But before I continue I have to thank my mum and sis for looking after me again whilst back home. I was back for longer this time, a good two months, and I had a great time relaxing at home as well as going on a couple of family outings which included fighting dragons at Warwick Castle, climbing the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth and exploring Shakespeare country in Stratford Upon Avon, where I had a rather splendid cream tea :) I also had fun herding cows on a quad bike and milking them when I spent the day with sis and her boyfriend, dairy farmer Jim.
I again tried to see as many friends as possible, it was great catching up with my old school friend Matt, my old Farnborough college pal Big DanB and my class mates from my Lackham College days. One of which was my good friend Ruth and we also spent a day at Longleat where we got a behind the scenes look at the cat section thanks to former CCF volunteer Emily who works there. We got to get really close to the tigers and lions and got to see the recently born lion cubs that were being kept of exhibit, it was very cool!
I was also home for my 30th birthday and got to spend it in London with former CCFers Andrew JW, Annie, Chris and the mighty Warlock himself who mercifully let me live to enjoy some amazing Indian food and to witness Man U get humiliated in the Champions league final, it was a GREAT birthday! Annie and Chris now manage the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Programme, check them out they are doing amazing work: http://www.ethiopianwolf.org/index.shtml
Thankfully the volcanic ash cloud had cleared and I was all set to head back to Namibia as planned. It was again sad saying my goodbyes but I was really looking forward to getting to N/a'an Ku Se and Kate. Also by sheer coincidence I would be arriving in Windhoek around the same time as former CCFers Leigh, Glenn and Natalie. Kate and I met up with them at Joe's Beer House along with the Morkel and Gail. It was really nice to see everyone again and we had a fantastic evening.
I've been at N/a'an Ku Se for just over a week now and the most overriding sensation I've had since being here is feeling COLD!!!!! We are at the start of the Namibian winter but I have never experienced anything like the temperatures we've had this year, for the first time ever I have spent some days in double layers complete with wooly hat and scarf. Parts of the country have even seen snow!
The freezing temperatures aside I have had a fantastic first week. Kate and I will be making the move to our project site near Solitaire on the 24th but before then I have been asked to help out with the daily husbandry routine and any other odd jobs that pop up on the farm. So, as well as feeding Cheetahs (of which I have some experience) I am now helping to look after Lions, Leopards, Caracals and Wild Dogs! I've also helped catch and relocate a troublesome Porcupine, helped Kate and one of our colleagues, Flo, finish a research paper on the successful treatment of 3 Wild Dogs that had been bitten by a venomous snake and helped with a bit of road maintenance. We have a lot of baboons here as well but my only experience with them so far was watching the aforementioned Harry Potter movie with one (the young orphaned baboons are looked after by volunteers all night). So all in all it has been a very varied and enjoyable start to my Na/an Ku Se career!
However, despite how much fun we are having here at the main N/a'an Ku Se farm, Kate and I can't wait to get to Solitaire, and here's why. Accompanying us down there will be 5 cheetahs and 1 Caracal. The cheetahs will be placed into a 500ha holding camp and will be the first group of cats to undergo a soft release (similar to that of Chanel and the Chocs). The cats will be in the camp for 3-6 months where Kate and I will track them and monitor their progress, which will include feeding as this camp will not hold any game. Part of our job will include taking guests of a nearby lodge tracking with us. I'm pretty sure we will be the only place offering this kind of experience for tourists, and I'm certain the experience is going to be something they will never forget. If all goes well the cats will be released into the wild and we will continue to track and monitor them. New cats will then be placed into the holding camp.
The Caracal in question is a temperamental male called Yoda who is currently kept in a pen with three females. Unfortunately he doesn't get on all that well with the girls and can become aggressive towards them (he recently broke one of the female's legs who is currently receiving treatment). So he too will be joining us in Solitaire and be placed into the holding camp. He has a collar and will be able to be tracked and fed. Yoda may not ever be a fully wild caracal but he will have a fantastic new home and be a fantastic ambassador for N/a'an Ku Se.
We will of course have volunteers with us and in order to keep them busy we will also be doing game counts, camera trapping, land mapping and taking them to see the dunes in Sossusvlei. Like I have said several times before, we can't wait to start. Its going to be a lot of hard work but will most definitely be worth it!
PS - Chanel and the Chocs are still together, looking good and hunting almost every other day :)