Les Carlisle: Group Conservation Manager
Attending a meeting in Africa can be quite an experience
There’s never a dull moment when you travel in Africa. A late invitation to attend the Botswana Rhino Management Committee meeting meant that I had to cut short my Tanzanian trip to get to Orapa mine in Botswana.
My trip ended on the absolutely still rim of the Ngorongoro Crater, with the distant shimmer of the pink plumage of greater and lesser flamingo reflecting off the glassy surface of Lake Magadi. While almost invisible in this picture, with binoculars you could actually distinguish the species, as the lesser flamingo are markedly darker from a distance than the greater flamingo.
I took this picture from my room at the incredible &Beyond Ngorongoro Crater Lodge.
Cutting short my East African trip, I travelled from the crater down the hill to Lake Manyara Airstrip and experienced the most exhilarating take-off, soaring right over the lip of the Great Rift Valley and then over the forests of Lake Manyara National Park. The flight from Manyara gave us tantalising glimpses of the summit Mt Kilimanjaro through fleeting gaps in the clouds. From Kilimanjaro Airport it was on to Nairobi for an overnight stop and then on from Nairobi to Gaborone in Botswana and finally up to Maun.
A beautiful pre-dawn start from Maun had Michelle Gouche and me craning our necks to look out for cattle and potholes as the dawn forced the darkness back. This is a very testing time to be on the road, as it is not yet light enough to see well but already not dark enough for the lights of the car to make an impact. We spotted some impala and a few warthog amongst the cattle, horses, donkeys and goats that use the warm black tar surface as a bed. The sun was well up already before we had our first spot of excitement – a pair of bat eared foxes hurling themselves across the road in front of us, their bat ears pinned back as they made impressive haste into the sparse sandy bush along the road. The doves always seem to play chicken with the car, flashing past the windscreen with centimetres to spare – positively suicidal in my mind. One unfortunate bird misjudged our approach speed and thudded into the windscreen.
After entering the Orapa security gate and passing the game fences we turned towards Orapa Airfield. Suddenly, an impala came hurtling across the road about 200m ahead of us, followed closely by a leopard. The impala turned when it reached the fence alongside the road and came straight towards us. The leopard broke off the attack by diving under the fence through a warthog hole and disappearing into the scrub.
What a drive to a rhino meeting!
The Botswana Rhino Management Committee comprises representative of all rhino owners and the state departments involved in rhino security. &Beyond was officially welcomed to the committee after being given a chance to share who we are and what our credentials in rhino management were. Most importantly, we were there to update the meeting on the progress on our donation of six white rhino to Botswana. We were very well received, I think in large part due to the preliminary discussions at the last meeting, when Kai Collins of Okavango Wilderness Safaris and Dr Verreynne sought formal permission from the committee for the project. A very big thank you to OWS, Kai, Map Ives and Dr Eric Verreynne for their support and input so far.
All the paperwork has now been submitted for the CITES permits and the final insurance quotes are being considered. The project will hopefully kick off in January and should result in the rhino being on the ground by March 2013 if all the paperwork comes through. The most important consideration at this time is the one of temperature versus water levels in the Delta. If we wait for the coolest temperature we will have the highest water levels to contend with and, when the water levels are at their lowest, the temperature is at its highest.
Motorite Administrators are once again thanked for their confidence in this project, as they have committed cash in Botswana and South Africa. Without them this exciting project would not be happening! And, of course, there are other exciting developments on the funding side, as RHINO FORCE, our funding partners, are helping raise more funds for projects focused on saving our rhino populations through the sale of their beaded bracelets.
Dust devils were our farewell party as we drove away from the Makgadikgadi Pans back Maun.
I will be keep you updated about some more scenes from my Tanzanian trip shortly. In the meantime, this image of a stunning lilac breasted roller, taken at &Beyond Klein’s Camp, could be captioned, “Sometimes I sits and thinks and sometimes I just sits.”