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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Face to face with fear

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


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Death in the bush

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


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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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A fat bottomed, flappy eared, long nosed alien!

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


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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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“Gimmie some fin!”

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.

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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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Uninvited guests

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


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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 4 – the Finale – Let’s all go and live in the trees

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.

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Birthday bonanza Part 2 – We’re going on a bear hunt

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.

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