Thursday, 28 February 2013

Dinner with Elephants

Dinner with Elephants
Imagine enjoying a wonderful candle lit dinner while gazing out over an unrestricted view of the African bush, stretching to the horizon and on and on.
I'm describing an evening at the Victoria Falls Safari lodge, from where I am writting this note.
Imagine also enjoying word class cuisine and fine wines while watching elephants (illuminated in the clear moonlight) drinking at a waterhole, all the while several hyena scrounge around in a clearing just 15 meters below us.
As I write I can hear calls of Jackal comming from somewhere in the distance, bringing a revered hush from my fellow dinners as they listen to the nightly operatic performance that is Africa.
Earlier, we had spent a thrilling afternoon enjoying the amazing sights and raw natural power of the Victoria Falls.
It would be fair to say that it's been quite a good day.
And then consider that this is day twelve of our safari, with each previous day having provided amazing African wildlife experiences.
That is what makes an On Track Safari different. Join us in Africa and Experience the Difference.

Written by Will Fox
On Track Safaris

Sunday, 17 February 2013

OTS Manger Will Fox interviewed about Leopards

Excerpts from a fireside interview with On Track Safaris manager Will Fox representing the INGWE Leopard Research project. Originally shown on Wildearth TV.

Wills passion and the reason we created On Track Safaris is to help conserve free roaming leopards in South Africa.

Written by Carol Fox

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Lynsey safe and well

One part of our work in leopard conservation, is to monitor leopard behaviour using GPS tracking systems. These systems are great when they work, but...you're ahead of me...when they don't they lead to no end of worry for us.
During the filming of a TV documentary with us last year (coming to your screen soon folks!), we collared a big female leopard that we called Lynsey. All was well and we were getting some great data from her collar, until around a month ago when the collar stopped working.
To be honest although no-one said as much, we were all worried about her. She could have been injured or killed in a fight (she was trying to take over her mothers territory), or worse, she could have wandered out of our protected zone and into a poachers snare.
Okay so those were irrational thoughts, after all we had no evidence to say there was a problem other than not recieving any data from her collar, but it's just like having a kid who has gone off to play without telling you. You can't help but worry.
Anyway, there is a happy ending to the story. We have found Lynsey safe and well, however her very expensive collar is obviously faulty.

I have been offered a replacement for the collar, but that's little compensation. I have caught and collared quite a few big cats and hyenas and it isn't as easy as it sounds, nor is it something we do without considering a number of ethical and welfare issues.

The radio transmitter on Lynseys collar is still working, it's just the GPS part thats not, so we'll keep monitoring her using that. But we will put the replacement collar to good use. I have a friend who we visit on safari, who is helping to repopulate a huge wildlife reserve in Malawi. If he gets injured leopards in his centre who can't be returned to where they were found (for whatever reason) then he sends them to Malawi where they form part of a very exciting international project to re-establish wildlife after years of depravation. I love it when a plan comes together...

Written by Will Fox
www.ontracksafaris.co.uk

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Wildlife Conservation is we are about.

Will working with a sedated leopard before releasing it on the Thaba Tholo Wilderness Reserve
The reason that Carol and I started a Safari company all those years ago was to help support our work in wildlife conservation and particularly with leopard research. Of-course we also want our guests to enjoy all that an African safari should offer, great bush accommodation and fantastic game viewing, but we go one step (or actually many steps) further, and encourage our guests to be involved with our work in conservation. That involvement will vary depending on each guests wishes, but our aim is to open doors to the world of wildlife conservation that would normally only be accessible to professional conservationists.
Safari guests leaning more about tracking big cats
As seen in the pic at the top of the page, my passion is for leopards but moreover it is for the cause of wildlife conservation in general. Part of that cause is to reach out to the young people of our area and encourage them to understand more about conservation. That starts by helping local schools, for example the kids from Sizo Primary pictured below. We have organised computers for this rural school where under privileged children now (for the first time), have the chance to use computers, which is the first step to gaining their confidence in us and then to lean more about conservation. We can visit local schools as part of each safari if our guests would like to do so. Many have and have also generously donated to supporting our schools program which has been wonderful and long may it continue.
But taking us back to our ethos of enabling guests to be involved with our work in conservation. Take the picture below of Rudi and myself checking a leopard traffic route on our fence line (pic taken by a safari guest). During what seemed like a routine activity, we found Hyena hair on the wire, which lead us to tracking the spoor of a Brown Hyena with all our guest excitedly using their new learned tracking skills to follow up on the clues that nature had left us.
Jon us in Africa and be involved as much or as little as you prefer.

Written by Will Fox
www.ontracksafaris.co.uk