Update from our working holiday volunteering with leopards, elephants and cheetahs in Namibia, Africa (http://www.biosphere-expeditions.org/namibia).

It was Vera’s birthday on Thursday, and Okambara baked us a really nice chocolate cake. We’re not sure what it said, but it sure tasted good. (A note to previous team members: YES, it really was Vera’s birthday – we didn’t even have to invent a birthday just to get sweets!) The team was really sweet and made a lovely hand-made card and also pooled all their various travellers bits and presented Vera with a bag full of wonderful little gifts; soaps, shower caps, suckers and sweets, pens, coloured pencils, etc.

Friday was our vehicle game count, and all three teams had a good morning practicing their ID skills counting zebras, kudu, springbok, impala, red hartebeest, eland, giraffe, warthogs, duiker, steenbok, and waterbuck from the back of the trucks.

And while that was exciting enough on its own, after dinner Friday, well, that’s when things got really interesting at the bush camp. Most of us were outside when the family group of three rhinos (the female with the broken horn and her two youngsters) came sauntering in, nervously watching us watching them. Our group fell silent. The rhinos finally decided it was safe enough to drink with us humans there in the lapa, and drank their fill. They then proceeded to spend some time licking the salt blocks Okambara puts out for the animals.

About fifteen minutes later, the elephants appeared! Rhinos and elephants at the waterhole – now that’s something we’ve just not seen yet this year. The elephants came rushing in as usual, eager to get right to the business of drinking. We thought it curious that the matriarch did not chase off the rhinos, and we just sat silently watching the encounter. Most of the elephants moved off in a hurry – in under their usual +/- ten minutes – but the young bull elephant stayed.

Now this guy is about eight years old, and since there are no mature bull elephants in the herd, let’s just say he doesn’t have a positive role model for appropriate behaviour. The young bull decided he was going to antagonise the rhinos, and started first with a staring contest. When that didn’t get the rhinos riled up, he sucked up some water and actually sprayed the young rhino in the face with it! Again that didn’t gain a reaction from the rhinos, so then the bull went around the other side of the water hole and stared at them again, then he threatened with a mock charge, and even rolled up his trnuk, flapped his ears and prepared for battle! He also kept kicking the dirt with his front legs in apparent frustration at not being able to engage the horned trio.

None too impressed, the rhinos stood their ground, the young one not fully engaging and backing off, and that’s what gave the young bull the idea that he was winning. Back and forth the two sides danced, and finally the rhinos abandoned the stalemate and one by one went back to the salt lick on the other side of the water, ignoring the young bull. Flummoxed, the young stud finally meandered off in the same direction his herd had marched off, and disappeared into the darkness. We humans let out a collective sigh of relief.

Update from our working holiday volunteering with leopards, elephants and cheetahs in Namibia, Africa

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