Over here in Botswana the dry season has officially begun because zebra are now resident in their dry season range! This means that my fieldwork can start in earnest and we can start to see how things have been affected by the fence. 6 of the 9 collared zebra have now returned to the Boteti region with the remaining 3 still grazing in the east. However, there can't be that much water left out there and I expect these 3 to migrate shortly.
Since I last posted a message to this blog we have spent the majority of our time in camp conducting fieldwork. We successfully conducted the water sampling of all 17 artificial waterholes and all water samples have been delivered to the HOORC in Maun for detailed chemical analysis. We managed to visit all of the waterholes within 2 days, in the process driving the length of the western fence line. Unfortunately 4 waterholes were not pumping at the time of sampling but hopefully these will be fixed shortly. As would be expected, the waterholes in the riverbed provide nicer water than the boreholes located away from the riverbed. However, the variation in water quality between the waterholes did surprise me slightly and it will be interesting to see how the more detailed tests of each water sample vary.
Some of these waterholes are used mainly by the bull elephants which reside in the Makgadikgadi. This means that when you go to sample these waterholes you are likely to come across elephants at some of them. At the first waterhole we had to approach slowly in order to persuade the 4 elephants that were there to move away far enough for us to collect our samples. When we arrived at a later waterhole in the riverbed there were no animals there and so we collected the water and began to conduct the in-situ tests which were required. While waiting for the results of these tests, three elephants suddenly appeared on the ridge above the waterhole ready to come down to drink. However, I think they were so surprised to see a car relatively close to the waterhole that they stopped suddenly, considered their options, made a lot of noise, turned around and ran off in the opposite direction. We were glad that the elephants decided it was them that should move along and not us. Shortly afterwards we found them drinking at the next waterhole a little further along the riverbed where we waited until they had finished drinking before sampling.
Since the return of the zebra migration in mid May we have spent the time tracking collared zebra, conducting some initial behavioural observations and recording the body condition of adult zebra. From 1st June we will begin the first full month of dry season fieldwork by locating and sampling the preferred grazing resources of collared zebra. We will also continue with the observations and will also conduct the first 12 hour, sunrise to sunset, focal observations on different collared zebra.
I also mentioned in my last blog post that I was hoping to have the names for the remaining collared zebra from school children at Khumaga. When I collected the latest letters written by children at Khumaga to their pen friends at Lanercost and Hayton schools, I also collected a selection of names for zebra as chosen bu the standard 7 children. I have now been through this selection, along with the staff at Leroo La Tau who explained the meaning of each name, and have chosen names for each of the collared zebra. These names are: Mmamotse, Boseja,Bojang, Banyana, Kgarebe e ntle, Dintlenyane, Bontle and Amantle. Unfortunately the names Shirley and Beauty didn't quite make the cut!
If you have any questions or comments you would like to make on anything to do with the project then please feel free to get in touch either via the blog or email.
Till next time.