Friday, 2 September 2011

Into Nature They Moved

The gates that lead to Ripples were opened yesterday afternoon. Excited Cathay even ignored the whole blesbok carcass and went deep into the trees and grasses, sniffing and spraying, enjoying the sweet air of nature. The next morning I first saw Cathay mock-charging her boys –Hulooo brothers who were in the camp next door, warning them not to come close to her little treasures of baby boys. All her grown-up sons were excited by the presence of their mother and huddled by the fence to have a peep into the trees, grasses and bushes for any sight of their little brothers. But the little brothers’ cries could only be heard coming from somewhere in the camp.. I only managed to see one later in the morning -they settled well in their new home. I couldn’t help but smiling at myself when I recalled the comic scenes of the day before trying to weigh the cubs before Cathay came back to move them. The cub crouched firmly on all fours and I could not lift him by his neck so I had to hold his two chubby arms. But once we got his weight-a whooping six kilo for a little fur ball like that, he refused to get off the scale, holding onto it like a turtle! At least I didn’t get any clawing from him as from Huwaa the other day while trying to remove the ticks from her fur.

Meanwhile, it is also time for Huwaa to learn a trick or two about hunting. She is nearly seven months old and it is important for her to start going on hunting trips with mom, as in the wild. But mom is busy rearing Huwaa’s little brothers who are way too small for any hunting training. Fortunately, everyone at Laohu seemed to love Huwaa- her big cousin King Henry, and her step dad TigerWoods, whom I introduced her to two days ago. Considering that TigerWoods has not had any opportunity to hunt for a few years, I wanted him to get some exercise, so plans were made for TigerWoods to be Huwaa’s hunting teacher in the beginning.

Thankfully, repairs of the fences of the 40 ha Tigers’ Roars hunting camp was finished today (and fingers crossed that no more snow storm will come this way for some time to come). We needed to procure some prey for TW and Huwaa immediately so they can start their program soon enough, in time for JenB and Coco to return to 100 ha Hunter's Palace camp to resume their GPS monitored hunting activities, which were unfortunately interrupted by the snow storm and the damaged fences. Unless the prey in Tigers’ Roars is completed removed, there will be no way we can move JenB brothers across to the Hunter's Palace on the other side of Tigers’ Roars camp. Also we cant have any activities/disturbances in the Tigers’ Roars camp in order to have good scientific data for JenB brothers’ GPS monitoring data.

Our ever resourceful Reserve Manager Hein managed to find a very quick solution. A small game capture team of two men showed up this afternoon. Game capture is a very specialized aspect of wildlife conservation in which South Africa not only invented but excelled. They can catch game as big as the elephant and as fast as the sprinbok. In fact without these skills, SA would not be able to boast their leading status in wildlife management. As we only need a small number of blesbok for the hunting camp for now, a different technique from the one normally used was applied today. As the chopper flies over the game, a net would drop on one or two animals which are caught alive. The operation went smoothly in quick rythm and I couldn’t help but admiring the lifestyle of the capture team.. It felt more like a sport than making a living. I couldn’t help but think if I were reincarnated as a man in South Africa, this could be one of the careers I’d be found in. But nothing will ever run completely smoothly in my life. On our way out of the velt when the capture was finished, we got stuck in the mud. It is hard to imagine how ridiculous this is unless one is from as dry a region as the Karoo. Some of the land at Laohu Valley is still soaked in water from the flood we suffered in January and continuous rains till March. This looked like a mini Okavango Delta in the making!

We had to be rescued by our tractor in the end but the blesbok arrived in the hunting camp safe and relieved. It will be a very interesting week coming, as I look forward to watching Cathay with her little babies in the natural environment, and Huwaa trailing uncle TigerWoods in his hunt...

Aug 26th 2011
TigerLi in Laohu Valley

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