Leaving Footprints

Taking nothing but memories!


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When the keeper escaped from the zoo

After 10 hard-working months hopping around the globe my time was sadly at an end but, I’d had the experience of a life time. I’d met some amazing people and learnt heaps, both in terms of work skills and about myself. All the fantastic things I’d seen, done and eaten would be nigh on endless if I tried to list them; but I thought I’d just mention a few of the highlights, including those that may not have made it into the blogs. Continue reading


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A Massive Baby!

Two days before I flew home I sprang out of bed and bounced around my cottage, because today was the day I’d get to see my favourite species of vulture up close. Unfortunately, for almost three weeks Lindy and I had been stuck in Durban, as the somewhat decrepit project vehicle had ended up spending 2 weeks at the mechanic’s for some much-needed TLC. This meant that there was not enough time to do a final check of our nests before I was due to fly home. But, as luck would have it, Andre Botha − one of the country’s head honchos for birds of prey conservation and the man that put me in touch with Lindy − was organising the processing of a vulture nestling just down the road and invited us along.  Continue reading


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The Big One: Kruger

The hooded vulture project was extending into the Kruger National Park, one of the largest wildlife reserves on the continent. It’s always exciting surveying new habitats to find nests, but if I’m honest I wasn’t that fussed that it was in Kruger. I don’t know why I had an indifference towards the place; I can only put it down to one of 2 possible reasons. Continue reading


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Vulturing

‘A lot of standing around and checking nothing is creeping up on me’ was pretty much how my role helping out on the K2C hooded vulture project was explained to me. Sounds a tad boring, huh? As it turned out – not in the slightest. Continue reading


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The Dark Continent

After a short 15 days in Thailand helping track the ‘pain in the arse’ elongated tortoises, and a brief stint with the King cobra team while Matt wrote a conference presentation, I returned to the UK. Do not fear, dear reader, I wouldn’t be freezing in the English summer for too long, I had made a plan over a year ago so this wouldn’t happen. Continue reading


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Down the termite hole and into tortoise land

Matt’s project has 10 study tortoises, 5 males and 5 females, and they all have to be tracked daily. Due to the furnace-like temperatures in the afternoon, the day was split into two tracking slots, 6:30–11am and 4–8pm, – even so, the day started at 28°C. Each tortoise had a transmitter glued to its’ shell, so (theoretically) they should have been easy to find. Continue reading


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Chicken Wars – Everyday is a holiday

During my school days I used to love public holidays, an extra day off to do nothing was fantastic, but as an adult they’re just a pain in the arse. Sri Lanka is a country with 3 main religions (Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity) and it’s infuriating just how many holidays there are, and they’re definitely not conducive to work. In a space of approximately 6 weeks there have been two Poya (full moon) days, Good Friday, Sinhala and Tamil New Year, a random public holiday day and now May Day. Continue reading


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Humans – the worlds worst pollutant

You may remember from way back in November of last year that I mentioned a third study site named Biyagama; it was a patch of wetlands hidden just beyond the perimeter fence of an adjacent industrial estate. After previously having a few of the project’s camera traps moved by local people, we hadn’t been back for fear of any equipment that we may have placed could have been stolen. In order to address this the plan was to conduct an awareness talk with the locals but, until that could be organised we just toddled along to see how the site was doing. Continue reading


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Return to fieldwork – It’s trap time!

I am so glad to be back in Sri Lanka and eager to get down to work. I know I’ve harped on about the weather previously, but March over here is hot, so unlike last September—Dec. To avoid the hottest part of the day we would be arriving at our study sites either very early in the morning or late in the afternoon. I didn’t mind in the least as I’d be back to doing what I loved. Continue reading


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Birthday bonanza Part 1: It’s time to smile crocodile

As a child I had always wanted to spend my birthday in the garden playing games and having a bouncy castle or going to the zoo. Unfortunately I was born at the end of November and lived in England! This year however, for the first time ever I would be having a warm birthday and the possibilities were endless.

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Run to the hills

My objective whilst in Sri Lanka was to learn vital field skills and to, hopefully, contribute to the conservation of fishing cats. I didn’t fly for over 12 hours, enduring a screaming spawn of Satan, just on a jolly. I hadn’t planned on any travelling around the island either, which was a shame, but my budget was tight and gallivanting off on your own is expensive, even out here. That’s not to mention the massively differential tariffs in force.If you’re a foreigner you get charged over 10 times as much as the locals, and my blinding un-tannable skin prevented me from even attempting to blend in. Continue reading


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It’s time to SCIENCE!

My Facebook feed is constantly filled with wildlife updates, usually small cat and vulture related (big surprise?). So some time ago, when I saw a post about a cat conference with a rusty spotted cat as the cover animal –I thought ‘Oooo small cat that’s exciting’. I didn’t look too closely, as it was bound to be in some far-flung country that I wouldn’t be able to afford to get to, so I didn’t think any more about it.

posgy

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To catch a greedy cat

One of the main things I’ve always found incredibly exciting about wildlife conservation is the collaring of animals. Firstly, it is the chance to see your study animal up close, which for many people is a rare thing, and secondly, it is a massive insight into where the sneaky gits go. I couldn’t believe my luck when Anya informed me she had another GPS collar and that we would be setting some trap cages in order to catch and collar a cat. Eeeeeeiiiiii! I had to rein in my excitement, I knew it wouldn’t be as easy as ‘here kitty, kitty!’

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Whatever you do, don’t say something stupid!

Wildlife conservation is a funny thing. People are all for protecting animals and saving the planet but rarely think past the cute fuzzy emblem. As the human population continues growing rapidly and parasitizing the world, more and more habitats are being destroyed leaving innumerable species under threat (I know! Quite a dark beginning for one of my posts, but it gets happier –I promise). Continue reading


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What lies beneath

We had another study site to visit called Biyagama and I was told it was quite a tuk-tuk drive away, which was fine by me as I love them, I’d bring one home if I could. I suppose they reflect my nature, excitable and not all together there. Our tuk-tuk driver/ field assistant, Maduranga, finds my obsession with them highly amusing, especially when I become really animated if we drive past a tuk sales lot. I can’t help it, they’re adorable and they come flat-packed! It’s like an Ikea car!

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Into the breach!

My first day of actual real field work had arrived and I was nervous as hell. I wasn’t worried about bugs, mud, snakes, or even the heat (well, not too much), it was more a nervousness that I would be of no use what so ever. I’d worked my arse off during 4 years of uni and left with a good degree and a Master’s. Unfortunately both were taught theory courses so, with the exception of a month’s field work in South Africa, I felt I had no practical field experience. I was excited about learning a whole new set of skills but desperately didn’t want to be dead weight. Continue reading