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2 posts from October 2015

10/30/2015

Interning at Mokolodi Nature Reserve

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Post by Stephen Suttle from Santa Clara University

Working at Mokolodi Nature Reserve has been one of the highlights of my time studying abroad here in Gaborone. Each day at the reserve starts with Jake and I waking up at the crack of dawn, catching a combi to the station as the fantastically orange sun rises higher in the sky. Once at the station we hop on a bus to Taung, which passes Mokolodi where we disembark usually with a few other reserve employees. Then the only standing between us and starting our day working at the reserve is a 1.5 kilometer walk to the entrance. After arriving at Mokolodi, we usually start the day by feeding the cheetah, or in the case of the last visit, the hyena. 

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Early morning cheetah and hyena feeds

After they have had their fill of a combination of rabbit, chicken, and impala, we set out on the next task we have been given for the day, which often is supplementary feeding for the grazing animals. Due the severe drought that Botswana is currently facing, Mokolodi is suffering a food shortage, as there is not sufficient naturally occurring grass to sustain the grazing animal populations, and this food shortage is compounded by other factors which prevent the growth of grass, like invasive species, topsoil erosion, and soil compaction. So to increase food availability for the rhinoceros, kudu, impala, eland, and several other species of animals, nutrient enriched hay is loaded up into the back of a pickup truck, and dumped at one of many feeding points around the reserve

S3Warthogs slowly approaching the newly delivered food at a feeding point

In addition to supplementary feeding, I have been tasked with bush clearing, erosion control, and algae removal. Bush clearing is exactly what it sounds like, and consists of laborers from the village of Mokolodi clearing out invasive species, namely the sickle bush, using all sorts of tools including saws, axes, shears, and machetes. Erosion control is similarly arduous work, as rocks are collected from the around the reserve, and piled into sinkholes to slow the process of soil erosion. Although it seems tedious, it is some of the most vital work to the success of the reserve, as reduction of soil erosion leads to improved topsoil conditions, allowing grass seeds to germinate, restoring the native species and providing more food to the game on the reserve.

Last week I assisted with algae removal from the crocodile pond, because the entire surface of the water was covered with bright green algae. To remove it we dug a channel flowing out of the pond and flooded it slowly. As the top layer of the water flowed out of the pond, the algae was scooped up with nets. However we had to be weary of the crocodile as we cleaned, as it burst out of the water and attacked the net a few times.

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Our crocodilian friend basking in the sun

My time spent at Mokolodi has given me a deep appreciation for wild animals, as well as the efforts conducted by many hardworking individuals to save these magnificent species. The Mokolodi Nature Reserve is a wonderful place dedicated to conservation, and also creates a  multitude of jobs in the process. 88 employees work at the reserve, with fewer than 5 international personnel, so the majority of workers are Batswana, providing employment to the local community. It is truly a unique place.

Once In Cape Town

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Post by Keante Marshall from  University of California, Santa Cruz

Studying abroad in Gaborone, Botswana is amazing and it has been an experience that I will always cherish in my heart. During my study abroad program, we are granted a mid-semester break (September 21-27th) where most students take this opportunity to travel throughout southern Africa. I myself chose to travel to Cape Town, South Africa and it was honestly one of the best experiences of my life! I flew out of Gaborone, Botswana with Air Botswana directly into Cape Town, South Africa. I stayed an entire week in Cape Town and I wish I had a longer time to spend.

When I arrived in Cape Town I was accommodated by the best hostel EVER, “Once in Cape Town.” Once In Cape Town is a hostel (similar to a hotel except the rooms are shared and mostly attracts the young crowd) that has a very hipster feel to it. Inside there are so many cool accommodations and amenities. For example: there is a café, two bars (one on the first floor and the other on the second floor), a backyard with a fire pit, a communal kitchen, and there is even a computer lab with a private skype room that has an IPad set up for anyone wishing to skype. The staff are all so friendly and cool, you’ll think to yourself “I wish I had this cool job.” If I ever go back to Cape Town I am definitely staying at Once.

K2                   Best hostel ever : Once In Cape Town

Aside from my housing experience, I participated in some thrilling and adventurous activities. Two of my biggest highlights of the trip were hiking Lions Head and going shark cage diving.  Lions Head is really Steep Mountain with a breathtaking view. This hike consisted various obstacles like climbing staples, ladders, etc. At first I was very intimidated to climb the mountain. Throughout the hike I contemplated going back and not finishing. However with the motivation of friends I made along the hike, I was able to tackle the whole mountain and make it to the top. When I go to the top I was extremely proud of myself for doing something I doubted myself for.

K3          Finally made it to the top : Lions Head!

Moreover, shark cage diving was really fun and super exciting. The shark cage diving company picked us up from our accommodation and drove us 2 hours out to Dansbaai to the diving point. After a brief orientation and walkthrough we boarded a boat and went out about 3 miles into the open ocean. We were given wet suits and were thrown right into the cage to see sharks. The entire process was amazing, but the best part was being about 3 feet away from a great white shark!

K4Most exciting experience ever : Shark Cage Diving!

Cape Town, South Africa was amazing.  One day I hope to visit again. I had the experience of a lifetime and made some really cool friends. I will cherish the moments I had, forever. 

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