Painted Dogs and Ivory

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Africa » Botswana
May 12th 2018
Published: October 27th 2019
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Yesterday got to new smaller minibus for 3 hr journey east to lodge camp for Hwange national park for next safari. As now only 11 of us (3 eaten by lions and. 2 by leopard), very small, cramped and uncomfortable journey on bumpy roads. Made up for by comfortable lodge on edge of water hole, which attracted dozens of elephants and kuda (antelope). Lodges on stilts and nice viewing balcony. No glass in Windows, only canvas blind. So could hear lion roaring and elephants trumpeting, from bed. Us, not elephants. 2 nights there so chance to unpack / repack backpack and even had a bath. Early start this morning for 10 hr safari in Hwange park, which is the size of Belgium. But without the beer or chocolate. Saw loads more animals, with a whole lot of giraffe, zebra, the and elephants round the same watering hole and a large pride of lions complete with Cubs. Again at very close range. Right beside the jeep! Amazed how relaxed they were with the jeep, although if anyone got out, or even moved suddenly, we would be attacked. The guide related several horrific stories. So we behaved! Also large family of baboons playing. Countless species of very exotic birds (eat your heart out LYALL!).
Highlight though was a sighting of a pack of 6 ‘painted’ dogs (African wild dogs), which at only 200 in the world, are in imminent danger of extinction, and very rare to see in the wild. Our guide was very excited, as of course were we! In fact, we saw nearly 4% of the entire remains population in one sighting! Having visited the rehabilitation project the previous afternoon, this was very magical. The main cause of death is incidental ensnarement meant by poachers aiming to trap antelope. The project aims to educate local children in a camp facility as well as treating the few survivors. The children are also taken on a safari drive to see the animals in a positive light rather than just eating their goats and trampling their meagre crops. The idea is to try to prevent them becoming poachers when adult. After 15 yrs this approach seems to be working and dog numbers have increased from about 20 to 200. Success indeed. Beautiful dogs with a very hard and dangerous life. Fingers crossed for their survival. Poachers are quite rightly, now shot on sight.
Tomorrow brings a long drive across the border to Botswana and the Chobe river and river safaris.
So far very few mosquitos but apparently more in Botswana. Keep taking the tablets!
So far absolutely amazing trip and feel very lucky and privileged to be able to do it. In many ways thanks to Jane and Emma for looking after (and no doubt spoiling) the Shmoogs. 🐕. Woof.
Onward and upward!

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