Showing posts from 2013

Perspectives on farm living

It is now my seventh month living in Namibia for my PhD fieldwork and my fifth on the livestock farm collecting data.  How time has flown!  When I first came to visit this farm back in July I never envisioned that I would have even stayed here (I had plans to live on another farm but that didn’t quite work out…!), let alone feel so at home here.  Always having lived in cities, towns and large villages before, I wasn’t sure how well I’d cope being  a 260 km roundtrip to the nearest town, not least because of the lack of social activities, but also the logistical constraints on buying things like food when you run out! Fortunately, I fitted in spectacularly well to farm life, helping out with every aspect, from the happy and fun like playing with the dogs, to the grim and ugly like assisting with the killing and butchering of cows.  What I have seen and taken part with on this farm has opened my eyes to the world of livestock raising in an area shared with predators (which was the goal o…

Thieves like cheetahs too

After being away on holiday for 11 days, I came back to my farm house tired and in desperate need of a good night’s sleep.  On the long 700 km drive home, one of the things that I was longing for was a square of the “Niki” brand (no jokes) of dark chocolate with coconut.  However, as I got back, I could not find the two bars that I was sure I’d left behind.  “Strange”, I thought, “maybe I ate it all or took it with us on the camping trip and forgot”.  I was sure, though, that I had left these bars of chocolate on my shelf.  I decided to look for them in the morning when I was more with-it.

As I got ready for bed, I went to turn on my small battery-operated bedside lamp.  Weirdly, it was not there.  “Maybe it has fallen from the table onto the floor”, I guessed, and made a mental note to also have a search for it the next day.
Morning came and I went on a search for my missing belongings.  Sadly, I did not find either items, and what’s more, I also discovered that my watch that I normal…

In my next life, please don't bring me back as a fur seal

I've just got back from a two-week trip around Namibia (and briefly, Zambia) seeing the sights and relaxing with my boyfriend.  One of our last stops was to be the Cape Cross Seal Colony, which harbours thousands of Cape seals who raise their pups along the coastline.  Although I had been forewarned about the smell of these marine mammals, I had not quite prepared myself for the sickening stench emanating from the entire area.  As soon as we got out of the car, I nearly gagged; this was a pungent, decomposing, musky smell that I have never before encountered.
Even still, I was excited to be there, especially as it was pup season.  As we got closer however, I begun to realise that part of the smell was in fact coming from the pups, or at least, the hundreds of dead ones scattered across the beach.  Presumably, they were stillborn, crushed by the thousands of other seals all fighting for a prime space, or their mother had not come back from the sea and so had starved to death.  It w…

Egos in conservation threaten effectiveness

I've been involved in conservation now for 5 years, and in that short time, I've had a reasonable amount of experience dealing with various levels and sizes of conservation NGOs, along with environmental departments of governments.

One thing that has struck me as an important factor limiting the productivity of our actions is the severe unwillingness to cooperate with each other.  We all harp on about collaborating with the locals to ensure our conservation actions are met with a certain amount of acceptance on the ground, but what we certainly are not good at yet is working together with fellow NGOs.

Now wait a minute: I know, I know, there are exceptions to this rule, but from my understanding of this situation, collaborations are often awkward, passive-aggressive affairs undertaken more so for increased chance of donor funding or selfish gain rather than anything else.

During my year-long internship at BirdLife Malta, I was exposed to the power of collaboration and cooperat…

What to do when a jackal steals your food

During this last week, a friend from CCF and I took a trip to Etosha National Park, the flagship nature reserve in Namibia.  It is famous for its huge salt pan that is over 100 km wide at some points, but also famous for the wildlife that lives there.  I had never been before so was very excited to go, especially as there is a lack of wildlife on and near my farm (partly due to it being poached out, potentially by the refugees at the camp just 15 km away….). On the day of departure Anja was packing some items in the back of my car and found a scorpion next to the camp food box!  She managed to get it out and I took a snap of it before we released it back into the wild away from our sleeping bags and mattresses – didn’t want to get a shocking surprise when getting into bed that night! We arrived into the park at lunch time and had a brief drive around before heading to one of the rest camps as it was far too hot for both us and any wildlife to be out at that time of day.  After having…

Rain, rain, go away, come again another day...

“Rain, rain, go away, come again another day”…..
……is not something you would hear a Namibian say.
This year marks the worst drought in the country for 30 years.  With a normal average rainfall of 400mm (the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa), last year amounted to 250mm.  That was after 5 good years of rains (average 500-600mm per year), so you would have hoped that the last few years would have been enough to stock the animals, plants, and soil up for any bad years, but alas it doesn’t work like that in this country.  Most soil does not soak up much water, but rather causes flash flooding, and because the sun is so strong here, the puddles are quickly evaporated and taken away to a different country with the wind.
Namibia is known for unpredictable wet seasons, where rainfall regularly peaks and troughs.  However, people are (in general) very good at remembering positive things and also very good at forgetting negative things.  How does this affect the country?  Well, as most of the lan…

Cows, calves and cars

Since my last blog, there has been an arrival of new milking calves, namely Jersey cows and Jersey crosses.  The Jersey calves in particular are absolutely adorable and look like little deer when they’re first born. I had fun yesterday taking some photos of 2 cheeky calves at the water trough, where one thought the water in the trough wasn’t good enough and instead decided to get the cleanest water out from the tap with its surprisingly long tongue! Amy then decided that she was too hot and had a bath in the trough. When I planned to do this PhD, I knew I’d need a car to drive around to different farms so that I could interview farmers.  I’ve never owned a car myself (although I was allowed to drive my sister’s old Ford Fiesta when I was 18) and have been reluctant to ever buy a car in the past as I deemed them expensive and unnecessary.  However, as public transport is basically non-existent in Namibia, the country is so vast, and farms are far apart from each other, it was essentia…

Snakes, spiders, spring and scaring lizards

One of the fun things about living in the middle of the bush is that you're sharing your house with lots of other creatures.  Sometimes this isn't so fun when it is a solifuge/sun/camel spider, aka the tarantula of Namibia.  If you don't know what one of these beastily things is, it's cross between a sandy coloured scorpion, a hugely overgrown ant on steroids and a spider that seems to run as fast as a cheetah.  I'm not scared of spiders (I used to own a tarantula as a pet) but these things give me the creeps just because they are SO speedy and erratic!  Plus their jaws look about the same length as the size of their body and apparently can give you a nasty (but fortunately not poisonous) bite.  As I can never bring myself to killing animals, I have instead employed myself as Manager of a relocation project to get all the solifuges out from my house and back into the wild where they belong.  This usually means being very hasty with a glass and a piece of cardboard …