Life in Namibia
I am finally beginning to settle in to Namibian life now after a brief panic period not knowing at all what I was doing! I arrived into CCF the day after the previous ecologist had left, so I have had no one to mentor me whilst here, which is a bit of a scary prospect. I have also been pulled between two tasks whilst here: going to lectures for my course on human-wildlife conflict and learning about the tasks required of me as the ecologist. However, as 90% of my time has been spent in the course, I’ve barely had time to figure out what I’m meant to be doing elsewhere here. I keep having the students and interns I’m meant to be supervising coming up to me to ask for advice, although I have no idea what their projects are on or how I can be of assistance. I keep feeling that I’m slightly out of my depth here, but I hope things will get easier as the days go on.
Fortunately yesterday I was able to spend the majority of the day in my office figuring out where everything is, sorting out the data, going through the hand-over document and basically finding my feet!! I also got to help out with a medical examination of a wild cheetah that was caught on a farm with her two cubs. The farmer did not want his land to have cheetahs on because he was worried about livestock loss, so instead of just shooting the animals, he called CCF to collect them. We had a look at them to make sure that they were fit and healthy to be released, as well as taking blood, hair, fecal and skin samples.
Later on in the day we moved the mother and her cubs to a quarantine area and hopefully will be releasing them back into the wild when we find a suitable place for them to go. Sadly, there are not many “safe havens” for cheetahs, or indeed any carnivore, any more in this human-dominated landscape.
The course that I am on is going really well and I am learning so much. It is also great to be integrating with academics, conservation professionals and pioneers in the field again and gives me confidence about the route I am taking. There are two great lecturers on our course: Dr Christiaan Winterbach, a lion researcher from Botswana, and Dr Amy Dickman, a carnivore conflict mitigation specialist working on lions in Tanzania. Both are so knowledgeable about their subjects that being around them makes me feel so inferior to them! I also get this impression any time I’m around my boss Dr Laurie Marker. She has done so much in her life towards conserving cheetahs that it baffles me how anyone can be that productive. I really hope one day to be even 10% as affective as she has been.
Also on the course we’re learning about how to ID what predator killed your livestock, conflict mitigation tactics, how to teach farmers about effective livestock protection, carnivore reintroductions, wild predator and livestock health, and a whole host of other very interesting topics. I feel privileged to be given the opportunity to partake in this course and I really feel it is benefitting me with my conservation skills.
A few days ago we all went on game drive around the immense ground at CCF (they own approximately 45,000 hectares). We saw aardwolf, kudu, oryx, red hartebeest, warthog, steenbok, duiker and many bird species. Apparently there are a few resident leopards, cheetahs and African wild cats around here too that are spotted not too infrequently. I just hope I don’t bump into one on my 10 min walk home in the darkness from the dining room at night! Sorry about the lack of photos in this update but I have literally taken no pics since getting here as haven’t had a chance. I will endeavour to change this for my next update!