Every year a group of students from the University of Canberra join Wildlife ACT in South Africa for for a volunteering experience. This year’s volunteers have been stationed at Tembe Elephant Park and they have had the best timing. Their stay has included getting to see the new wild dog pups for the first time, relocating wild dogs, lion call ups and the general highs and lows of everyday wildlife monitoring.
The wild dog relocation was a very exciting time and the wildlife volunteers were there to observe and help. Wildlife ACT Fund’s Chris Kelly worked together with David Marneweck of the Endangered Wildlife Trust and Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife to dart and move seven female wild dogs. The wild dogs were driven for seven hours from their holding boma in Tembe Elephant Park to UmPhafa Private Nature Reserve. Birgit Eggers was the veterinary surgeon on hand to oversee the darting and transport of the wild dogs. It was successful operation and the volunteers gained some valuable experience.
Their next experience in hands-on conservation came when Canberra volunteers and Wildlife ACT were asked to help Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife during a recent lion call ups. The aim was to gather information on recent changes to the population, assess the condition of one of the males who had an eye injury and habituate the pride to the new call up equipment expertly crafted by Leonard Muller.
The male lion TEPM86 has recently joined up with Duma and the lioness Nkanyezi was with them on this particular evening. We placed a camera trap at the scene to capture data for ID kits and other useful information. TEPM86 was mostly concerned with disciplining Duma. All three were roaring and seemed very playful. We and the Canberra volunteers found the lions again the next day and were able to get some good close up experience.
The everyday monitoring experiences were also a highlight for our University of Canberra volunteers. These volunteers got the very first look at the new wild dog pups. We came across the pack moving swiftly down the road with their 8 first-time-ever-seen-by-human- eyes litter of 2014. The pack now stands at a healthy 16 wild dogs and hopefully Poofy and Fenne (the alpha pair) can guide them well into adulthood. Over the next few weeks, as we get to know the pups we’ll begin naming the litter.
On another early morning lion monitoring session, we tracked the lioness Kampa and her daughter Nkanyezi to assess the condition of a bite wound on Kampa’s head. At fifteen years old Kampa is the oldest lioness in Tembe Elephant Park and we were worried that her age might affect the healing process. However, when we found the lionesses, they walked right up and around the vehicle and we could see that the wound was healing well despite Kampa’s old age.
Tembe has certainly treated these Canberra volunteers very well. With wild dog pups, old lionesses, a wild dog relocation and lion call ups they have had an action packed experience. As it goes in in the African bush, timing really is everything.Wild dog pups photographed by Elizabeth Ring and Stephanie Henneburger Lion photographs by Clinton Wright Wildlife Volunteers from the University of Canberra: Margi Bohm, Ted Bohm, Paul Downey, Anthony Davis, McLean Cobden, Elizabeth Ring, Nicole Clarke and Stephanie Henneberger