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

This diary entry is really a tale of two badgers. Honey badgers, that is. But before I get to the honey badgers, I have to tell you about the hyaena. And the elephants.

Yesterday started like normal and the box traps, elephants, tracks and scats and waterhole teams all left base at 07:30. (We normally start at 08:00 but as I’ve already reported this is an eager team…) About an hour and a half later I received simultaneous text messages and radio messages that we’d captured a brown hyaena in the Bergposten trap. Great news! Vera went on to organise the veterinarian because IZW wanted to put a radio collar on it.

Another hour went by and the radio and text messages came in again…we’d also caught a honey badger in the JM South trap. Great News x 2! The entire group came back to base and eagerly awaited the call that Sonja the IZW veterinarian was on her way. The plan was to immobilise and collar the hyaena first, then take samples from the honey badger.

While the team was having lunch Jesaja and I went to IZW to collect a shade net for the hyaena, and then drove up to Bergposten to try an make the animal comfortable during the heat of the day. As you can see in the picture she was not very happy to be in the trap.

The team met Sonja at Bilda and led her to the box trap while Vera and the IZW team set up the field hospital. We then attended the entire immobilisation and collaring process. Bernd, one of the IZW scientists, explained the physiology of the animal and how its longer and stronger forelegs are an evolutionary adaptation in order to carry heavy loads. We were also able to see first hand how the size of the fore and hind paws leaves the uneven-sized tracks in the sand. Sonja also showed us how in the matriarchal hyaena society that their genitals have actually become somewhat hybridised and are quite difficult to tell the males from the females.

We arrived at the honey badger location and much to our and even the experts’ surprise there were actually TWO honey badgers caught in the same trap. The box trap team had followed instructions precisely and not approached the closed cage, but with the badgers curled up together they didn’t realize that there were actually two animals. It was close to dark and the decision was made to postpone the honey badger immobilisation until this morning.

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We invited the scientists back to camp to have dinner with us, and just as we finished eating, the elephants came and made their third dinner appearance/performance. The entire camp fell dead silent as we sat mesmerised by the show. Six elephants had shown up, and waited rather impatiently for the other three to show up and drink their fill. They finally arrived twenty minutes later, but in the meantime we watched the shenanigans of the young elephants up close and in the spotlights. One young elephant is still nursing, but another, much larger one also wanted to have some milk, and that didn’t go over too well with the cow (how would you feel if an elephant with ¼ meter (one foot) tusks tried to suckle from you?). She bellowed at him and ultimately kicked him with a hind leg to make him stop harassing her.

The elephants wandered off and we wandered inside to have our evening briefing—after 21:00! It was a terrifically long day, but I think the team went to bed tired and happy, looking forward to today’s honey badger collaring times two! (Thanks, Team 4, for being so good humoured, flexible, and so much help, and thanks to the IZW staff for electing to work on the honey badgers in the daylight today so that we could participate!).

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

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