer. There was sparks, and smoke and the smell of burnt mongoose urine and fur stung our nostrils. Now I am typing on a computer that was around in the era of Cro-Magnon man, but it works.

We have been busy saving the world, or rather our 8 800ha patch of it. As of late 3 male giraffes have died suspiciously. We have concluded that they have been running into the overhead powerlines. Only the tall old males have the height to touch the lines. It is sad to think these old beasts have survived for many years, fending off countless lion attacks, only to be killed by…a power line. We think one giraffe was even chased by lions and in the process tripped over a support cable for the poles.We have just finished mapping all the low power lines in the reserve and are in the process of getting them raised.

The hyena introduction program in our region has been a success, although now we are getting reports from lodges that hyenas are stealing their cupcakes off their supper tables at night. We will have to educate them on the value of closing your door at night when there area broad spectrum of beasties about that could potentially steal more than your dinner.

Our waterhole census is coming along nicely. Its been quite exciting so far owing to the fact that we have visited, for the first time, the deep dark forgotten areas of the reserve in the search for the elusive waterholes. There are some places where you are convinced that dinosaurs still roam and you expect to find buried treasure next to a human skeleton around the next bend.

We had an exciting incident the other night with a lovely volunteer named Ida. There we were, next to 19 lions feeding on a giraffe. The mood was gay, the night was warm, everything was great until Sekorokoro decided she didn’t want to start. I pleaded with her, I coaxed her as I gently rubbed the dashboard. I swore at her and promised her I’d push her into the Olifants River. Nothing worked, but then over the hill came another vehicle, silhouetted against the sinking sun. Our rescuers! It was a private vehicle which pulled up next to ours. We gingerly climbed from our vehicle into theirs, much to the interest of the lions. Luckily they were quite full and didn’t eat us. It must be said that the lovely Ida was very brave and didn’t even break a sweat. Later on in the night we went to retrieve our tobacco from the vehicle. And lo and behold, she started on the first turn of the key! I hate her. But I love her.

We have recently enjoyed having one of our favourite volunteers return to camp. We explored other regions of the Kruger with her for a week. We traveled far across the park and are glad to say that there is nowhere as beautiful as our Balule. We are not just saying that… although Punda Maria came close. In fact I think Ms. Joke Lammers has visited our project more than anyone else. She is a great groupie to our project. We feel like we are in a band. Of sorts.

Unfortunately our student Shaun “sticks” Hill has died. No he didn’t really. He just left to continue with his studies at university. We miss him. It is like we have lost a child. We wish him all the best. We have found another bright young student who will be joining us next month. He hails from a land far far away and has a steely glare in his eye and purpose in his step. We look forward to his arrival.

Our anti-poaching team is coming along nicely. Derrick continues to bewilder us with his voodoo-magic tracking skills. We continue to experience a low incidence of subsistence poaching on the reserve but things are still very much under control. We are currently in the process of hiring 3 other staff to assist us with these responsibilities which should allow us to cover greater distances more frequently.  

Life in Balule

Since Craig’s inception as Warden we havetaken on many exciting new project in Balule.

It is now our sole responsibility to plan and carry out the anti-poaching operations alongside Derek, our new voodoo tracker extraordinaire. We marvel at his tracking ability where he is able to tell the age, sex, number, direction of movement and age of the track just by looking at an incredibly obscure scuff mark in the sand. When we ask him how he does it his eyes go cloudy and mysterious and he just smiles. We think it is magic.

Elephants are numerous here at the moment, yesterday Craig and the volunteers saw two massive herds frolicking down at the waterhole and managed to capture some good information for our elephant identification data.

Ms. Vivianne Burns (a past volunteer and now the CEO of the Pennies for Ellies Organisation) accompanied us the other day on an elephant tracking expedition with the Save the Elephant Foundation where we were tracking elephants fitted with radio collars.

Her organisation aims to raise awarenessfor African elephants with the additional objective of sourcing funding for projects here such as raising money for radio collars which would be used to track elephant movement patterns. At R25 000 each these collars are not cheap. Often projects do not occur due to a lack of funding. Ms. Burns is doing goodwork and we support her project emphatically. Check out her website Pennies for Eles

Sean, our new fiery haired student is continuing to brave the sun and continues to do good work for us, although he has managed to crash every vehicle in the fleet. He is currently doing surveys on thecondition of the bush in terms of browsing potential and he rolls a good cigarette. We look forward to the next year with him.

Eva the mongoose has become obsessed with cheese to the point where we are afraid to buy it. If she sees us secretly cutting a piece for lunch she shrieks at such a frequency that our ears bleed and charges towards u s/ the cheese like a possessed mongoose. Her reign of fear continues and we leave offerings of cheese outside her house each morning hoping to win favour with her royal highness.

Lion sightings have been good, with the entire pride of 19 being spotted regularly. Ancient majestic old Big Boy seems to be showing his age these days though. He seems to be balding slightly, although none of us are brave enough to tell him. In his defence though he still manages to kill massive buffalo with ease, although we sense a pride takeover is imminent.

Our rhino identification database is growing in an attempt to keep track of our resident population. Frequent poaching occurs in neighbouring reserves therefore it is imperative that we monitor our populations religiously.

In closing we are optimistic about the time ahead and look forward to the new possibilities and room for growth that it may bring.

More next time,

John, Research Technician (I got promoted!)

© / Michael Scholl Copyright 2012 for TransFrontier Africa and Craig Spencer