Sandra T

Sweden | February 2016

Saving animals

Submitted by Sandra T | 23rd February 2016

I had an absolutely wonderful time on the project and I got to feel that I actually helped out, and I have gained a lot of good experience. Everything from knowledge about animal behavior, anti-poaching, tracking and conservation, to walk in the bush, up hills to see stunning views, beautiful sunrises and sundowners and get new friends for life.

It is so inspiring to meet someone who puts such a big part of his or her life in to saving the wilderness and the wildlife and someone who is as passionate as Nigel. It was a very positive experience to see so much wildlife activity in the area - tracks, sounds, seeing animals and so on - but we also saw a lot of poaching activity as well. We did a lot of walking in the bush looking for snares and we found about 20 snares during the time I was there. As much as I felt angry about the snares being there, I felt that I saved an animal's life, and that is a great feeling.

I have two great experiences to share.

1. My first time tracking wild elephants

Two times during my stay we tracked down elephants on foot and that was such a thrilling, exciting experience and a wonderful thing to be a part of.

The first time, we had seen fresh elephant tracks on one of the main roads. We went to get the WEPU (Wildlife and Environment Protection Unit) scouts to go and track them with us. We started to follow the tracks from the main road into the bush. After some walking we saw elephant dung and we had to touch it to see if it still was warm, and it was. We went fast through the bush as quiet as we could and  at some point we heard branches breaking and we all stood still. After that came silence. We could not see them. We continued walking and following the tracks and dung. We came by a "pool" of urine and we could still see the white bubbles and the urine was still warm. Now we knew they were close. 

And then we saw them. Five beautiful elephants eating in the bush. One of them was a small calf. The elephants saw us from a distance. We just sat there for a few minutes and looked at them. Then we slowly backed away and went back to the car.

I have spent a lot of time in Africa and traveled a lot, but this is one of the most wonderful things I have ever experienced!

2. The moment we knew that we had to stay in the bush

After a day in the bush Nigel, myself and one of the scouts, Nixon, were heading back to the lodge for the night. On our way back we felt a horrible smell of a dead animal. We jumped out of the jeep trying to follow the smell. It was a bit hard because of the wind but after a while we found what was the cause of the smell - two dead impalas in snares. It was a horrible sight and the smell was even worse. We also found two empty snares that we took down. We knew that we had to spend more time in the bush so, the next morning, we took our tents and equipment and went out to put up Kariba Conservation Programme's very first Base Camp. We found a big lovely baobab tree that could give us some shade and this is were we put up the camp. For the following three nights we slept in tents and had our breakfast, lunch and dinner at our Base Camp. This allowed us to be more present in the bush and do early morning patrols and evening patrols more frequently.

I think that the presence of scouts and volunteers out in the field will, without any doubt, decrease the poaching activity in this area.

The way the project is structured is also good. You are based at both the lodge at Gache Gache and also in the bush. You get closer to the wilderness while living in the bush but it is also nice to have a hot shower and a beer once in a while! I would love to come back, but I don't know when at the moment!

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