Category Archives: Botswana Elephants

Chicago Zoological Society Visit

A few days after we had said goodbye to Andrew Smith of Memphis Zoo, Dr Ricardo Stanoss, Director of Education and international Training of the Chicago Zoological Society was due to arrive. I set off from camp at 0600 and went via the Phuduhudu Gate, having breakfast at the gate and catching up with the ladies Dudu and Black Korhaan who man (or woman) the gate.

I had given myself all morning to send emails and the grease the CV joints of Ellie. Mphoeng and I had greased them in our mechanics workshop when we dropped off Andrew Smith, and he had advised to top them up when we got to camp as the grease would have warmed and created some space. We tried doing his but the grease gun had broken, so when I got to town I exchanged it at MotoVac and headed to the mechanics with an hour to go before Ricardo was due to arrive.  This should have been plenty of time but………. when I was finishing off the last wheel the nipple of the grease gun  had fallen off into the CV joint. Thankfully I noticed before driving off.

So I then had to try and fish it out with a magnet. Thankfully Charlie Ellis (friend and ex-EfA researcher) was able to meet Ricardo and they arrived whilst I was under the car coated in oil. It was not the initial image I wanted for our funders ‘hi here is the organised and professional researcher you are funding’, but hey they got an idea of the skills you need to be a field biologist.

Trying to sort out the CV joint

Thankfully Ricardo, as well as a colleague is a good friend so was very cool about the situation.  I was failing to get the nipple out, thankfully a professional mechanic saw my distress and took over and two hours after planned we headed off.  I was hoping that this would be the only saga for his trip………

Still trying

The promised rain finally arrives

We went out last night to celebrate the camp managers at Seba’s birthday and so we headed for the bridge and had a lovely bush dinner. As we sat around watching the hippo prepare for their nightly feeds and the birds flying to roost across the water we were also treated to lightning and thunder rolling in the distance. A dark cloud loomed on the horizon but was blown around us. We enjoyed a feast of jacket potatoes and butternut cooked on the open fire the wind picked up and changed direction, the thunder was louder the lightning nearer. We quickly packed up and headed home – poor Chris (Heathers husband) was on the back of the pickup whilst Sim, Heather and I were squashed in the front, Sim drove as fast as he could over the bumpy roads to get his home safely. Chris seems to be enjoying the rain shower on the back as we could hear the occasional whoops of joy, the exhilaration that only a big African storm can bring at a human’s soul – one that rejoices in the power of nature and the life giving waters the storm brings. As we pulled up in camp the heavens opened – we retreated into the kitchen and enjoyed a cup of tea before making the dash to our tents. A hot shower later and we were tucked up in bed, enjoying the spectacular show nature was putting on.

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Storm clouds over the camp lagoon

It rained all night, a sleepless night for me, as a canvas tent is not the quietest thing in the rain. I woke up to the 0530 alarm, it was still dark the heavy clouds had not lifted but the rain had decreased to a drizzle. I walked up to the office in a dash from lack of sleep and in need of a coffee and was met by Mphoeng who was a little distressed. The office had flooded and the trunk where we stored our data books, computer discs and other important things had filled with about 5cm of water. So we have been spending the morning sorting all of that out. Not the best way to start the day.

 

As for how much water we had, we do not know, because it over flowed the rain gauge. So all we know is that it is more than 100mm. This is about our average monthly rainfall for the month of January in one night…….that is a lot of rain.

 

 

 

B131 coming out of musth

Yesterday, I was in camp trying to ID the elephants I have seen this month when Joseph, the guide in camp and a volunteer researcher, came back to announce that there was a herd of elephants at the Bridge. I abandoned the ID work and went off to see who were there. Unfortunately most of the were in thick forest but when I went around the island I found a large male and to 5-9yr olds hanging out under a large tree. It was midday so this was not unusual for them to be chilling under a tree. But this male was in musth, or at least coming out of musth …..  I think. He was not secreting much from his temporal glands, but when his 5th leg appeared it was obvious that he had been in musth as the top half was green.

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The reason I think he was coming out of musth is that he was not dribbling urine from his penis, he was not secreting a lot, he was not with the ladies and his temporal glands were not swollen. He was slightly aggregated as he kept pushing over a tree, or at least trying to. The young bulls were stood dusting behind him, and they did not seem to bother him, nor did I. So I was able to get a 1/2 hour focal on him and some good ID photos and can tell that he is B131.

botswananov09-130.JPG So now it is back to the ID’s of the other elephants.

Chungwe in Musth – 25th November 2009

0530 and the alarm ring joined the sounds of the dawn chorus and roused me out of deep sleep. My motivation to get up and go out was at a bit of a low as for the past 3 days I had not seen any elephants, but I managed to get out of bed, load the car, make a cup of tea and be on the at 0600. Today I drive route 3, which takes me south a camp. I say good morning to the herd of Impala and Zebra that are often outside of camp – congratulating the females on the safe arrive of their babies and wishing them well. A couple of the Zebra’s are about to pop and a few more of the impala’s too. They are just the cutest things, and after the harshness of the flood (I know it sounds ironic, but with all the water around the vegetation takes a hammering as everything is forced into smaller and smaller areas) and dry seasons, it is wonderful to see new life again. As I pass the truck road Baobab, and note that the elephants have been really nailing this one as well as the others in the area, I come across a small herd of elephant, I notice a young male at first – feeding out on the open floodplain, a females backside pocks out from the forest behind him, I slowly move forward and wait for them to come botssep09-049.jpg

through the forest, which they do. The 2 elephants I had seen morph into a herd of 9 – 2 large females and their young. I climb on top of the roof for a better look and to get some ID photos. They are relaxed and unperturbed by me taking photos and frantically taking notes, and drawing ID’s. One adult female comes right passed the car, with her new born tight by her side, her 2 older calf follow behind, a little more wary of me. I spend an hour with them, hoping the young male with defecate, so I can add his sample to our hormone and behavioural research database, but no luck. Eventually the two large females go their separate ways with their young and I lose them. I follow one out across the floodplain to the east and they join up with 5 males and an old female which I had not noticed in the distance. The males are busy feeding on the palm, Phoenix reclinata, and the female is stood by the largest male. I cannot tell who the male is as his head is in the island, his body on the floodplain.

I wonder why this female is alone, where is the rest of the herd? Is she is oestrous and he in musth?  

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I get on with identifying the other males, and soon the large male emerges from the island and tells me all I need to know – he is in full blown musth. He is secreting from his temporal glands, his penis sheath is green and he is dribbling urine (the female had been standing in front of him so I could not see what was going on down there). I am still perplexed by the female choosing to be with the males, rather than the males join the herd; which is the norm?

I soon get a possible answer, when the female moves, she is crippled – her front right leg badly swollen and wonky. I know this female, I have seen her before, and amazingly she is still going strong. Perhaps, she has slowed up a little and unable to keep up with the other females!!! I do not know, but she seemed happy to be with the males, with them all interested in her, I guess it must feel nice to be the centre of attention for a while!!!!!! After an hour and a half I can no longer follow them as they have crossed a river channel. Three of the males have defecated and I collected them or the hormone and parasite study.

I finish the route and get on with processing the samples – I will have to wait for the much anticipated result, but hopefully to provide more important data to answer the questions on male elephants and what they need for their future conservation.

I am back in the bush with the elephants…..hurrah

Dear Friends,

It has been a while since I contributed to this blog and for that I must apologise – it is not that I have not wanted to do it – it is more that I felt there was nothing of interest to tell you as I have been in the UK for most of the year and thought you would want to read more about the adventures in the bush.

Things have changed a lot recently.

In November of last year I was seriously thinking about giving up on the research. Things had become very difficult as I was had to work in the UK to earn pounds to enable me to continue doing what I love. Finding work in the UK was very hard and the demands of the charity (Elephants For Africa), which I set up with Randall Moore in 2008, and the research, including supervision of two students meant that I needed to put time aside for this. In the end the maths did not add up and I was left wondering if I could continue. I have not been paid for the work that I do, and whilst that is not an issue in the past, when I hit 30 the realisation that this was not sustainable began to play on my mind. The questions of what happens when I am older, or if I want children, and should I be unable to work through ill health or sickness what would happen to be then? Then a donation to the charity was made to cover my wage, which meant I was able to  stay out in Botswana and do the work which I love.

In January my partner of 10 years asked me to marry him and in February he decided to leave his successful engineering career behind so he could join me in Africa. He will be taking up the voluntary position of Operations Manager, responsible for the day-to-day management and using his business skills to take the charity forward. This also means that I can concentrate my efforts on the research. So, at the end of July he left his job, and we left the UK for a much needed holiday in South Africa before coming up to camp.

We arrived in camp yesterday and had such a warm welcome from our friends and are eager to start planning for the years ahead. There will be lots of stories as we follow the elephants and look forward to sharing them with you.

Best wishes

Kate

 

 

Update from Kate Evans

Dear Friends,

It has been a while since I contributed to this blog and for that I must apologise – it is not that I have not wanted to it. 2009 has been a busy year for me and one of BIG decisions, mainly as to whether I was able to continue with the reseach.

Thankfully the answer to that is a big loud YES.  It has been a year of ups and downs and heart breaking decisions.

I am currently in Cape Town waiting for the arrival of our Land Cruiser – a 17 year old beauty! We shall then drive up through Namibia to Botswana.

On the way we shall be trying to keep fit…… as Sim (my fiancee and I) got places in the NYC marathon to run as a fundraisier – please check out our funding page. http://www.justgiving.com/KateandSimsMarathonChallenge. This carries on from our successful summit of Kilimanjaro in December last year.

Cheers for now

Kate

Paseka – by Graham Bowles

Its 12:30 in the afternoon when the radio call comes in.  There is a baby elephant just outside of Seba camp towards the airstrip.  It is being attacked by two hyenas.  Given normal circumstances a baby elephant is so well protected by the adults of the herd, any predator would never get anywhere near it.  However, for this little one there is no protective herd or even elephant in sight, only the safari car. 

 Paseka meets her new keeper

For a two month old, she puts up a valiant fight against its two aggressors, sending them flying with its ears out and trumpeting loudly but as soon as she tries to put some ground between herself and the hyena, they soon catch up nipping and biting the rear end and legs of the elephant, pulling her down.  Upon seeing the car and possibly even attracted by the low rumble of the engine, the elephant seeks refuge in its shade leaving the hyena to circle at a distance. 

 

This now leaves a bit of a dilemma as out here nature must take its course.  The car moves away and the baby elephant starts to follow.  The hyena are following she tries chase them away.  In the confusion and the thick bush she looses the car close to the outskirts of Seba camp.  The next thing we hear in camp is a radio call: an elephant has found its way into the generator room of Seba Camp. 

 

Now we must intervene.  The cuts to her legs and rear are deep, the baby is obviously traumatized.  She is shaking but can walk which leads us to believe that she can’t have been separated from her own herd for more than a couple of days and is not too weak.  By keeping the gathering crowd calm and quiet the baby begins to relax and explore her surroundings.  We bring in water to begin cooling her but being too young to know how to use her trunk, she is unable to drink.  When a mahout arrives in another safari car she runs over to it, seemingly to have associated the car with safety and security she begins to follow it. 

 

Using the car as the surrogate mother we lead her to the far side of camp where the flood waters have created a shallow pan.  As soon as she is there she is face first into the water and drinking deep, gurgling mouthfuls.  Ten minutes later, once she has had her fill, she is looking a lot calmer but still unsure about this new ‘herd’ that she has joined.  More mahouts arrive to assess her age and wounds, administering antiseptic spray where they can.  A report is given to Maun office and the Vet, Rob Jackson is called in. 

 Drinking water from the lagoon

The baby is young, somewhere between 6-12 weeks old.  If she doesn’t get some milk soon, together with the trauma she has suffered, she is unlikely to survive.  The Abu herd is close by and have two lactating mothers in their midst.  We decide to try and introduce her to the herd in the hope that one of them may be able to feed her. 

 

Using the safari car ‘matriarch’, we lead her down to the Abu herd.  It’s a tense time now as the baby’s survival rests on her acceptance into the Abu herd.  The first mother, Kitumetse, is brought out.  Kiti herself could relate to this as she was found in very similar circumstances, alone, injured from a crocodile attack she had been separated from her herd and had been found down in the south of the concession by a neighboring camp.  With permission from the DWNP (Department of Wildlife and National Parks) we adopted her and she has been doing very well.  So well, in fact she has given birth to her first calf, Lorato, last year. 

 

However, this introduction did not go too well, the prospect of taking on another calf so soon after her first seemed to prove too much for her and she backed away from it trumpeting loudly.  The baby elephant is now frantic to join this herd, the herd at least being recognizable compared to its safari car/human herd from an hour previously.  We corral the baby to protect it from running into the middle of the Abu herd.  An unwelcome introduction could turn tragic. 

 

The second lactating female, Sherini, is brought out.  Sherini is a more experienced mother with her latest addition to the herd, Abu, being nearly 3 years old.  On seeing the baby there is huge excitement, ears out, trumpeting and rumbling loudly with temporal secretions flowing profusely.  She seems to be more tolerant of the baby that is now harassing her for milk but she still seems somewhat reluctant. 

 Drinking milk from Sherini

After a few minutes of coaxing them together one of the mahouts suggests to bring Cathy, the matriarch of the herd across.  Cathy who had been looking on excitedly is brought over.  There is another tense moment as the exchange of trumpets and rumbles between Sherini and Cathy becomes intense, the baby between them constantly begging for milk.  Then, as if she had got the go ahead from the herd leader to accept her, Sherini lets her feed.  She feeds for a full 20 minutes before we lead them back in to the shade of the trees for the remainder of this hot Easter Sunday afternoon.  And for her name, Paseka (pronounced pah-SEH-ka) means Easter in Setswana. 

 

 

It’s the following morning.  Rob, the Vet, and Randall Moore arrived the previous evening when the herd had returned to the boma.  Paseka had followed Sherini all the way home through the deep river channel under the careful watch of the mahouts and guides.  On inspecting the wounds, Rob cleaned them and with a shot of antibiotics and painkillers, allowed them to heal naturally. 

 

Mother and adopted baby had spent the night in the nursing pen to keep Paseka from running into any more trouble, but now she was looking a lot happier.  The swelling around her rear had gone down and the wounds were looking a lot better.  Sherini was doing an excellent job as mother even though Abu was still a little unsure about being ousted from his centre-of-attention spot by this unexpected arrival!!!!

 

Runner takes on the LONDON MARATHON to raise money for the elephants

An old School Friend, Felix Jaffe, is running the London Marathon on the 26th April and has decided to support the charity and is looking for sponsorship to help him around the gruelling course. Visit http://www.justgiving.com/felixjaffe to donate, support Felix and the elephants.

How much is Okavango Delta worth? By Mphoeng

The arrival of floods in our camp and seeing how much distance the water covers of the dry desert has left me wondering how much the Delta is worth.

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It has brought life to a desert, some would say a miracle in itself and can we put a price on that?.

The arrival of so much fresh, water giving water into the Okavango Delta led me to question how much the Okavango Delta is worth. Economists may well have an answer to that, if they took on board the revenue it brings in from tourism, the  jobs that it creates, and calculates how many people it supports and what it would cost the government to support if it was not there.  But is worth really just down to money?

Let’s look at the role of the Okavango Delta.

Calmine bee eater

Its support a lot of species including the elephants, purification of the water biologically as the water seeps through the deep Kalahari sands and the reeds that clean the water at no cost. Here, no man-made machinery is needed to purify the water it is a natural endowment. So the question that I pose to our lovely blog readers is in monetary terms how much is the Okavango Delta?

The role that the Okavango Delta plays is priceless when I look at the abundant species it supports. Botswana as a country benefiting immensely from the Okavango Delta, it has supported people adjacent to it for many years. Elephants have benefited from the vast land of delta and it supports a high biodiversity. Medicinal plants that Delta provides help local communities, palatable fruits of delta, oh the list is endless. How much is this Delta worth?

Aerial photos of pElephants in the delta

For me it is priceless, and that is why I have dedicated my life it to. But is it safe? No. Conservation is not a business, it does not give a return in monetary terms but it does give – it gives the knowledge that wilderness, such as the Okavango Delta, which are the lungs of the world are safe….. how much is that worth to you?

Elephants in the Delta

Our Quest to see elephants lead us into a muddy channel

On the 5th of March we headed out to the Northern side up on the quest to sight some elephants. We were wondering where the elephants were at so we decided to look for them out in the bush where there are no roads. Guess what we got stuck right in the middle of the bush. However our mission was accomplished as we managed to see three male elephants. This was an adventure as is now rare to spot elephants.  Female breeding herds are not around as so we are mainly spotting males at the moment.  We are waiting for the arrival of floods which will bring more life to the Delta.