Leopards, cheetahs and caracals
I think I can safely say that the land within and surrounding CCF is full of more predators than I have ever lived close to before – and this excites me greatly J Only last night, whilst walking back to my house from dinner, did I spot a large felid walk in front of me. My first thought in the low light was that it was a leopard, especially as people had only just been talking about spotting a leopard about 100m from my house on two occasions that same day. However, upon closer inspection, I realised it was in fact a cheetah. As soon as I noticed the animal, it stopped in its tracks and stared at me. I wasn’t sure whether to keep on walking or turn back to tell someone of my finding. I decided to walk back to the dinner table to tell people, but after 20 seconds or so, started to run as I thought it may have left by the time I got back. Only in hindsight did I think that it probably wasn’t the best idea to run away from a predator! Fortunately for me, the cheetah was more scared of me than I was of it (which tends to be the case for cheetahs; they’re lovers, not fighters!). By the time I’d rounded up some troops to come and look at the cheetah, he had wandered 40 m away and was heading towards one of the female cheetah’s enclosure that we presume to be in heat. This male cheetah is a resident of CCF land, nicknamed Hi-Fi, and is apparently spotted on average a few times a month. I hope I get to have another close encounter of the felid kind soon – although I am not so sure I would like to be on foot again if I spot (no pun intended) a leopard!
A few days ago I went to a conservancy meeting with Laurie to talk about the future plans for a conglomeration of conservancies in the area called The Greater Waterberg Complex. Apparently the area has been given $4 mil from UNDP’s GEF fund and the board have yet to decide, after 4 years, what to spend the money on. Africa time, and all…
Afterwards we went round one of the participant’s houses for a chat. They have a beautiful cattle farm-cum-tourist lodge in a great location overlooking the Waterberg plateau. We indulged in Appletizers (which, on a side note, apparently have more sugar in than a can of Coke!) whilst watching the sun set and playing with their terrier dogs (complete with puppies) and their ridgeback pals. The terriers were full of energy and darted around the whole evening, amusing us greatly. At one point a cheeky puppy brought along a dead snake to us. To my disgust, one of his buddies decided to play tug-of-war with the poor deceased reptile. Yuck!
Whilst driving back from the meeting later on that night, I was delighted to see a caracal dart in front of us on the road. Caracals are smaller felids; the Africa equivalent of a lynx. It is very rare to see them in the wild as they tend to be very secretive, so I was extremely pleased with our sighting. We are going out on another night game count this evening, so I hope that we will see more creatures of tooth and claw!
There was rather a bit of commotion today at CCF. As I walked to breakfast this morning I could hear baboons wah-ooing and dogs barking. I contemplated what may be happening for a few seconds, before hunger got the better of me and I headed for the dining area. Upon reaching there, I was told that the ruckus was due to a young and inexperienced Anatolian guard dog getting out of her kraal in the night. She had just seen a big roaming male baboon, tried to chase it off, with the baboon giving up a good fight in retaliation. Due to all the noise they were creating, some staff members came to see what was going on. A volunteer thought it would be best to go after the baboon and hit it repeatedly with a metal plate. The pest control guy was called and the baboon was then put out of his misery (i.e. shot). Apparently the juvenile dog was quite badly injured due to the attacks from the baboon and had to go straight into surgery.
Now, I felt quite sad about the baboon in this story. We are, after all, meant to be promoting non-lethal control of problem animals here at CCF. Also, the fault was entirely upon us, in that we did not look after our guard dog and we have been placing leftover food out to feed guinea fowl and warthog, which, unsurprisingly, has been attracting other scavengers too like baboons and jackals. This is a prime example of wild animals being blamed for a situation that is almost entirely human-caused. I would have thought that out of any organisation, CCF should be sympathetic towards the situation and accept blame. It is a shame that the baboon had to lose its life over this, but I wonder what the result would have been if it had been a cheetah that was harassing the dog instead.
Tomorrow night we will be having an early Christmas celebration at Laurie and Bruce’s house, where we will be putting up decorations on a tree, eating heart-attack material food and having a jovial time. It still feels odd that it’s December and I am wearing shorts and a t-shirt. The other day it was so hot in the middle of the day that I had to hide in the shade inside. I don’t feel Christmassy at all because of this, and I expect Christmas itself will pass uneventful.
Here’s a shot of a teeny tiny gecko I found on my doorstep. It was no more than 2 cm long!