Student Blog: 12 May 2014

Finally, after many hours of travelling we arrived at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (HESC). We are five students joining the programme – one from England (Carol), one from Canada (Katherine), and three from Denmark (Kiea, Andreas and Sofie). On our first day we were on a tour around the Centre were told stories about the animals – the two lions from the circus, all the different cheetahs, the two ground hornbills and the rhinos without horns. In the evening we had a braai (South African barbeque) with the staff.
Throughout our first week we learned how to prepare meat for the big cats – removing the fat, and adding supplement. Process done 3 times a week. Also we take turns in feeding the small animals – the black footed cats, the African wildcats, servals and different antelopes.
One of the most prevalent animals throughout our stay has been Varkie the warthog. Varkie had been attacked by another warthog and we observed the veterinarian treat his wounds. Still affected by the anaesthetics he broke out of his makeshift ward for Kapama Reserve. Fortunately he visited the student camp (Nungu Camp) the following week and his wounds appeared to be healing as is his fragile trust bond with his human friends.
During the first week the meat truck arrived half full of frozen meat. As we groaned and emptied the meat truck a recently released cheetah made us a surprise visit having smelled the meat.
We frequently give rib pieces to the resident lions and a pack of wild dogs. Sitting in the back of the meat truck as the wild dogs chased its smell was very exciting because it was almost like being the prey of a wild dog hunt.
Each weekend we have an optional day, and the first weekend we chose to go to Induna Adventure Centre where we riverrafted or geckoed. Afterwards we went across the road to a restaurant where we had our lunch. On the weekends we also make dinner, and we each chose traditional meals from our home countries.
The second week we went to the Protrack anti-poaching unit’s headquarters and had a lecture from one of the trainers. At the training camp he explained some of the rules of the training programme and showed us many of the snares that the poachers use. Afterwards we went to our weekly trip to town for food, shopping and use of the internet facilities.
Wednesday night we went for a 3 hour game drive in Kapama Reserve. We had the opportunity to follow a young male coalition of lions for over an hour.
This afternoon we are off to a reptile centre.
Many more exciting adventures to come: to be continued!