Moon walks, massive snakes and sperm

We have finally got working internet again, after a month with almost nothing!  When it was repaired a few days ago I sat in front of my laptop and didn’t even really know what to do because it had been so long that I’d been able to use it that I’d started to not care about using it.  It is however extremely useful for work to have net access to read journal papers , so I can finally get on with my research again.  I am currently writing a paper on the views and behaviours of communal conservancy members towards predators, which is pretty interesting.  Hopefully we shall get it sent for peer-review within a month or so.

We’ve had a few social events over the last month.  We went out into town to a local restaurant (which turned out to be quite an effort to organise because you need permission to leave the site and a valid reason for going into town – apparently “escaping for a meal with friends” isn’t sufficient).  I’m not sure I’ll ever go back to that restaurant though as it took over 2.5 hours for our food to arrive!  I do appreciate we’re on “Africa time” here, but even so, that was ridiculous!

I also organised for a moon walk (!) last week.  Some of us went for a full-moon walk along the airstrip in the darkness.  We set up blankets and watched the moon and stars.  It was very peaceful and we had fun trying different settings on our cameras to capture the beauty of the night.  Since then, the stars have looked spectacular since the moon is waning and you can see Venus and Jupiter so clearly, as well as the Milky Way.  We’re so privileged here to have no light pollution obscuring our nocturnal views.  A couple of nights ago we laid down on the ground to watch the stars and I was complaining how I hadn’t seen one shooting star since we had got here, and just a few seconds afterwards, we saw a massive meteor with a firey tail trailing behind it!  It was so fantastic to see, and such a coincidence!

We’ve found a couple of dying kudus here on CCF land that have contracted rabies.  For some reason, the kudus in this area are suffering from a bit of a rabies epidemic and one was found dying whilst some of the volunteers were out in the bush.  They didn’t know whether to just leave it to die slowly, or get it out of its misery.  They opted for the latter, but didn’t have anything to kill it with, so decided to suffocate it to death – this was all enacted, however, prior to finding out that the kudu actually had rabies.  You can catch rabies from saliva, so I am just hoping that there were no open wounds on the volunteer’s hands that suffocated the poor kudu!

There are a lot of great bird species around here, although I’m terrible with the species names, especially as I have no book to look them up in.  The other night I was walking home and saw two owls sat in the tree watching me.  I got out my camera and took a photo of the tree that they were sat in, only to find that it looked as if they’d flown off.  However, upon closer inspection of my photo when back home, it turns out it was just hiding, and you can clearly see the reflection of its red eyes in the pic!  We also spotted a goshawk on a game count recently that was sat in a tree eating something.  My camera wasn’t good enough to zoom in on what it had got, but I presume some sort of rodent.

Yesterday the scat dog trainer came to lunch telling us he’d been out in the field and had come across a rather large python that he decided to bag up and bring back to the centre for some of the snake lovers here to see.  However, when he got back, he realised the snake had got out of the bag and was curled up under the driver’s seat!   Being a constrictor there was no use in trying to pull it out, as it would have just held on tighter, so he had to unbolt his entire chair to get it out!  It turned out to be 3.5m long – quite a formidable snake!!

We are just about to start our “annuals” on our cheetahs, which are annual exams of all the captive cheetahs here to check their health status.  One was carried out a few days ago on a male cheetah and, as is customary for such a procedure, sperm was taken for storage in our Genome Resource Bank.  I was upstairs working in my office at the time of this taking place, when I heard Laurie come in from the clinic to ask the volunteers downstairs “Would you lie to see some sperm?”!!  A pretty funny snippet to hear!

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