Final days at AP

I now only have two full days left as the lion researcher at ALERT.  It is a bittersweet time, as I wish I could stay to see how the cubs in the Ngamo release site grow up, but I can safely say that I am not going to miss anything else about this place.  It has certainly been an interesting time here in Zimbabwe and I feel like it was a good experience for me to come out here and learn about this project, but I am ready to move on now.  I shall however certainly keep updated with the Ngamo blog to read up about how the new cubs are doing and will hopefully keep in contact with the new researcher about things.

Just a couple of days ago Kenge the new mother in the pride started to integrate her cubs with the rest of the lions.  She brought her two beautiful cubs out from their den in the morning and spent around 10 minutes with the rest of the group, before the cubs decided it was time to head back home.  The cubs are adorable bundles of fluff and it was so nice to see them fit and healthy without Athena being there to interfere negatively towards them.

We also stumbled across Ashanti's den and her two week-old cubs a few days ago.  She picked an excellent den site in a dense thicket near a waterhole and seems to be doing a great job of being a mother.  I hope both her cubs and Kenge's pull through.  At least we don't have to worry about Athena eating them any more!

I've been trying to make the most of my last few days here.  Yesterday afternoon we went on a horse ride into the bush, which was great fun.  We went to the dam as it was a hot day and took the horses into the water.  I didn't realise how deep it was going to be though, and as the water started to rise up and up past the horse's belly, I was worried about my new Goretex shoes getting ruined.  I tried to lift my feet up out of the water and onto the horse's shoulders, but started to feel like I was going to fall off doing that, so had to decide either I get completely soaked by falling into the water, or I possibly mess up my boots and put my feet back in the stirrups.  I went for the latter option and although the water was very cooling and thrilling to ride through, I did worry that my boots would never be able to be worn again!  I have been drying them in the sun today so hopefully they will be OK....

Later on in the day I took the afternoon research session off to go elephant herding.  I wanted to have a positive experience with the ele's after having such a terrible one with the lunar ride!  We wandered into the bush and looked around for the free-roaming elephants for the first 45 mins, only to find them heading towards me and fondling my bag curiously.  The elephant handler asked me if I had any fruit in my bag, and stupidly I had forgotten about my monkey orange.  Apparently that long trunk of theirs really does act like a very good nose!  After feeding one of them the fruit they then trundled off looking for more food.  One of them got down onto her front legs as I was stroking her and I wondered if she wanted me to climb on top of her!  However, she was just searching the earth for some wild potatoes and, luckily for her, managed to find one hidden deep down in the ground.  We then herded the ele's back to their bomas where they would stay for the night.

As we were walking back to camp, we came across the volunteers taking two lion cubs for a walk.  I decided to join them and we slowly wandered back to their enclosure.  It was nice to get close to them again after not really seeing them for almost three months!  I also managed to do a behavioural enrichment session with them a few days ago, which was fun.  We made toys out of fruit and sticks, which they loved.  They play just like domestic cats and it was cute to see them biff the fruit around and try to attack them as if they were mice.

I will be heading to Harare by bus on Saturday to stay at the lodge before catching my afternoon flight to Jo'burg on Sunday.  I then spend the night in a hostel there (which should be interesting...!) before going to Windhoek early on Monday morning.  I should be picked up by CCF staff and then will sit through two lectures of the integrated wildlife and livestock management course before being taken back to Otjiwarongo, home of CCF, where I will continue the rest of my course for the next two weeks.  I think I will probably be pretty busy from now onwards, so may not have time to update this blog for a while.


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