Saturday, June 12, 2010

Translocating antelopes

Had such a good time last week! Was on horse back all day from 7 in the morning till around 3 in the afternoon to dart sable and roan antelopes: wow these animals are so beautiful! Roan and sable antelopes are a different species, but closely related: a kind of cousins. Roan antelopes are a bit bigger and light in color, while the sable antelopes are almost black. Males and females of both species have these world famous, magnificent horns: the name 'sable antelope' says enough.
We had to translocate all 2 year old males from the family herds into a 'Bachelors camp' (a total of 24) just before they reached sexually maturity. The dominant bulls of each herd would for sure start fighting with the grown up bulls to make sure that his genes will continue to spread. In the wild, young bulls naturally leave the herd and join up with other bulls or live solitary, until they are old enough the challenge a dominant bull. Often older bulls guide the younger ones into their new lifes without mum; the same happens for many species, including elephants. It seems that they somehow remember their own difficult times just thrown out of the safe herd and how grateful they were with their 'big uncle'.
Darting these antelopes can be tricky, especially when they are running like mad. Somehow wild animals do not distinguish 'a human being and a horse'. When we approach them on horseback, we are just a weired lump on the back of the horse. It works amazingly well! When the herd is too wild to even approach with a horse, I hide myself in a tree and wait.... This is the weirdest thing ever: I am sitting in a tree, the antelopes look up, clearly SEE me, stare at me for around a minute to figure out what I am...and then continue to graze as if nothing happened! They are not able to distuinghish 'a human being and a tree'. I am just a weired type of fruit or so? Depending on the temperament of the herd, the darting is easy or difficult. Twenty-four in a week is not a bad number. All young bulls are safe now, which is the most important, because dominant bulls sometimes even kill competitors. In the bachelor herds, all bulls live happily in peace together, as long as there are no 'hot chicks' around (hmm, quite recognisable, not?). So it's important to keep all mature females at a safe distance!
Working together with this team of 4 game guards and Vusie my assistant always is a pleasure. We're having good laughs whenever possible, but during the work everybody is serious. It´s inspiring how these people, with very challenging, though lifes, are able to keep such a positive cheerful spirit. I have been trying to practise some Zulu, but wow, these 'clicks' were impossible to pronounce: a good reason for a lot of laughs! Just love Africa.

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