Wow a lot has changed since my last blog update! It’s funny what difference a week makes to the life of someone.
As I mentioned on my blog in the beginning, I came to Africa via Namibia to talk to Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) about my future PhD that I will hopefully be starting in September 2012. I also wanted to know if there would be a possibility of me working there after I finish here at ALERT in March. They said they hadn’t got any positions open at that point but that they would let me know if anything did come up. I thought that was probably just them being nice to me and didn’t expect anything to come of it. However, a few weeks ago they contacted me to say their ecologist is leaving next year to continue her postgraduate studies and CCF asked if I would like to take her position. Of course, I jumped at the chance, as CCF is somewhere I have been longing to work ever since I first heard about it. It would tie in nicely with me finishing at ALERT and would tide me over until I start my PhD in September.
However, just a few days ago I heard from CCF again, who said that the ecologist is now leaving much earlier than planned – in fact, in just 2 weeks. Would I be able to take the position? If not, they would have to find someone ASAP as they need someone to start immediately. This put me in a bit of a quandary as I didn’t want to let ALERT down by leaving early, but then I didn’t know when I’d ever get this opportunity again. And this really is a dream job for me: working in Namibia, which I love, at a place I love, doing what I love and being able to do some preliminary research for my PhD, write grant proposals and go on a course on integrated livestock and wildlife management. Of course it would be stupid for me to turn something like this down, so I accepted straight away.
I did feel super bad about leaving ALERT early, so I suggested that one of the long-term volunteers would take my position and luckily both staff and the volunteer agreed J Everything seems to be going according to plan! I now leave Zimbabwe on the 20 November and probably have my last day here at ALERT on the 19 to give me enough time to get to the airport the next day. I am sad that I won’t be here to see what happens with the cubs in the Ngamo pride, but I am definitely very excited to return to Namibia and start an opportunity of a lifetime. If anyone wants to visit me whilst there, feel free! We take short and long term volunteers as well as guests.
In other news, we have an abandoned vervet monkey in camp that we’ve all been looking after. He is super cute and we have named him Bones after a previous member of staff here who looks surprisingly like him! He keeps throwing tantrums every time you put him down and he likes sucking on earlobes and peeing on things he’s not meant to. Pretty funny.
I went back to the doctor again as my stomach was still giving me grief. Turns out that have a stomach ulcer, as I suspected all along. I was given a mountain of medication and am starting to feel a little better. I just hope it goes away by the time I have to leave.
I have just realised that I hadn’t mentioned anything previously about the cub autopsy we did. When one of the cubs in the Ngamo release site starved to death we had to take it out to confirm the cause of death (which, unsurprisingly, was starvation due to abandonment). There was no other place to do the autopsy except my office, so we moved the table into the middle of the room, covered it with towels and used my Swiss army knife (!) as a scalpel as we had no other sharp knife to use. It was a bit grim watching it being sliced open but thoroughly interesting from an anatomical perspective. The cub was so little and looked very fragile. We then buried it by the lake near to where other cubs have been buried. It was a sad event and I kept thinking of Eric Clapton's song Tears In Heaven. Seeing its tiny lifeless body fully opened up on the big table made me sad to think what could have been if Athena hadn’t been in the release site and meddled with the cubs. Who knows – that little one could be out running free in the wild within a few years. I am very glad we took Athena out, especially as Ashanti one of the other lionesses has probably gone off to give birth now too. I saw too much cub death for one person and am happy to think that these other cubs are finally in with a chance of survival without Athena meddling with them.
I hope I get to do at least a couple of fun things here in my last week of being at Antelope Park. I have probably spent less than an hour with each set of walking cubs here, I’ve yet to do a cub sit or behaviour enrichment with them, go on a boat cruise, game drive, canoe or many other activities that the volunteers take for granted. I am going to try to fit in as many things as possible within the next 7 days! Who knows if I will ever be able to walk with lions again.