Friday, 17 January 2014

Harnas other tasks: Animal Caretaker

Because I like being busy busy and because I was suppose to be taking the animal caretaker project that ended up not happening, I ended up being Animal Caretaker. This is a position that entails being in charge of all of the animal well being and health. Also doing any of the medications needed and keeping an eye on everyone. It was a pretty easy job, just made for some rushed mornings. Normally, I would have to give up the Snoobobs when I took over being Animal Caretaker but due to the small number of volunteers, I volunteered to stay on and do both which worked out well. 

My 2 big tasks were giving Kaptian his medication and feeding the springboks and kudu every morning. Kaptian is an older german shepard dog who needed arthritis meds and also had epilepsy. So every morning involved stuffing his 4 pills into 3 pieces of meat, tracking him down which was the hardest part and feeding him. Normally he was where ever Mariatta was but that was sometimes a challenge to track her down! 
Feeding the kudus and springboks involved 5 different types of feeds: cow, sheep, lucern pellets, horse feed and crushed corn. Bumbi, the bad springbok loved me for this reason. Him and I got along before I started feeding him but we became good friends after. I rarely had to chase him away , just had to talk to him and walk with who ever he was eyeing up.  

One special activity I did get to do because I was Animal Caretaker was that I got to take a wild vervet monkey mom and baby into Gobabis to the vet. The mom had gotten a nice bite on her arm on Christmas. Livia ( cabin mate and vet assistant in real life) took her in to get checked out a few days later. Nice getting off the property for awhile. I had been helping with cleaning the wound and giving her antibiotics up until the vet visit. Bit stressful dealing with a non tamed, non sedated vervet but we all came out of it unscathed. 

The vet visit was pretty interesting. I’m not sure how much the vet had been told, not much I don’t think! He was hoping she was a tame vervet, he was disappointed when I said “nope , most definitely wild!” lol. I was impressed with how fast and easily he caught her in the cage to sedate her, but she did get out of the cage before she fell asleep ( was in a small room , door closed!). Livia and I were both a bit shocked when she fell over asleep while sitting on the floor. I got the lovely task of holding the baby, Klaus, while Mom was worked on. Klaus did not like me one bit and spent the next 30-45 mins attempting to bite me and already had instincts to go for my neck and screaming! Luckily he didn’t really have nails or teeth at that point. I was very happy to put him back with Mom in the cage. 

And I got to clean and change her bandage the next day. I will take an angry horse over doing a monkey. They are probably both on the same difficulty level despite the monkey only being 7 kg. 

And the only other downside of being animal caretaker was having to tell people off for feeding the animals candy. *rolls eyes* Yup multiple people thinking it was alright to feed human candy , chocolate etc to any animal on the property. And I would have thought people would have known better but anyways. 

Harnas: Animal Interactions

Probably one of my favourite activities and one of the easiest. Title says it all really. Basically instead of being on food prep or helping on the tour, you get assigned to go interact with an animal like the baby baboons, Tyson the cheetah or reading to Audrey the blind vervet monkey. And you do this all afternoon. Easy and fun! 

Reading to Audrey was good but a but self conscience reading to a monkey but it was that or talking. You have to so that she knows where you are. She is very sweet and would normally come over and cuddle and hold your hand while you talked/read. It was always hard to remember that you couldn’t just stroke her back, even if she was holding one of your hands since this would normally earn you a slap on the wrist -literally since it would scare her. She’s also the only vervet monkey I liked. Vervets are known for being agrissive and if they attack they go for necks and arteries - yes very charming creatures. Luckily Audrey is ancient and blind. 

Tyson, the young cheetah, was cool because who doesn’t want to hang out with one. As I mentioned earlier, I’m still on the fence about having to tame him instead of trying to keep him wild but since they wanted him tamed I figured I would put in a fair few hours hanging out with him. I would sit in his enclosure talking to him for an hour or so most lunch hours. And then having a few hours on an official interaction time was always a bonus. He’s a gorgeous boy who had come a long way and grown a fair bit by the time I left. 

Baby baboon interaction was one of the most common ones to have and I did end up on it twice. And to be fair to the baboons they actually went fairly well. They did grow on me as my time at Harnas went by but still not my fav creatures by any means. Laura would agree with me and she did finally convince Tertius that she really didn’t like them! After 5 weeks there and still not liking baboons , don’t think she’s going to change her mind! I did figure out that they are very nice after they have been fed and therefore only want to cuddle up and sleep on you. Super nice! Means they aren’t jumping on you randomly and biting! Though my last interaction didn’t go the best since Bella just started biting me and not just test bites. Who knows what I did to make her angry but needless to say I made a quick exit complete with black bruises on knee and calves and back of my neck. I went to see Oma who is lovely old granny baboon who lives by herself. And loves to groom you. Such a sweetie. 

And you did have loads of time to visit and bond with your animals after your activities and during lunch. Not to mention the sleep outs you could do. 

Harnas: Baboon Walk

As much as I didn’t particularly get along with the baboons, I did want to go on at least one walk just to see what it was like. Everyone said that the baboons are totally different when they are outside of their enclosure which does make sense since they are no longer on their home turf. 

I went on two walks in my time there both with the baby baboons. I will back up and say we have baby baby baboons which are the youngest ones and are probably under 3 months old. The next oldest group is the baby baboons which are under 7 months. And the rest are jut called baboons. 

The baby baboons consists of: Ronny (the lone male), Rika and Rosey (has a bad leg). 

I hadn’t been in their enclosure before I went on a walk with them since they are pretty bouncy. But we loaded them up in their cage and took a short truck ride down into the bush. Once unloaded, we all started walking and the baboons are busy running around checking out all of the bushes. 

They are pretty cute when they get tired and want to be carried, they just run up to you and put their arms up. Just grab their hands and pull them up and set them on your shoulder. Which becomes normal position for them and normally an arm across your face/eyes which makes walking difficult. But pretty entertaining! 

The worst part is them getting off you is generally a sudden decision and a quick one at that and they hang on to you by your hair. I lost a bit of hair to them leaping off but still hanging on by my hair. I have short hair which I think worked in my favour. And by the second time out, if I thought they were wanting down I would just bend down and let them off so they didn’t have to use my hair. 

Once we had walked a bit, we would stop at a nice tree and let them climb and play in that for awhile, while we sat down. They would usually come over for a cuddle and to be groomed. During the second walk Rika did do a few dental exams on a couple people. Remember when I said all piercings had to come out before interacting with baboons. This is why. They will go searching your mouth ( natural behavior for them) and if they find a tongue ring, they will pull it out. Svenja, a fellow Snoobob, nearly didn’t take hers out before hand but luckily we convinced her too. 

Through out the course of the walk, we normally stop at 3 or 4 different trees for them to play in. Learn a bit about the different trees and bushes. Try and figure out which way the farm is ( some people are better at this then others! Lol ) 

Also watching for the little herd of giraffes which normally lived in that area. 

I found the walked to be pretty relaxed for the most part. The baboons are pretty different and relaxed and loved bouncy and running around to check everything out. Rika did give us a scare the second time out. She ate something and then seemed like she was trying to cough it up and then almost seemed like she fainted. She really had Morgan, Mariata grand daughter, pretty worried. Of course we didn’t have a radio or water but we headed back to where Owen was suppose to pick us all up and by the time we got there she seemed to be her self again. 

The only downside of the walk was loading the babies back up into their cage and heading back to the farm. They didn’t like it one bit and then knew they were going back to be fed so they got very grumpy. Lara got bit fairly good on the arm before we got them back into the cage. And they spent the entire ride home trying to grab and bite us. All 3 of us were trying so hard to be out of their reach after spending 3 hours with them climbing all over us and not having any issues. Annoying but we lived. 

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Current update

And another break from Harnas....nearly done talking about Harnas really! Lol 

I finally managed to get out of kinda dodgy Windhoek ( see previous post). I am up in northern Namibia, about 40 kms from Etosha National Park, at Okutala African Quest ( lodge. 

Okutala use to be part of Harnas up until a couple years ago. It is a 48 000 acres property that use to be a hunting lodge. The animals are slowly learning that it is no longer a hunting lodge. They are slowly renovating a few different parts of the property and they have big plans for it. The main guest lodge is already beautiful and overlooks a big waterhole which is very active. The other night there was over 5 different species of animals at it at one time. 

On the property WILD there are: 
-under 10 cheetahs
-under 10 leopards
-tracks of lion
-1 elephant and her 6 year son
-oryx (gemsbok)
I'm sure I am missing a few species.

They are also trying to acquire animals that they will be able to release on the property. So at the moment they only have: 1 lioness, 3 cheetahs, 2 leopards, 1 spotted hyena, 4 young elephants, 3 baby giraffes, young ostriches, 4 white rhinos, a waterbuck and a few parrots ( macaws in particular) A few of the animals won’t be able to be release due to the risk of poaching ( rhinos) or grew up in captivity ( lioness and hyena).

One of the nice things about Okutala is that they also have a volunteer program but it is more laid back then Harnas. And it is more of a “volunteer when you want to” type program. So you can help feed the animals in the morning and then spend all afternoon in the pool instead of cleaning up the hay shed and fixing one of the waterholes. This means you  also don’t need a work permit for Namibia since the lodge considers you a guest and not a volunteer. 

I have been here at Okutala for a week now.  It has been a nice change from Harnas and I have taken advantage of just sitting in the pool or reading a book instead of helping feed. I do find that there is a bit of standing around watching other people work ( not enough equipment -shovels etc) or it is just a way more relaxed pace and some of the chores/feeding seems to drag on longer then it really needs too. 

And there is a fair bit of rivalry between Harnas and Okutala because they where together once and you use to be able to book to stay at both up until they separated. Loving this right now because this allowed me to catch up with 3 cool peeps - Tamara, Livia and Charlotte- various friends and cabin mates from Harnas.  Also does sound like there might be a bit of bad blood between both camps as well which doesn’t help. But people are forever comparing them both ( I’m guilty of it!) but hopefully once all of the bookings that came through from Harnas have finished, they will become more separated. 

I have done lots of fun activities like a full day driving around to check on most of the 23 different waterholes. Swam in one of the deep one during our picnic lunch stop. Fixing waterholes, tracking a radio collard goat, a night drive complete with a bit of port to drink and a couple sleep outs - one on the deck overlooking the waterhole at the lodge and one up the big hill that has a gorgeous view over most of the property. 

We are off for a quick overnight trip to Etosha National Park this afternoon. Hoping it will be as exciting as the last time I was there with the Woodrow G Adventures tour in mid November. It will be hard to top those 2-3 days specially since Etosha has gotten a fair bit of rain lately so most of the animals don’t need to hang around the waterholes now. But crossing fingers and hoping we see lots anyways! 

Harnas Activities: Research

Harnas has 5 cheetahs who live in the 8000 acres LifeLine. All of these cheetahs were hand raised at Harnas ( for different reasons) but have successfully been released back into the wild. All 5 are radio collard.

The cheetahs:
Pride: 8 year old female
Mercy: 2 year daughter of Pride
Dinga: 2 year old adopted son of Pride
Max: 5 year old male (brother of Moritz)
Moritz: 5 year old male (brother of Max)

Research was one of my favourite activities since it involves us going and tracking and finding the cheetahs using the telepathy antenea. Learning to use it was interesting and really seemed to be almost more of an art then science sometimes. Trying to figure out the beeps and the how many ‘bars’ that would appear and what all that meant in order to figure out which way to go in. Electric fences and power lines also don’t help either. 

Also fun sitting on top of a big landcruiser driving around the LifeLine.  

Normally it is the 2 brothers ( Max and Moritz) hang out together which goes against the norm. Pride and her 2 young ones are usually somewhere else together. Though Pride had been hanging out with the 2 brothers when I left Harnas and had been thinking of mating. Hoping for a few cheetah kittens in 3 months! 

When we did find the cheetahs, Kathy would take notes on where we found them, what they were doing, how they looked health wise. Basically notes to keep track of them health wise including breathing rates ( they can breath really fast!). 

Kathy on the right. Max & Moritz being lazy.

Pride still likes humans and will come over to see us and get a pat or water. Her 2 young ones aren’t as friendly ( good thing overall!). The 2 brothers are fairly friendly. 

I lucked out and had a few really exciting research outings. The last one before I left was the most exciting one. Pride hanging out with the brothers and making mating chirps. Also means that she is feeling better after her injuries ( kick and gash on her chest from a warthog) and leaving the young ones for awhile. 

When we finally tracked down Dinga and Mercy after a 2.5km walk through the bush , thorny ones at that. We had just seen a mother warthog with a youngish one trot by ahead of us and right behind them came Mercy and Dinga. Mercy ended up chasing down the young one straight towards us! And catching/killing it about 15 feet from us. While Dinga chased the mother past us but didn’t catch it. 

Just a bit of excitement! Lol and managed to get some pictures of Mercy taking the warthog down too. So cool!

And one of my favourite pictures on my adventure so far came while being on research. Max and Moritz lying under a tree with a massive black rain clouds in the background. We did seriously wet from that cloud too! 

Monday, 13 January 2014

Fetch ball = Fun Times!

It is tradition, to play a sport of some sort on the Saturday afternoon after the newbies have finished their introduction to Harnas. It’s some good bonding fun time. We did always have the choice of what sports to play but fetch ball was the landslide majority winner every time. 

Fetch ball is basically rugby but you can’t run with the ball and yes it is full body contact! And played in bare feet. And you try to pass the ball to your goalie who is kneeling and has to catch the ball and get it to the ground to score a point. It is pretty full on but lots of fun. 

I held my own against most of the guys and did surprise a few of them with being tough to take down and get the ball from me. Nothing is off limits and helps not to be ticklish! Lol 

We ended up playing fetch ball a few times a week since we did have a few Aussi guys who enjoyed playing it - kinda similar to Aussi rules footy. And I was a big fan of it too! :D 

Though I never made it through a game without some sort of bruise(s) or injury. Hehe In the first game, I ended up tripping over my big toe, bending my right big toe towards the sole of my foot. Bad sprain if not almost dislocated it. It was spectacular flying slide too. And also very spectacular colours the next day. Really should have taken some pictures of some of my bruises. Owen and I would also compare injuries after every game. Not like it slowed him down any for the most part. I do think my toe is happy not to be playing anymore so it can actually heal. But then me tripping over it (who needs toes?) or Tertius landing on it really didn’t help! Also didn't help with random sprinkler heads which were in holes around the lawn. 

And playing as much fetch ball as we did , makes me miss playing competitive sports. Really really miss it. Going to have to find something to play whenever , where ever I end up after Africa. 

Other sports played was rounders - similar to baseball and a soccer game against the bushmen. We held our own against them which we were impressed by since some of them showed up wearing soccer cleats! 

Or people just chilled out with the turtles and turkeys to cheer us on. :D  And move them off the field when they wander on to it! Always entertaining having to dodge turtles, foal, calf, turtles, springbok and ostriches while running to catch the ball! 

Cool Co-ordinators

As in most volunteering or on tours, your experience is greatly affected by the guide or leader. At Harnas this is no different. And I will say that the co-ordinators here are GREAT!

The co-ordinator team is lead by Tertius . He has a job I wouldn't want with trying to keep up to 60 odd volunteers from around the world and different ages happy and doing different things every day! But it does an amazing job at it.

One of the main co-ordinators in charge of the food prep. One of the main cheetah people. The inventor of the meat hats and never challenge her you won't win! Very entertaining, fun person and now a good friend.  

Stacey and I have come to the conclusion that there isn’t much that Owen can’t do. And we sometimes feel like we haven’t done much with our life compared to his either! 

One of those people who are really good at sports (played rugby, cricket internationally and running track) and good at school with out trying. Also part of the Anti-poaching squad.

Only things he can’t do is cook and doesn’t like spiders. :D 

Owner of the mini lion Spicey aka a chow who’s shaved like a lion. We bonded over not really liking the baboons. And she does help out a fair bit on research. 

Morning tour and night drive guide extrodinaire. Super knowledgable about the wildlife from the itty bitty creepy crawlies to the big lions and everything in between. Also makes the tours a lot of fun to be on. And the most important part: leads in the “follow the leader” and “amarulla” singing every Lapa night party. Both those songs just aren’t the same with out him! 

Kathy - kinda
Kathy is sort of a co-ordinator at Harnas but she is actually a researcher here studying/monitoring the cheetahs and soon to be wild dogs. Not a bad job to have getting to track cheetahs every morning. She also has her own blog:

Sunday, 5 January 2014

A quick break from Harnas...

A super quick break from talking about Harnas and moving to talking about the present time. I am currently in Windhoek (capital of Namibia). I have been here since thursday afternoon after being dropped off from Harnas.

Laura, Victor and I braved staying at The Cardboard Box Hostel. That should have been our first clue to what to expect. Even one of the new volunteers at Harnas said something since she stayed there on the way to Harnas. (Sorry Kaylee should have believed you!) But we figured she hadn't stayed in any hostels before and it can be a bit of an adjustement for some people. Not to mention everything else was booked solid.

The short version is that the only 2 good things about this place is the unlimited free fast Wifi (amazing!) and the crepes for breakfast that are included!

The bad: no locks period on dorm door (:O ), and no lockers to lock stuff away in. Laura and I took to carrying our day packs full of laptops and camera etc. Cleanness is alright , the pub area is nice. No working light in our room ( thankfully I always have my headlamp on hand). Staff seem friendly but disorganized as Laura found out. The disorganization led to a 11:30pm walk downtown in an attempt to find an ATM to pay for hostel. We did go with night manager or night staff from the hostel but still dodgy!

Suppose I shouldn't complain to much since I'm still sitting here on the net instead of going to the other hostel where I am actually spending the night.

The last couple days have been pretty low key. Thursday was a final group meal at Joe's Beer house which was great fun. Sad to say good bye to all of the insanely cool peeps but I know we will meet up somewhere along the way just hopefully sooner rather then later. (You know who you are and miss you tons but excited to hear about your adventures! xx)

Laura and I spent the day chilled out at the hostel on the net and then ventured out for a yumy African supper followed by a movie. The new Justin Timberlake movie Runner Runner was suppose to be playing but wasn't. So we ended up at Khumba which is an african animated animal movie. I would discribe it as being somewhere between Lion King and Madagascar so pretty good combo. And it was insanely funny! Specially after spending 5 weeks at Harnas with a lot of the "main character" animals. They got their personalities so well!

Khumba Trailer

And African movie theatres don't show trailers before the movie starts either so you best be there on time!

And said see you soon to Laura bright and early saturday morning. Probably just as well it was at 5am , lot easy. But very odd not having her around now since we have spent the last 5 weeks living together! Miss you girl!

Now I should probably say good bye to this fast internet and actually get my butt over to the other hostel , Chameleon. Had to splurg and get a single room since everything else is booked.

And looking like I will be spending a week or two up at Okutala which is another wildlife place close to etosha. Which would mean meeting up with a few friends from Harnas as well. If it does go ahead, I will be heading up there tomorrow afternoon.

Food Prep

One of the big parts of the day at Harnas was preparing food for all of the animals. All of the animals are fed twice a day and had their enclosures cleaned every morning. As a volunteer, we are divided into 4 different groups which each have a set of different animals that we look after : Crocs, Hound Dogs, Owls and Snoobobs ( baboons backwards). I was part of the best team(hehe): Snoobobs. 

Each team normally has 5-6 people so only 2-3 people do food prep every day while the other team members do other activities like feeding animals on the morning tours or going and doing research. 
Food prep area ( pic by Laura)

The 3 tubs on the left hand side of the pic are for cleaning any feed dishes/knives. First one is general washing, 2nd one is for disinfecting and the 3rd a rinse tub. 

The middle table is where most of the big pieces of meat ( portions of legs) were cut into whatever sizes you needed for your animals. Behind that table is all of the grains and pellets. (sunflower seeds, cow, lucern,sheep pellets)

The right side is where each team has space for actually preparing the food. 

Food prep is overseen by one of the coordinators who check over the food before we feed it to ensure we have done it properly. And then they check over the enclosures and have a food prep meeting to let us know if we need to re-do anything.

Most of the animals ate maillepop which is a corn porridge that they add chopped beetroot or carrots too. The maillepop was made by the bushmen everyday in a massive pot over a fire. Most of the time the consistancy was like a normal porridge but there were days that it was soup. Soup conistancy days were not fun if you were on morning tour and had to feed the baboons. There is a people version which is a fine ground corn porridge which is really yummy. 

Animals like the baboons and warthogs also ate leftovers from the human food. It was always kinda fun to sort through a big garbage bin full of leftovers in search of your animals favourite foods. The warthogs in theory can eat anything but really didn't like eggshells but loved cabbage and pasta. 

The toughest part of the Snoobobs food prep was preparing Tyson and the baby jackals food. When you have to chop 2 full frozen chickens, bones and all everyday which takes roughly an hour complete with chicken juices splattering everywhere,  you sometimes want to give them away! lol Tyson at least was insanely cute even though he is still getting use to people. I did ponder giving them to another group. But we did come up with a system that made life easier - chickens were sawed into small long sections. And we took to wearing towels as makeshift aprons. Sharp knives were also a massive help. And do have to give another shout out and thank you to Tamara & M.T who actually bought and sent me a knife in my goody bag when she left. Amazing help to have a sharp knife! That knife has been passed on to the remaining Snoobobs. 

Zoie chopping the dreaded chicken looking stylish! 

The Snoobobs did luck out and we didn't have to deal to much with chopping up meat for our animals. We used donkey meat for all of the animals because it is readily available, cheap and it is a very lean meat. The farm uses 18 donkeys a week. Popeye, the owl, only 4 small pieces of meat a day or one rat. And then our meerkats had a small bowl of chopped meat. Unlike other teams who had to chopped up about 5 liters of very lean, no fat meat for mongooses or fairly big chuncks for the cheetahs.  

All of the other birds ( geese, turkey, chickens) were all straight forward and ate crushed or whole corn, egg shells and growing powder and some fresh lucern ( alfalfa). 

Audrey, She loved pasta and sunflower seeds but also ate apple, carrots and maillepop. 

Cleaning enclosures was pretty easy for the most part. It was mainly just a quick rake to clean up poop and fill in little holes and cleaning the waterholes. I was one for trying to stay one step ahead of the coordinators, so I pretty cleaned waterholes or enclosures if I thought they needed doing. Yup took more time in the morning but beat having to come back after the food prep meeting at noon and doing it in the heat. Thankfully my team was on board with this idea too because they rock ! :D 

The toughest ones to clean besides baboons were the meerkats. They are for ever digging massive tunnel system. And we had to fill them in. Half the time they would have another one dug by the time we had finished filling them in. But we had to so that when it did rain, they wouldn't drown. In the last week, they had been especially annoying by digging holes close enough to the waterhole, that all the sand went directly into said waterhole. To the point that the waterhole was half covered in sand. That made for some massive renovations on our part which didn't completely work. Hope Zoie and Swenja figured something out. 
Silly meerkats throwing sand in their water.

As I said earlier, our other 2 baboons I wasn't a huge fan of but Abu and Chloe were better and younger and did greatly help that due to them escaping multiple times they were moved to jail. This was handy since you can lock them into one side of their jail and clean un harmed. Chloe would still stand and scream at me and try to grab me. Probably had something to do with me taking a water hose away from her early on. oops! Abu was a sweetheart and would sit and hold your hand for ages. 
Abu in jail

Food prep and cleaning took about 2 hours maybe 2 and half- most of that chopping chicken! lol 

Afternoon feeding was very simple and straight forward. Pretty much only having to feed all the animals. The only down side was that we had Tyson and the jackals that couldn't be fed til 6pm. That did mean we had to hang around for awhile but just meant more time to hang out with the animals or friends. And we no longer had to chase all of the guinea fowl and turkeys into their enclosures at night, which they could fly out of anyways. Only had to head count them.

I did a lot of food prep over my 5 weeks there which for the most part I didn't mind since then I knew it was getting done properly and meant I could check my animals too. We did get a fair bit of rain over Christmas which did make food prep and cleaning fun. We had a few rivers flowing through the food prep area. 

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Harnas Volunteers

The volunteer side of the farm started when the farm became large enough that they needed more help and a way to bring in some money to the farm. Over the years the volunteer project has evolved and during the busy season there can be as many as 60 volunteers from around the world all living and working together. As said earlier, most volunteers are from Europe but Australia and North America are slowly discovering Harnas. 

The average age is in the low 20s- a lot of gap year travellers which is what I found when I was there as well. But there were a few of us "oldies" aka over 27 years! lol 

As a volunteer, we are divided into 4 different groups which each have a set of different animals that we look after : Crocs, Hound Dogs, Owls and Snoobobs ( baboons backwards). I was part of the best team(hehe): Snoobobs. 

Each team normally has 5-6 people so only 2-3 people do food prep every day while the other team members do other activities like feeding animals on the morning tours or going and doing research.

I was lucky to have a great team from begining to end. Pretty sure it was random but the Snoobobs did end up with most of the "oldies". Over the course of my stay the Snoobobs consisted of: Alex (team leader when I arrived, Norway), Milla ( Norway), Thomas (Germany), Eric ( Germany), Stacey (Australia), Victor (Alaska), Svenja ( Germany), Zoie ( Usa). Great fun, hard working group of people! Worked really well together. 
Snoobobs (l to r): me, Victor, Eric, Thomas, Stacy on Safari theme Lapa night

I did become Team Leader after my first week when Alex left. 

For those who know me, I am all about girls can do pretty much anything that men can do specially when it comes to farm type work. But I will say that is was very nice to have 3 awesome guys on the team when it came to dealing with the baboons. Baboons will generally gravitate towards men and like them better then women therefore will defend any guys over us ladies. Not fun! And also not helped by the fact our 4 baboons were not known for being the nicest ones on the place either. Janine and Lloyd maybe weren't so much as bad as being big , strong and tended to jump on people when they got fed. And if you react wrong, that turns into bitting, clothes ripping and only gets worse from there. Needless to say I never went into their enclosure. Victor, Eric and Thomas handled them beautifully even though they came out went ripped clothing , bites and loosing a hat more then once! 

The normal schedule for the volunteers was pretty straight forward and did allow for lots of time to do your own thing. It wasn't all just work. The day started with breakfast at 7am up at the farm which was a 10 minute walk. The morning meeting was at 8am under the tree. This is where all of the tasks were divided out for the morning. Tasks like : food prep (2-3 people per team), helping on morning tours ( 4 people) , research ( 3-4 people), farm work, outside feeding and any other fun activities like baboon walks and animal interactions. Most of the morning activities would finish by 12 or 12:30. Lunch at 1pm. Free time till 3pm meeting. Then afternoon activities which would be afternoon feeding, outside feeding, animal interactions, afternoon tour and farm work. The day would finish up at 5pm depending on what animals you looked after. The snoobobs normally didn't finish til 6 pm due to having nocturnal animals that couldn't be fed any earlier then 6pm. 

Evening were pretty much free to do what we wanted. Supper was at 7pm and we normally had a bonfire afterwards. The village did have a waterhole close by so we would see the odd animal there during the evenings. The coolest was the herd zebras which oddly don't sound like horses and more like barking. But regularly saw springbok, wildebeests, impalas. 

Free time for most of the volunteers was spent hanging out with the animals. Time to actually sit down and bond or play with them. I spent a lot of entertaining time with my meerkats, Oma the baboon and the Pumbas. 

The saddest day of the week for the volunteers is thursday- departure day for all volunteers leaving :( Never a fun day. Though we do have a big party on wednesday night for everyone leaving. And fridays is normally fun getting to meet the newbies. 

Us trying to keep volunteers from leaving .. very sad week lots of my friends leaving that week

Friday, 3 January 2014

Animal Introduction

The Snoobob team had a wide range of animals that we took care of. Here they are :

 Snoobob Animals:

2 Pumbas ( warthogs)
Tyson - 2 month old cheetah
Jackals - maybe? (explain later)
Audrey the blind vervet monkey
Popeye the owl
4 meerkats
4 baboons ( Abu, Chloe & Janine, Lloyd) 
6 caracals
Fluffy the hamster
24 guinea fowl
11 turkeys
3 bottle lambs
2 "baby" geese
adult geese
10 cats

A quick introduction to my animals. Most are fairly self explanatory and what you would expect to find on a place like Harnas. But there are a few that were a bit odd. 

Fluffy the hamster is one of them. Still have no idea why he was there since he wasn't food for anyone. hehe Assuming he was someones pet at one point. 

The bottle lambs were orphans from the sheep herd and they finished being bottle fed shortly after I arrived. 

The caracals are cats similar to the lynx who are very good jumpers and bird catchers. We didn't do a lot with these caracals because they were fed on the morning tours. And they are wild. They generally scare up a flock of birds and then jump up (up to 3 m) into the flying flock and take out up to 10 birds at once. Very agile as you can imagine!

I say that we maybe took care of young jackals because I never did see them so I do wonder if they were the ones even eating the food. The story behind the jackals is that they escaped from their enclosure , went missing for a few weeks but then they reappeared in the carport/hay shed. And because they are nocturnal, we never saw them. Though a friend, Marie Therese, did send me pictures of them from before they escaped. 

The invisible jackals Pic taken by MT

The four baboons we had I will honestly say I wasn't a huge fan of. Mainly because they were big ( Janine & Lloyd) closing in at 20 Kg each. Chloe and Abu were smaller but known for breaking out of their enclosure. Chloe did not like me and normally would scream and try to grab me. Abu was sweet for the most part. Baboons on a whole are interesting creatures. The tough thing about them is that they act like spoiled toddlers but strength of 7 grown men ( adult baboons). You can't say no to them or really any negative words, can't take anything away from them. When you go in with them you have to take off hats, sunglass, watches. Basically anything that can be removed and don;t be surprised if they try to undress you! One note about piercing/ earrings. Any sort of piercing anywhere and I do mean anywhere ( mouth or anywhere "sensitive"!) They will find them and pull them out! Almost happened to a couple people while I was there. They will open your mouth and good bye tongue piercing!

The baby baboons (under a couple months old) which I didn't feed did grow on me but the ones I was actually caring for not so much. The coordinators did help us with working with them and they could discipline them as needed. 

Audrey, the blind vervet monkey is a sweetheart. She was poached as a young one and kept in a suit case for a long time and then opened in the full sun quickly which caused her to go blind. I ended up spending time with her mainly reading and talking to her. 

Tyson, the baby cheetah, is one I fought to get to take care of. He is only 2 months old when he was found in the LifeLine totally alone and no mom around. People kept an eye on him for a day to see if mom would show up but never did so he was brought in. He is honestly one animal that I am conflicted over. In one sense I wish we could have kept him in the wild with another cheetah to raise him instead of having to tame him. Harnas reasoning is that , that wasn't possible so we need to tame him in order to teach him how to hunt later on in life. Harnas has done this successfully with a few cheetahs so hopefully it happens with Tyson as well. 

Popeye the owl lives out in the cemetary trees. And he sits in one particular tree. He doesn't fly that much since he only has one eye. 

The birds: guinea fowl and turkeys live free range on the lawn around the farm. We use to have to chase them into 2 pens every night for the first couple weeks but we no longer do now. It never made a lot of sense since they could fly out of the pens. hehe. 

Guinea Fowl Pic by MT

The geese also had free range of the lawn area. The 2 "baby" geese are no longer babies but one is special since he broke (or born malformed) his wings so he now looks like an airplane. Both wings stick straight out. 

Each group had a different family of meerkats to look after. We had the "Fatties". There are 4 of them and yes they were on the chubby side but they did manage to come off their diet which made them happy! I loved our group, very cheeky though glad I was leaving when I did because ours were getting annoying with their digging and tossing all of the sand straight into their waterhole. So we had been attempting to outsmart them by placing rocks around one side of their waterhole. Wasn't working to well! 
Meerkats Pic by MT

And the best for last, my 2 dear pumbas (warthogs). If you saw my Christmas card you will know I fell in love with 2 very cute warthogs ( Ham and Bacon). Who would have thought out of all the animals at Harnas , 2 warthogs capture my heart? Lol They are roughly a year old and were born/raised at Harnas.  Not much to say about them other then they are insanely cute , happy pigs :D 

How couldn't you love this face? 

In some senses, they weren't the most exciting animals to have since we didn't have the older cheetahs  or the baby baboons but most of the animals I grew to love.

Harnas Wildlife Foundation : Expect the unexpected!

I will preface this post to say that: Yes I know I am running 5 weeks behind on my blog but I was busy having fun playing with lots of very cool animals. :D 

But saying that here is what I have been doing for the past 5 weeks...

Harnas Wildlife Foundation 

Harnas Wildlife Foundation was originally a family run cattle farm owned by Nick and Marieta van der Merwe. Over the years it slowly became a sanctuary for wild animals all starting with an abused vervet monkey they bought from someone on the side of the road. Harnas has now been open in 1993.  To help with the care of all the animals, they have a volunteer program which is what I was a part of for the past 5 weeks. The farm is 10 000 hectars that is divided into different sections: 2000 for the main house, village and smaller enclosures. And the rest is the "Life Line" which is wild bush that has cheetahs and other prey animals. 

They have a huge range of animals at the farm. Everything from the big exciting cats ( lions, leopards and cheetahs) to the smallest meerkat and hamster and everything in between. 

I had been very excited about volunteering here and only been waiting to get here forever. Got even more excited after talking with Alana and is super fun to see her again as well. 

The volunteers live about half a kilometer from the actual farm in a little “village” of cabins. All of the cabins are named after different Namibian tribes. I am in Kavango. We also have a tiny little pool and a dinning /hang out area where we have supper and a bonfire area. The cabins have solar powered lights, so we use them only as needed. And at the moment it is just Laura (18, gap year travelling from Denmark) and I with 2 spare beds. By the 2nd week, we were joined by Lara ( South African) and Livia ( Swiss). So it became the confusing with all of the "L"!

There are 9 of us who arrived the week I did. And it was a really good mix of people from the 4 Australians (Matt, Tim, Lili, Dominique), 2 Germans ( Thomas and Frauke), 1 Danish ( Laura) and one Belgium ( Tamara). In total there was less than 30 of us volunteers there but can be as many as 60. 

It is a very popular place for Europeans to visit, in particular Germany due to a reality TV show that is filmed at Harnas that is shown there. 

To somewhat simplify talking about the next 5 weeks, I am going to divide it up into the different activities that I did during my time there. So there will be: food prep, research, baboon walk, animal interactions, outside feeding and tours. 

And might try to post some photos here as well. 

Talk soon!