Our Second to Last Conservancy
April 27, 2014
By Emma Griggs (University of British Columbia ’18)
We spent an unexpected but pleasantly relaxing extra four days in Wereldsend this week, catching up on our Grinnell journal entries and projects, as well as catching up on much needed sleep. After a fantastic Easter Sunday celebration, including an after-dinner kitchen dance party while we did the dishes, we spent April 21st going round to all of our camera traps to switch out the memory cards before we headed out the next day. But of course, a day of driving around in our truck Hardy Sue was bound to have some sort of issue…
Just after leaving Collin’s Spring and fetching that camera trap, which we’d managed to salvage in the reeds after a huge storm just a while ago, our rear right wheel bit the dust (for no apparent reason). It was (of course) the wheel that had recently been put on at the garage, so the bolts were super tightly screwed on, so we took turns jumping on the wrench, trying to get them off to change the tire. Then, as I’m sure we’d all been expecting…our wrench broke as well!
Realizing we could be there for at least a few hours while Bekah tried to get a hold of Vehi with the satellite phone, the four of us decided to not waste the time sitting around—instead, we decided to conquer another big hill! We made our way up, and settled down at the top, content to chat and look out at the view. However, it only took an hour or so for Vehi to come rescue us! All of us were somewhat disappointed at having to head off so soon after being so relaxed on this hill in the middle of nowhere, but we hopped in our other truck and kept going on to the next spring. Unfortunately, the Jebico camera trap was nowhere to be found in the aftermath of the storm, and after a half hour of searching, we decided it was a lost cause.
Luckily, the truck didn’t cause any more trouble, and we were able to head out the next day to start our data collection for Ehirovipuka. After a quick stop in Kamanjab to grab some snacks for the bush, we got to the village of Otjikavare, where we spent the night camping by the Ehirovipuka conservancy office and meeting the field officer, Sacky, and our other game guard Simeon. We also welcomed back Cliff, a Namibian who travelled with us through Ehirovipuka and Omatendeka — an honorary fifth student!
From there, we moved the next day to the Okaruikongwe hunting camp, where we spent the next two nights. We indulged in long, HOT (!) showers, and had a delicious dinner of dumplings and springbok. The camp generator (not the quietest generator) was on until pretty late, though Bekah insists it ‘lulled her to sleep’. The next day, after our morning game drive, we hung out at the hunting camp, meeting some of the professional hunters who worked there and learning more about trophy hunting, and how it benefits the conservancy. We also had a very interesting ‘debate’, where Allie and I represented the ‘government’ and Molly and Kim represented ‘the community,’ and we had a negotiation over a theoretical piece of land and whether it would be more beneficial as a national park (government) or a conservancy (community). We all settled into our roles in the scenario pretty quickly, and Vehi and Bekah had to cut us off an hour later because it was time to start making dinner.
After dinner (more delicious springbok), we had a chance to visit with the clients staying at the hunting camp — a couple from California, who were here to hunt a leopard that had become a problem animal in the area. Feeling even more well-informed about trophy hunting, and all the different pros and cons, we had a brief discussion back at the fire about how our views had changed, or not changed, and how our time at the hunting camp was so eye-opening.
The next day, we did our morning point counts — Kim and I saw a group of 55 Elands, our first spotting of these largest of antelopes!—and then packed up and left the hunting camp. Our next campsite, Palmfontein, was such a treat! A gorgeous spot, right by a river, covered in palm trees, with adorable Rosy-face lovebirds flying through the air. We spent the afternoon taking photos, exploring the river and watching a rainbow appear after a short burst of rain.
At dinner, we heard various stories from Vehi, Simeon and Sacky about leopard and lions attacks they’d either grown up hearing about or watched themselves, and went to bed, ready to crush Ehirovipuka Conservancy the next day.
The next day, we did our final game routes for this conservancy (Allie and I saw 56 giraffes in two hours!), and then came back to camp and sadly packed up and left the little oasis. We made the long drive back to Otjikavare to the conservancy office, where we spent another night before heading to Omatendeka Conservancy.
We’ve crushed Ehirovipuka! Only one conservancy left!