10.1.06 0 °F
Entry # 28 B – Second week with baboons
Monday, September 4
An overcast day with a little breeze that was a nice change from the cold nights and hot, warm days recently. I did not put on sun block today.
The new baby in Bip Bop is doing well. I still have not settled on an appropriate name for her. I am feeling much more comfortable with this troop and identifying the individuals.
I have not started taking any photographs. I need to start soon, but I am having a hard time figuring out how to capture what I am experiencing. Not even a video could capture the total experience.
Several things happened today, which were unexpected.
First, I have a roommate – Verena from Germany. I was unaware that more people were coming and I am not sure why I got her versus the other bedroom that has spare beds. She seems nice, is older and has already done a volunteer placement in Swaziland two years ago. I think she will be fine.
The infant baboon baby that was being carried by a sub adult was finally visible to the kitchen staff. The only problem with this situation is that a sub adult will not be able to feed an infant that young and the hope was that we could get the baby into out custody and start feeding her. This pair had been spotted several days ago, but they were never in a position to be caught and we knew that we would have only one chance, as the troop might descend on the rescuer if there was too much alarm given. There was a little discussion about how best to catch her and Lee spread corn and peanuts all over the area, so that the troop would be distracted. Bennet was ready with the dart and it was hoped that as soon as she was darted, she would drop the baby. Then the plan was to catch the baby and get it inside as soon as possible.
Once she was darted, she disappeared like a shot and went far up into the property. At one point, the sub adult was asleep and had let go of the baby, but before Lee could get the baby, a huge male from the troop took up the baby. They left and were planning to try again later but a few hours later, the sub adult was back awake with the baby, but the baby was obviously dead. The group felt sad and yet realized that the chances of the baby living within our care was jeopardized by the length of time that she had been without her mother. Nature sometimes appears cruel.
The last thing was that I did not have any time with the small babies today and I missed them terribly. I had two individual hours with the mediums and I felt very beaten up by them. Both hours were before noon when they are at their most active. I was bit and had my hair pulled and unfortunately, they got me on both shins within one minute of each other. OUCH!
I also made large inroads in the volunteer laundry and the freezer clean out in preparation for the shopping to be done tomorrow. No one has said much about it, but I feel I have done well and am pleased with the results.
Tuesday, September 5 – Lynn’s 23rd birthday, bbq, goodbye Sara.
10:00 Lower Deck
1:00-3:00 Nursery babies
Sara, the American girl from Virginia who goes to Ohio State and who had a bout of major diarrhea and feels she is leaving Africa with intestinal worms, left today. She lived next door with Lynn and spent my first week in bed watching DVD’s and drinking Energyaid (similar to Gatorade).
It was lovely to be back with the small babies. They all stopped by for a little hello and cuddle and Paprika even had her first massage and nap.
As I had mentioned, my mission is to contribute to the areas that caused me concern or which benefited me when I arrived – the communal food organization, the shower, the laundry line and the extra clothes. Today, with the laundry line empty for the first time in weeks, I was able to clean the lower deck as assigned. YAAAH!.
Bottles at 11 showed me that after 10 days on location, I still did not have all the details in my head. I had made larger than necessary bottles for the small babies and fed them in the wrong order. Not that much of deal, except if you give them the food first, they have no interest in the bottles. Early on, Sara had asked if I had any suggestions about their set up for volunteers, and I will bring up this topic.
SIX ELEPHANTS! They were drinking at the river and when I had them in my binoculars, I could hear their sounds from where I was. Without seeing them, I don’t believe the sounds that they were making would have registered to my ears.
I spent some time with Charlie, the Samango, and I can now recognize his unique call. He is still incredibly handsome, which I tell him, every time I see him. I
I have been trying to figure out how to describe the call that the large male baboons make when they are excited. It sounds like WAHOO with an emphasis on the WAH and the hoo is very much an after thought.
I also make a special effort to say Hi to Naked Guy every time I pass him and tell him he is handsome, the meer cats (2 of them and very cute) and the ground squirrel.
FOSTER MOMS And the TINIES
Currently, we have four ladies who are acting as foster mom’s to the tiniest babies; Lee, who is staff, with Elle (who is long and elegant and only 10 weeks of age), Sarah, who is staff, with Icarus and Tortilla (Icarus is 11 weeks, Tortilla is 10 weeks), Kim with Corey (who is 4 weeks) and our birthday girl, Lynn with Mica (4 weeks). People who stay a longer time receive babies to foster, as you need to spend lots of time with them early. Both, Lynn and Kim are staying at least two months. When the tinies are 6 months, they may be ready to go into an existing baby pen. This group, if more babies come, may become their own troop and the current older pens may move up.
There is one pen that we call the nursery and typically, each of the foster moms will spend several hours in the pen watching all the babies. The mom’s that are not there will leave a shirt of sweater with their scent so that if the baby stresses when they are away, they can lay on it and smell the mom. When the baby is really stressed they will flatten themselves on the shirt as much as possible. When the babies are with us in the house, they all wear little preemie nappies with a hole cut in the butt for the tail to stick out. When they are in the pen, most of them go without diapers. They are very cute with the little nappies on.
Early in the relationship, the foster mom and baby are on light duties so that babies can bond with the mom. At this point, the schedule looks a little out of balance, but when you consider that they are up, sometimes all night with a baby who wants to play, you soon realize that any extra work that comes your way is easier than what they go through in the beginning. Lynn lives next door to me and the walls are not solid, but I almost never hear the baby during the night.
Today, was my first day to really spend time with the nursery babies. They generally have stranger anxiety until they get to know you and for the first hour, they did a perimeter check and gave me a wide berth. Finally, with Alethia, who they knew a little better, they were finally coming over to me and counting coo. A new foster baby arrived today at 6 weeks of age and Pam is the new foster mom. She has named him Kiyoshi in honor of her grandfather. By the second hour, Lee arrived with the lady who brought in Kiyoshi and finally, little Icarus was coming over and flopping on the
Miscommunication with Sara from staff today about my final assignment with Medium Babies. The third person for ship was in small babies and I offered to trade with her for a while so that they could do ship. I also admit, that I prefer the smalls, but I intended to go back as soon as they had finished in the medium’s pen.
Today was had a BBQ for Lynn’s birthday which would include chicken, corn on the cob and sausage on an wood fire pit BBQ. Before the BBQ, Sarah asked Gemma and I to go get the crate from the mamba kitchen. It was getting dark so off we went with our flashlight to find it. We came back empty handed and were told to look for a rectangular grate with legs on it. We went back again and were still empty handed. Luckily, Lee arrived and said it was in a different location and it did not have feet. Ah! Communication.
I was on dish clean up tonight which was a large number of dishes, but as I not had many shifts as this, I felt it was fair. I had lots of people wanting to help me, so they did my part of clearing the table and putting things away, the part of clean up that I don’t like.
Wednesday, September 6
7:45-9:00 Small Babies
11:00 Upper Deck and lounge
1:00 Medium Babies
Pam was in the throws of new mommydom, so I monitored by myself. Other workers were in the area feeding the pens, so they were stirred up as where the wild troop. At one point, two big males came chasing down the narrow corridor I was standing in and the first one grabbed at my pocket. Another example of how they are wild animals and never to be taken for granted. The nice thing about seeing the troops when they are fed is that you get a better handle on the dominance order of the groups. I am still trying to figure out by the amount of swellings and the colors if I can determine which of the females may be pregnant or at the peak of heat. Two more weeks to work it out.
Today I had the lounge clean up which is where most of the communal clothes are kept. I took them all out before I vacuumed and organized them into what needed to be pitched, laundered and what was ready for storage. In the chest of drawers, the clothes all needed to be laundered and they drawers vacuumed to remove the tons of rat turds. Another thing on my list accomplished. I just need to keep up with the clothes that are left by other departing volunteers and let Lee and Sara know where I have put things.
The vacuum! It is a shop vac and I had a bit of a time figuring out how to make the thing suck. I finally realized that there is only one way to place the top so that it seals and has a vacuum. With help from above with those with wings, I finally had it in place and began to vacuum. I was so enthusiastic; I managed to break the bit of attachment for the largest carpet head. I am now trying to remember where I hid the duct tape from myself so that I can repair it. I will tell Lee tomorrow.
Even with not much sleep last night due to the late evening and the soon to be full moon, I had a good day.
Thursday, September 7
8:00 Clean up
10:00 Medium Babies
11:00 – 2:00 Break and signs
3:00 Small Babies
Let’s see, besides hitting a co-volunteer in the head with a rock, not much else happened today. It was when we were giving Big Babies their bottles, and they are notorious for escaping into the tree house with bottles and nipples and not giving them back, that I pitched a rock to encourage one to drop the bottle and caught Catarina on the side of the head. No blood and she was very generous to accept my apology.
We are still having issues with Star in Small Babies, our ADHD candidate, who is becoming very aggressive with the other cages and getting herself bitten and therefore bites us. We have been told when she bites, we are supposed to hold her close and give her positive attention and/or try to distract her with grooming, cuddles or food. As I entered the pen, she was on the ledge being pulled by 4 from the medium babies. When I finally got her away, I took her over to the water pool and tried to calm and hug her. She did not bite me, but fought to get away. Immediately, she was back up the tree and doing it again. I retrieved her again and offered her a potato. Once down on the ground, she went up for the third time and I went to retrieve her and this time, once given food, she settled and began to eat and play with the others.
She was fine for another 25 minutes, and then she had one more trip up to intimidate the neighbors, so I brought her back down and offered her a potato. Finally, when she was playing with others, I gave her the play face and she jumped at me and I swung her around and played for a minute. I think she will be fine if she can just continue to receive consistent treatment from the volunteers. My estimation of Star is that she is highly anxious, is nervous with too many people in the pen, is typical ADHD and easily distracted and that you have got to think ahead for her, because she acts off her spinal cord. Most of the more experience volunteers know when and how to intervene, but the new people are still intimidated and do more screaming than effective movements. If people cannot handle her appropriately, they will not be able to monitor the small babies.
Kim, one of our volunteers who has ADD, told me the following joke – How many ADHD does it take to change a light bulb? Let’s ride bikes!
There was a bit a drama for one of the young volunteers from the UK who was taking it personally that the baboons would not come to her to be cuddled or carried in at the end of the day. I remember feeling that way with human babies and I know now that you cannot force them. They will pick who they pick and they will come to people that they know and people with calm energy. Making them wrong and announcing to one and all what a failure you are will not turn the situation around.
The new item on the list for me today was putting up the newly painted signs on some of the individual cages. I had the signs, but needed the handsaw, drill and adapter with power to accomplish my task. I also had several, but not enough, pieces of wire, and pliers to twist the ends together. (NOTE TO SELF – Don’t tell people that you know how to work with wire!) It took a while to gather all the supplies and glean additional bits of wire needed to hold them to the fence. The drill had a bit with the longest shank I have ever seen. After all was said and done, I realized that I had miscounted and had forgotten to do the sign for Colin. At least tomorrow, I know where all the equipment is and should be able to do it quickly given an hour off from my regular scheduled duties.
Also today, Josephine, the cleaner who works for Rita, came up to the Mountain Lodge and gave the kitchen a really good clean. Around lunchtime, Rita came up with I think the architect who will remodel the lodge for future volunteers. I can’t wait to see or hear about all the improvements. I hope they figure out a way to get rid of the rats, which is my main issue at this point.
I am at the stage of this placement where I am feeling the strain of the community and never being able to get away from them. Chain link fences surround all of our houses and areas and you begin to wonder, who is in the cage. We are not encouraged to go into the bush with out company as we are in a game reserve that includes all the wildlife, even the carnivores. I have been here for 14 days and have not had even a half - day off, and I most likely will not get one, except for the day excursion to Kruger one weekend. I find the age and inexperience of some of the volunteer team a challenge. I keep asking for a new way at looking at things and the words that will get my needs met without burning any bridges. This will be my mantra for the next two weeks.
Friday, September 8
9:00-11:00 Small babies
12:00 Lower deck
1:00 Medium Babies
3:00-5:00 – Nursery Babies
Another breezy, overcast day which was nice.
Not a lot new today. Josephine has been designated at the manager for the Mountain Lodge. Yesterday she totally cleaned the kitchen and it is a sight to see. Today she attacked the lower deck with hose and scrub brush. She ended up doing my assigned duties for Noon so I took the time to finally get Colin’s sign up on his cage. I could not find the drill and suspected that Bennet had it with him. Cleverly I brought the sign with me and sure enough, he had the drill and a power source. Colin’s sign went up in less than 15 minutes. YAAAH! Completion.
The Tinies still do no more than come up and touch me, but I have hope by the time that I leave they will accept me.
Star is still having issues, but we have noticed that she is not the instigator, just a willing participant. The other pen gets up at the grill, usually 5-6 of them, and flash their eyes and she responds. I had to remove her 9 times before she finally settled. She ended up really biting me, so I pined her down, and within 5 minutes had forgiven me and was back on my lap with a potato.
Tomorrow, I was supposed to cook, so I was planning how to get the noodles cooked for tuna noodle casserole during the day. What I learned at dinner was that we were going to be treated to a proper South African Bri (BBQ) so I am off the hook to cook until Monday.
I go to Kruger with Charlotte on Sunday that will be a welcome break from work and CARE for one day. I won’t have to wear my contacts that will be good as my eyes are getting a little tired. One more day of work and then my first photo safari!
Saturday, September 9
7:45 Small Babies
10:00-11:00 Medium Babies
2:00-3:00 Medium Babies
3:00 Tidy crates
Hello to Alice from Toronto today.
Long day today with lots of things to do. Two shifts of medium babies with the standard two Violet and Caley vying for my lap. Violet was named because her face was so bruised by the mom dropping her from height before they managed to get her away. My second shift found them both on my lap, Violet napping and Caley being ridiculous until she finally bit a co-volunteer and then 7 minutes before my shift was up, finally fell asleep on my chest. Just as I was leaving I had four, two asleep and two trying to be groomed or massaged. One of them was Alice, the pickpocket and chubby girl. I try to tell them to get in early to get their massages but some times their schedules are such that they cannot manage it.
Huge monitor lizard walked down the hill between the lower house and cages towards the river. Four times the size of the ones on Kangaroo Island. Very impressive and the baboons thought so too and they all went to the side of the cage where they could see him. They are very curious and nosey and know what is going on around them at all times.
Monitoring today by myself with no dramas. Charlie is still handsome and I have officially named the two babies, one in each troop. The one in Sindle that had been born 10 days before I arrived is Elf and the new baby in Bip Bop is Button. Both little girls and mighty sweet.
A list of things that the baboons will be offered to eat include sweet potato, bell peppers, bread, apples, cabbage, melon or pumpkin and occasionally other assorted fruits and veggies. In the milk kitchen there are also peanuts, hard corn kernels, nuts and sometimes little candies such as gummy worms. Also in the milk kitchen are eggs (19 twice a day) that are filled with vitamin supplements and are given to the elderly baboons.
The new item on the list today was tidy the crate area or the food shed area. As we receive different foodstuffs on a daily basis, there are usually different food scrapes on the floor. Today we were raking up the huge outer cabbage leaves and bread remnants. Those were loaded into crates and then taken outside the compound and given to the wild troop to eat.
After that task, we had a mountain of boxes to be cut down and stacked neatly. It was obvious that this procedure had not been done in a long time and in fact, there is a huge garbage pile to be taken to the dump as soon as the schedule will allow. My co-volunteers were not enthusiastic participants in the box destruction, as we would unearth large cockroaches and other crawlies. (IF THEY WOULD WEAR CLOSE TOED SHOES INSTEAD OF FLIP FLOPS, IT WOULD BE HELPFUL!) We made a small dent in the pile and there will most likely be more tidy assignments in the future.
I am pooped today after work and grabbed the first shower and threw away my disposal contacts that I have been wearing for two weeks. YAAAH!
Tonight is the bbq called a Braai and include Pap, the corn maize mush that is standard South African fare. I had hoped for an early night, as I will be on the road at 6:30 tomorrow for my first photo safari! We will see.
Gemma leaves tomorrow when I am away and Alethia leaves on Monday. Alethia has been down and out for the past two days with a stomach bug but hopes to be back in action tomorrow. I will miss both these ladies, as they are very positive people and excellent workers
Sunday, September 10 – DAY OFF AND I GO TO KRUGER AND DON’T HAVE TO WEAR MY CONTACTS! YAAAAAAAH!!!!!!!!!
Hello to Leilani from Moscow, Idaho today.
6:30 am start
I was up at 6 to be ready to be picked up at 6:30 by Davi, our guide who is also a local volunteer at CARE.
We had been warned that it might be cool, so I wore my fleece and took my jacket. I did not need the later and was out of my fleece at 9:00 am. Our vehicle was an old jeep with canvas cover over the roll bar. The front passenger seat was very comfortable and included a sheepskin. The back seat had a seat about 8 inches deep with an extra cushion on top trying to make it longer and failing miserably. Charlotte and I agreed to change at each of the four planned stops, mainly to relieve the bum, but also to increase your chances of seeing things as the view from the back was minimal to the front and limited at the sides.
We stopped at the petrol station for the ATM and to stock up on treats for the trip. Once we were in Kruger, we would not be able to get out of the vehicle except at the designated stops. Kruger is a 50,000 hectares park that runs along the Eastern perimeter of South Africa near Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Recently, Mozambique added another 40, 000 hectares for a combined park. Admission was $120 rand, not quite $20.
The first things that I noticed was the number and size of the termite mounds. They are huge, twice the size of the ones in Australia. Davi said that they were grass-cutting termites and that the mound is like an iceberg with only the top 1/3 above ground. He also said that many animals use the mounds for various things including the elephants that will rest next to them and lean on them so that they can sleep standing and supported. Very impressive.
My wish was to see elephants, giraffes, zebras, hippos and as many other things as possible. The “Big 5”, from the Great White Hunter Days is the Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Cape Buffalo and the Rhino. There is also the “Small 5” which is the Lion???, Leopard Tortoise, Elephant ???, Buffalo???? and the Rhinoceros Beetle. (Not much hope of seeing any of them, but who knows!)
On the way to the first stop we saw 13 bachelor African Elephants. They are truly the most amazing animals. Magnificent and huge, elegant and slow moving, it was fascinating to see their tracks on the road and on the dirt shoulder and to watch their hind feet hit the exact same spot that their front foot as just left. I wished we had the chance to just sit and watch them, but not today. Charlotte, who had been in Botswana last year, had already done a safari and was excellent at spotting animals in the bush. She spotted our first giraffe across the river and the only zebras we saw for the entire day were far off and in the bush. I could not see them properly and they only appeared as dark figures, could have been zebra, could have been deer.
Davi told us that there are over 100,000 Impala in Kruger and they are the main food source for all the carnivores. We came across them all during the day, usually in small groups hiding in the shade. It was 32 degrees Celsius today, hot and very sunny.
Our first stop was at a one of the “camps” which is a fenced compound with a shop, restaurant and little huts with air conditioners that people can rent like hotel rooms. It looked very civilized and a little commercial. It had a large shop with lots of souvenirs and foodstuffs, as people had a choice of self-catering or eating at the restaurant. I took a picture of the stands of the plant “mother’s in laws tongue” that people buy in the shops in the US. I got in the back at this point.
As we proceeded down the road, I could tell that there were some large, dark animals in front of us. They turned out to be four very large Cape Buffalo Bulls. Known for the nasty temper, we weren’t sure if they would charge us or not, but they ended up posing for photos and then moving along the side of the road.
As we went down yet another bumpy dirt road towards an overlook over the Oliphant’s River (which is the same river that runs next to CARE), we finally came upon a female elephant herd with several calves and two large males, one obviously in Muste with the glands on his head draining. Davi was not comfortable with the bull so we moved. There were several cars that were getting way to close for comfort and Davi told us the time that he was in a seriously dangerous situation with an elephant and her calf. I must admit, I wanted to be able to stop and stay put and just enjoy them for a long time. I could hear them eating and munching and it was a soothing sound. Maybe when I am at the Lion Park, I will be able to go on another safari and we will have more time to spend in one place.
I asked Davi to point out the two most famous trees that I have heard so much about – the acacia and the baobab tree. The Acacia was just beginning to bloom and you can usually tell them apart and they are the ones with the amazingly long and sharp thorns. The Baobab tree has a massive trunk and branches that at this time of the year look absolutely bare. All the animals know that this a tree that can be a resource for them and the elephants love to eat the bark as well as the leaves. Very impressive
We were on the hunt along the river for the hippos. They can sometimes be seen by CARE, but only when the water is deeper with many pools for them to bath in. As we approach one river lookout, there they were! 4 hippos, one getting a sun tan and flat out on her side on the beach, one in the water and heading away from us and two that were climbing out of the water an beginning to graze. They were very cute and I was so happy to see them.
We were close to out lunch break at another camp with a high river lookout. As we exited the jeep, I heard a sound and wondered what I had heard. As I went around the jeep, it turned out to be Charlotte who was ill and very likely suffering with either dehydration or many a minor tummy upset due to too many baboon fingers in her mouth. Poor sweetie. She felt embarrassed and awful at the same time. We brought her bottled water and Gatorade and had her lay down in the shade on a bench.
Davi and I got a little lunch and I bought postcards and then went to over look the river. At one point, there were more hippos in view. One that I could only see the ears, eye sockets and nostrils. I think he was winking at me.
On the whole, the animal sightings that we saw were minor compared to what they can be on other days. Unfortunately, with only one day in the park, we were only able to see what we saw.
Charlotte in the front as we left the lunch stop, which I said was fine, but that I was not willing to spend the entire rest of the trip in the backseat. As Charlotte was in the front, I asked her to please draw giraffes closer to the car for us, as I had not been able to get a good shot of the only one we had seen so far. Within 5 minutes, two lovely Giraffes, on my side of the vehicle, were munching and posing for photos. FABULOUS!
After that, I asked Charlotte to please do the same thing with the zebra. No luck with zebra, but we did have positive sightings of a huge elephant herd on the horizon, a lovely Kudu buck with curling horns and very close sightings of the Yellow Beaked Hornbill and the African Fish Eagle.
Our final stop and potty break was at a location where guides sometimes bring you to a sight were there are archeological remnants of iron ore processing and spearhead manufacturing. The local guide had closed up shop for the night, but it was nice to potty and to finally get back into the front seat. On the door to the toilet, it asked you to please keep the door closed, as the baboons are very curious. I looked at the handle and after my experience at CARE now that it will take more than a closed door to keep them out.
No additional animals spotted on the way out of the park but we did see three stripped mongooses on the road up to CARE and a tree squirrel like we have at the center. We arrived back at CARE at 5:20 pm we are pooped and hot.
As I got back to my room, I looked at the calendar and I realized that although it is hard to believe, that I leave in 11 days.