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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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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…and the rains came down

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


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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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From feathers to fur

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


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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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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.

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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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Where the wild things are

After finishing our urban habitat surveys we moved on to our second site, located outside central Colombo at some unpronounceable (Thalawathugoda) reclaimed wetland. Earlier in the year Anya had captured and collared a fishing cat that, due to his unfortunate habit of stealing chickens, had to be relocated and this was the area that was chosen:

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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