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
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
Technology has come on in leaps and bounds in the last decade and despite the obvious disadvantage of people becoming glued to their screens, while their eyes merge together, their thumbs becoming freakishly small and nimble and their ears no longer able to receive sound further than a few feet away, there have been advantages. For conservationists, one of the most useful things to have improved over the last few years has been the camera trap; these wonderful little boxes allow us to take a look, unobtrusively, into an animal’s world. Continue reading
The hooded vulture project currently has 10 nests with camera traps in, which we visit once a month to check on and to change batteries and memory cards. One of our nearest nest sites is located at the bottom of the reserve where both Lindy and I live, which meant that when it was time for our monthly visit we had a lovely late morning start at 8am. One particular day began as any other fieldwork day Continue reading
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
I was staying in a private reserve known as Wild Rivers which covered 2600 hectares, so it wasn’t massive but we were able to drive around it at any time of the day or night. ‘What animals would you like to see while you’re here?’ I was asked. I hadn’t really wanted to say as I’m not massively interested in the usual animals (giraffe, elephants, kudu etc) and those which I am tend to be nocturnal, elusive and scarce. Continue reading
After 2 months of opening and closing the traps, catching water monitors and waging war against bait stealing rats we finally caught a fishing cat! Continue reading
As I sat in my little flat with all the electricity turned off and the steady dripping of water leaking through the ceiling, I knew it was going to be great at the study site later. It was nearing the end of April and the first of the rains had arrived. The rain is always joined by thunder and a fantastic amount of lightning. Houses are regularly hit by lightning out here and electrical appliances are fried – not surprising given the ‘interesting’ wiring I’ve seen – hence the reason everything was switched off. In fact, Continue reading
Jeez this place was stunning and SO fancy, I felt like I clearly didn’t belong here. You could see straight through the vast hotel lobby to a decking area with a pool which was over-looking a deserted beach framed by palm trees. The sea was crystal clear and the sun was blazing in the bright blue sky, it was like a picture from one of those pretentious and expensive get-away magazines. I was in Galle, an hour or so south from Colombo and I was in search of exotic sea creatures.
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
New accommodation always means new neighbours, they can be loud or keep to themselves, some you invite round and others invite themselves. Sometimes you get that neighbour that just never seems to leave and becomes more like a housemate. I currently have a few of those and there is a distinct language barrier that means the issue cannot be resolved, well I say language, it’s more of a species barrier really. Continue reading
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
During the last few years the Urban Fishing Cat Conservation Project has focused on the science of conservation i.e. finding the cats to begin with, and attempting to catch and collar the tricksey devils to understand their movements and behaviour in an urban environment. Although this is still ongoing, 2016 is the year for Awareness and Education and every opportunity is taken to publicise the work of the project – even if it takes us to some odd venues. One such opportunity popped up the other day. Continue reading
The last day of my epic birthday week had arrived and once again it began with an amazing breakfast, which was then followed by a tour around the plantation. The estate was vast, there were poly tunnels upon poly tunnels. It was interesting to see the growing process from seed to shipment and learn all the intricacies involved. I’ll confess I did keep getting distracted by random bugs; what can I say? I’m clearly part magpie, movement and shiny things distract me.
The final part of my epic birthday celebrations were in the hands of Anya’s fabulous Mum, Mihiri. Although a group of us had been out for a joint birthday meal before she left, Anya still felt guilty about being in Nepal during my birthday, so she’d badgered her Mum into organising something. I was nervous. I had no idea what was happening or where we were going – I don’t do well with surprises. All I knew was that I was being picked up at 4:30am.
After returning to Colombo from my two fantastic reptile-filled days, I had a short day’s project work to complete. It only consisted of checking the few camera traps Anya and I had placed before she left for Nepal. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot to report: some dead batteries, 4 photos of a Southern coucal at the wetlands and the usual civets, mongoose and monitor lizard at the other site. Although I did see my first-ever Sri Lankan snake – a species of water snake. With that done, my excitement increased hour upon hour as, the next day, I would be visiting Yala National Park in the hopes of seeing a jungle cat and a sloth bear.
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.
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
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.
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!’