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Volunteer Programme August 2011

Jone Haesslich
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The new volunteers this month got a taste of excitement from day one of their arrival at Kariega Game Reserve when they assisted in the release of three Bat-eared foxes. These small furry creatures were quick to dart out of their travelling boxes and head for the bushes, but one particularly friendly (or confused) bat-eared fox obliged us by stopping for photos right in front of the boma fence that we were perched on. It was a great opportunity to work so closely with some of the smaller and shier animals found on the reserve!

We also continued the constant and important fight against alien invaders in the reserve. Mainly in the form of chopping down black wattle and pine trees. We also started spraying the lantana at river lodge with herbicide. Lantana is a noxious weed, and its leaves can be deadly if consumed by animals, therefore it is of uttermost importance that we attempt to eradicate it for the area, and with the volunteer’s willingness to help we might just succeed. Working on the River Lodge property also gives us a chance to spot the black wildebeest, which do not occur on the other Kariega properties.

On one of our night drives we were particularly lucky with our sightings. We saw the newborn buffalo for the first time, it was about a week old at the time and was cautiously playing with another curious young bull. We hung around long enough to watch it suckling on it mother with enthusiasm. Then on the long drive back to the volunteer house we came across two hippopotamus grazing, a caracal that dashed across the road, and the lions still asleep and not yet active for the night. As if the night drive couldn’t have been any more action packed, minutes before arriving at our house the elephants surprised us by wandering out of the bush and surrounding the car. There was nothing to do but sit back and enjoy the moment as they moved unhurriedly across the road, stopping occasionally to grab mouthfuls of bush to eat along the way. There’s never any rush in Africa!

The Kariega volunteers also got to try their hand at telemetry this month. Telemetry is a radio technology that allows us to track certain animals that are collared for this purpose. It is often necessary to track the animal’s location before performing work on the reserve, for safety measures, as well as for viewing pleasure.

As always, the children at Farmerfields school kept us busy when we volunteered our time there to teach them. The children are so happy to see the volunteers each week and ask eagerly about the different countries they originate from. We not only teach and interact with them in the classroom but also play fun games and sport with them on sunny days. After a day at the school we usually stop by at African Cheetah Safaris on our way back to Kariega. This is always a highlight of the volunteer’s week as they get to touch the cheetahs and get close-up photos with them, while learning and asking questions about these special animals.

With the weather finally warming up the volunteers enjoyed spending some time on the beach during their weekend free time, and went for a long horse ride in the sun! They came back with big smiles on their faces and feeling carefree and hungry, just in time for a big lunch at Bushman’s Bar and Grill, overlooking the bushman’s river. On other weekends the volunteers decided to experience the arts, culture and nightlife that nearby Grahamstown had to offer, and thoroughly enjoyed mingling with the local South Africans in the area.

I am excited for the arrival of spring and all the additional outdoor activities that the warmer weather allows. For example, canoeing, camping and hitting the beautiful Eastern Cape beaches!! And hopefully I will be sharing these adventures with YOU!! See you soon….

Justine Ingram
Kariega Game Reserve: Volunteer Coordinator