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Mammal survey

By Samara on March 11, 2015

Every couple of weeks the volunteer camp sets out to do a mammal survey. Three days are dedicated to this task; one day on the flat plains of Kondoa, one in the typical Karoo landscape in the south of the reserve and one by the lush and green riverline. All mammals are not counted as that would be a rather gargantuan task, however any mammal that is of value is duly recorded and also any mammal that could be considered prey to the Cheetah. Though our main focus remained those mammals in particular that didn’t stop us from seeing and watching many more.

So on a Monday morning we set out, five volunteers in total with Richard at the helm, to conduct our mammal survey on top of Kondoa. Though the sun shone brightly, and at the camp it was quite warm, we soon discovered that in the vehicle itself it was rather chilly, as we drove upward rather chilly soon became quite cold. Once we reached the top we immediately saw a small herd of Gemsbok (otherwise known as Oryx) and the counting commenced. Distinguishing between male and female proved a challenge, in some species both male and female have horns, and only those with the sharpest eyes amongst us could tell the difference. We came across an almost absurd amount of mammals that day. The plains were speckled with Black Wildebeest, with herds counting up to 46, including many juveniles. As the Wildebeest ran away we often noticed a solitary male in the distance watching them. Though they were harder to spot the Cape Mountain Zebra were also there in abundance, some shying away from the vehicle and others being slightly more curious. Perhaps the most exciting sight of the day, was when a herd of 60 plus Eland stormed across the road right in front of the vehicle. In this case the male was not hard to distinguish with his large dewlap and distinct greyish – blue colour.

The second day we set out to conquer the south of the reserve. Here the mammals were different, the antelopes fewer but the variety larger. Unlike Kondoa, the South of the reserve has a typical Karoo landscape, the bushes are low and sparse, and the view is breathtaking. Amongst the first mammals spotted were Giraffe, with their graceful necks and long eyelashes. The Giraffe gets its name from the Arabic “xirapha” which means “the one who walks swiftly”, which is entirely accurate. Apparently the most effective way to get close to Giraffe is to roll towards them, but the acacia thorns littering the ground in Samara makes that approach rather daunting. Amongst the other mammals seen that morning, a family of Warthog were a pleasant surprise. They trotted along at what seemed to be super speed, the mother trailed by her four juveniles.

The third and final day was perhaps the most difficult but also the most exciting. The river line in late February is starting to bloom, the bushes and trees are dense and there is green everywhere. Animals are harder to spot in the dense thicket. The Vervet Monkeys are slightly more habituated than the other animals and they approached the vehicle, sitting just an arms reach away, their juveniles clutching onto them. As we drove through more open areas we saw the Red Hartebeest, with their heart shaped horns they stared at us, looking at us like we were the absolute worst kind of intruder. Having finished the mammal survey we started to drive back to camp, suddenly Richard spotted a Cape Cobra. Its long yellow body slithered through the low grass and it spread its hood once seeing us. It glittered in the midday sun, and feeling rather brave we decided to track it once it had moved 50 or so meters away. We followed it as it went from tree to tree, but the excitement was soon over when it went down an Aardvark hole.

Overall, the mammal survey allowed us to see an unprecedented amount of animals. They ranged from the largest antelope in Africa (eland) to the small and elusive Meerkat. After those three days we were able to comprehend the diversity of animals that Samara has to offer.

Sabrina, 43 and Anastasia, 18

Samara Landscapes
Samara Landscapes

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