June has come and gone and winter is officially here. I woke up one morning to find ice on my windscreen and an air temperature of 0.8oC. Getting out of the tent before dawn when it is this cold is not appealing but I know that by October I will be wishing for winter once more. The Boteti River is also rising significantly and it is now no longer possible to drive across the river at Leroo La Tau. Earlier this month the water level rose 7cm in 2 days.
Within the Makgadikgadi there are now two distinct populations of zebra. There are those which have remained around the seasonal waterholes in the east and those which have migrated back to the Boteti River. The fact that there are so many around the Boteti is quite confusing as there is still so much water available to the zebra in the east around the open grasslands. Perhaps the urge to migrate and follow traditional movement patterns is stronger than we think. Or maybe the grazing in the west around the Boteti is significantly better – although at first glance this doesn’t appear to be the case. It may even be linked to predation or the prevalence of mosquitoes in the east which has caused the zebra to migrate west.
I am now working hard to collect as much data as I can from both the eastern and western Makgadikgadi to try and understand what is currently occurring. Grass and faeces samples are being collected to compare the quantity and quality of the available grazing resources. The remaining waterholes are still being sampled in the east to record water quality changes and behavioural observations are being conducted to record activity patterns.
Towards the end of June I received the replacement GPS collars which I am hoping to deploy during July. Locating and darting collared zebra is always a challenge as they seem to know that they are being targeted and so the darting process is likely to take some time. There is also a significant cost involved with the darting which I had not expected and so I am now looking to raise funds to help cover these costs. If you feel that you might be able to help with these costs then please let me know and I would look forward to hearing from you.
If you have any questions or comments about anything to do with zebras and the research then please feel free to get in touch.
Best wishes to you all,