Kalahari Blog

Adventures of a field biologist and wildlife photographer living and working in the Kalahari.


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Scorpions

Scorpions

There are quite a lot of scorpions about as they are perfectly adapted for the dry (semi) desert conditions. There are two main types of scorpion out here: the thick-tailed Paraboothids and the Cape Burrowing Scorpions. The Paraboothids are the more dangerous type.

There are four main species of Paraboothids found here and two main species of burrowing scorpion. They can all deliver a painful sting however a sting from a paraboothid is much more serious and would need immediate medical attention whereas a burrowing scorpion would merely hurt for a bit. Thankfully the two types are easy to tell apart with the paraboothids having long thick tails and small thin claws and the burrowing scorpions having small tails and large powerful claws.

All scorpions will glow under UV light and it is still unknown exactly why this happens however it does make them very easy to find at night. There are far more scorpions in the summertime as they prefer the warmer weather. Most scorpions at the moment are hiding in their oval shaped burrows or under rocks but in the summer they roam about especially on windy nights and can even be found sitting on top of bushes waiting for flying insect prey.

Scorpions appear to be the Meerkat’s favourite food item and they will dig for a good ten minutes to unearth a nice juicy one. They like them so much that injecting the scorpions and feeding them to the Meerkats is being trialed as a reliable way to give them oral doses of hormones for an experiment on the effects of anxiety on social behavior and also to administer antibiotics if necessary.

The Meerkats seem to have very high resistance to toxins from scorpions and also from snakes as quite a few have large snake bite scars from bites that would have killed a human if left untreated. However Meerkats learn at quite a young age how to handle scorpions and quickly bite off the stings before eating them.

Cape Burrwing Scorpion, Opistophthalmus capensis

Cape Burrwing Scorpion, Opistophthalmus capensis

Cape Burrwing Scorpion, O. capensis under UV light.

Cape Burrwing Scorpion, O. capensis under UV light.

Cape Burrwing Scorpion, O. capensis under UV light.

Cape Burrwing Scorpion, O. capensis under UV light.

Opistophthalmus whalbergii

Opistophthalmus whalbergii

Parabuthus granulatus

Parabuthus granulatus

Parabuthus raudus

Parabuthus raudus

P. raudus threat display.

P. raudus threat display.

Uroplectes spp.

Uroplectes spp.

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Game Capture

The Helicopter taking off!

The Helicopter taking off!

Back in June we had a Game capture with the aim of removing 70% of the animals on the reserve. As there was a drought this year the grass hasn’t had much time to grow so the livestock on the reserve has had to be supplemented with leucerne which is quite expensive. Capturing and selling some of the animals should bring the levels of game back to a more sustainable level.

The capture itself involves flying a helicopter around to manoeuvre the game into a large V-shaped enclosure called a boamer, with a livestock truck at one end and curtains which are pulled across to stop the game running back out of the enclosure.

All of us Meerkat volunteers got to help and it was our job to pull the curtains across. It was quite exciting staying hidden behind the curtain with a heard of Wildebeest or Gemsbok running by waiting for the siren from the helicopter to tell you to run across.

One of the guys out here with a gopro gave it to the helicopter pilot and got an awesome video which clearly shows the structure of the boamer, some of the landscape of the reserve, how the pilot herds a group of Gemsbok into the boamer with the siren and the curtains getting pulled across. You can also see that one of the Gemsbok gets separated from the group, runs back to the first set of curtains and also how close a couple of the people are to the Gemsbok. On this run I was on the last set of curtains and it was pretty hard to tell what was going on as the heard had already run past.

We got to  have a go for about 6 runs at least one of Gemsbok, a run of Red Hartebeest, one of Wildebeest, and a couple with Springbok. Most of the animals just run straight up the ramp and into the truck however the springbok try to jump the fence and get very stressed out in the truck so they have a big net which most of them get caught in and any stragglers have to be grabbed. We then had to hold them down whilst we waited for them to be injected with a sedative before carrying them into the truck. Some of the Springbok were quite lively and quite difficult to hold onto their legs whilst they were kicking!

Vanessa demonstrating the curtain mechanism.

Vanessa demonstrating the curtain mechanism.

Peering through the netting.

Peering through the netting.

Pushing the Gemsbok up the ramp into the truck.

Pushing the Gemsbok up the ramp into the truck.

Hitting the protectors onto the horns.

Hitting the protectors onto the horns.

Quite exiting being this close to stampeding Wildebeest with just a curtain as protection.

Quite exiting being this close to stampeding Wildebeest with just a curtain as protection.

Unfortunately this one broke its leg and had to be killed.

Unfortunately this one broke its leg and had to be killed.

Here come the springbok!

Here come the springbok!

Try to grab one....

Try to grab one….

Me holding down a Springbok. It looks quite calm here but they are difficult to hold when they start to struggle! Thanks to Rachael for the picture.

Me holding down a Springbok. It looks quite calm here but they are difficult to hold when they start to struggle! Thanks to Rachael for the picture.


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More Meerkat Pictures!

 

 

 

 

 

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A cute group shot.

It’s been a while since my last post and it’s getting into winter here in the Kalahari with the nights and mornings getting very cold, days are still quite warm as long as there is no breeze blowing. The internet here is as bad as ever making uploading photos very difficult, it has taken at least a couple of weeks to get this one done.

The Meerkats are getting up much later these days as they don’t like the cold so the time we have to get up for “field o clock” is an almost reasonable 7:00am whereas in the summer it is more like 4:30am!

Due to the cold there are are a lot of Bat-Earred Foxes, usually only seen at night, foraging in the daytime. I still haven’t seen an Aardvark yet but as it gets colder they should also start appearing in daylight so hopefully I will be able to post some Aardvark pictures soon.

Anyway here’s a few of my best Meerkat pictures of the hundreds I have taken so far, I have plenty of pictures of the other wildlife as well so hopefully if the internet is ok I’ll get a post about birds, another with some more reptiles and hopefully one with some Bat-Earred Foxes and an Aardvark!

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The “ring of fire” technique.

 

 

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A Meerkat with a tasty Scorpion snack.

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An early morning yawn.

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A standard Meerkat portrait.

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On guard duty.

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Playtime.

 

 

 

 

 


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Living in the Kalahari

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Mine and Rachael’s rondawel is the one on the right.

I’ve been trying to get this post up for a couple of weeks but have been busy and the internet hasn’t been working too well.

The living conditions here are fairly basic but aren’t too bad. As the project has been going so long the running of things is fairly smooth and the set-up is quite good. There are a lot of people here at the moment as this is meant to be the breading season so things are a little cramped but apart from that and the heat living relatively comfortable.

Rachael and I are currently Continue reading


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Finally Some Meerkats!

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I have been out in the Kalahari for just about two weeks now and am starting to adjust to the heat and antisocial fieldwork hours. I have been very busy with training and have been going out with the other people here who have been showing me how to tempt the Meerkats onto the scales with hard-boiled egg, how to use the handheld computers we use to store ad lib behavioural data and how to enter the data into the database.

Not been taking my camera out quite as much as I would like as each Meerkat group has its own bag with its own set of scales (so the Meerkats don’t get the scent of other groups and to limit the spread of tuberculosis) unfortunately these Continue reading


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Packing List – what’s in my bag?

Both my bags fully packed and ready to go!

Both my bags fully packed and ready to go!

With less than a week to go until I leave I thought I’d post up exactly what I will be taking with me. I have been thinking about what to take for quite a while now and have packed and repacked and carefully considered each item that I will be Continue reading


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Visa And A Fellow Kalahari Blogger

My visa has finally arrived! I’m now all set with everything I need, all I have to do is pack and get on the plane!

I will be posting a photo packing list in the next couple of days.

Also I found Adam’s blog. He will be arriving the same time as me and is also interested in photography so if you want a different take on things check it out and follow him as well!

Welcome to Adam’s Kalahari Blog..

Adams photo of a Meerkat licking it’s balls:

Adam's photo of a Meerkat licking its balls