My first solo research drive

By Kerri Milligan, Bushwise student 4 years ago
Categories Limpopo and KZN

Tuesday morning marked my first drive without a staff member on board to help me out. I set out with the grand plan of finding the Lionesses and cubs with Subzero on their kill, the Cheetah coalition on their kill and maybe even Tsavo still in a tree with his kill. The drive was not a disaster but let’s just say that my grand plan did not come to fruition!

Our first task was to find the Lion pride. Unfortunately they did not make it easy for us and were no longer at the same location as the night before. Tracks for Subzero, the pride male Lion were called in heading north along Boulevard – one of the main roads on the reserve. I decided to follow up on these. This turned out to be a wrong move, as about a third of my way up this very long road, other game drives called in tracks for the Lionesses back down south, not too far away from my previous location. This call was then followed by an announcement that Subzero and the Cheetah boys had also now been found. The Rangers were practically doing my job for me!

Kicking myself, I decided to head back down south and try to intercept the females on their way to one of their favourite spots. As it turned out, they were not actually on their way there. Instead they had parked themselves right in the middle of a big block, making them inaccessible from any of the roads.

Accepting that we were not destined to get a view of them that morning, I decided to head down to the most Southern farm on the reserve to locate Tsavo (the focus male Leopard). Surprise surprise, he was no longer at the kill site. In fact, we soon found tracks from the previous night along the fence line indicating that he had walked north to patrol his territory once again. With the sun already high in the sky by this point we decided that it was time to head back to camp and get some food and coffee in us.

In hind sight my grand plan had been slightly too ambitious, but the drive has certainly taught me a few good lessons in how to predict and respond to the movements of our tracked animals. These are wild animals that we track and so we can never expect them to hang around in the same place for too long – that would just make our jobs too easy!