Wednesday May 23- Consuming Darkness and Lion Rawrs

Another morning, another beautiful walk with the youngest cubs, Paza and Penya.

By this point in my stay at Antelope Park, my routine was ingrained in me.  Alex set her watch alarm for 5:45am.  The little devil would beep on time and I would roll out of bed (bottom bunk!), grab my glasses (which don't help much anyways when it is pitch black) and head lamp.  I proceed to grab the outfit set out for the day.

Don't judge me.  Yes, I set out an outfit for 2 reasons. (1) It is dark in the mornings and I was always the first one up and didn't want to wake my roommates by rummaging around in my drawers. (2) I'm a bit of a diva.  Things need to match, and it is harder to match clothes in the dark.

Back on track now, so after getting my goodies, I go to the bathroom next door which includes our 3 showers and toilets, and a couple of sinks, mirrors, very little light, no outlets and a lot of creepy crawlers. I go outside into the very cool morning air, to a chorus of lion rawrs (way better than a beeping watch) coming from the nearby breeding program and share a quick word with some of the few local cats (house cats, not lions).  Leaving my sleeping room behind, I go and get ready, including change and put on makeup (yes, I wore makeup everyday).  After getting ready, I go back to the room, plug in my straightener, and by this time Alex and Jenny are up, and Katherine is rolling around hoping everyone goes back to bed.  Reluctantly, Katherine gets out of bed, I start straightening my hair and the rest of the girls grumble pleasantries to each other.  When everyone is ready, it is usually about 6:15am.  Alex and I split a protein bar or apple, just because we can, and then head to the dining area to get tea.  After getting tea, we chug it back in our gloved hands and go to wait in the volunteer lounge until our lion handler show up and it is time to go.

And then it begins.  We walk to the enclosure for our lions, which for the P's is back through the dining hall, down the river to the bridge with cross a stream connecting to the river.  The grass is always dewy and sometimes is covered in frost, but the frost became more frequent further into my stay.  We would cross the bridge, and walk along the little swamp and stream which was the back drop for the lodges at Antelope Park and went and found or little kitty friends pacing at the gate.  They get anxious in the morning because it is cool, so they are more active, and it is still partially dark so it is still a potential time that they would hunt in the wild.  It also doesn't help that these little lions get scared on the big lion rawrs... little babies!

So, on our walk again, we follow the cubs through the bush as they wander through the tall grass. Eventually we return to their enclosure, and after trying a few sneak attacks to get down the bridge, the slowly walk back into their enclosure.

After our walk, we went and had breakfast, and then waited back at the volunteer lounge for our next round of duties- shit shovelling.

BPG/breeding program cleaning was calling our names so I changed into shorts because it was heating up, and grabbed a pair of sunglasses and gloves and made my way to the shed to get a shove and an extra large poop bag.

I hopped into the back of my favourite chariot and went on my way to the breeding program.  When we arrived at the enclosures of all the big cats, we were informed that they were juggling lions around and moving them to different enclosures so that they could make room for different lions and free up some enclosures.  So we were directed to a certain area, out of direct line of sight of the lions while the handlers yelled and coerced the lions to move.

Side note- all of the enclosures and interconnected by a means of gates through fences to the neighbouring enclosures or via swinging gates that create funnels to move lions to enclosures across a walking path.

Long story short, there was no poo shovelling for the next few hours because we needed into certain enclosures to clean them and the lions just were not feeling the whole "get up and move" thing.  Who could blame them?!  It was hot!

So while we watched the lion handlers whistle and yell, and the lions sit and growl at them for disturbing their peace, the rest of the volunteers and I took up residence in the sun because there was nothing we could do.  Then out of no where, creeping along the chain link fence was a little green chameleon.  I had seen a couple slowly crawling their way through the bushes up at the garden at the breeding program before, but it was always in passing and I never got a good look up close.  But now, this little, bright green fella with his coiled tail was slowly grasping with his toes the chain link in front of him and weaving through the fence.  It wasn't the most safe situation because on one side was a group of volunteers and on the other side was a holding enclosure for the lions, which we were currently trying to fill up.  So, we made an executive decision that we should move the little critter to somewhere with leaves and less claws so he didn't suffer from an unfortunate death.

One of the interns currently at the park advised us that chameleons bite... not something I know.  How much could it hurt?  A lot apparently.  So I was keeping my fingers away from his mouth.  So the intern reached to grab the chameleon and he got MAD.  Like, really mad.  He went from being a bright, vibrant green to a dull green with black, brown and white spots everywhere, and he was snapping and the fingers coming to move him.

We eventually rescued him, with a stick and a pair of unforgiving hands that scooped him up and moved him, but the little bugger was not pleased about his new home.  Suck to be you!

After the excitement with the chameleon, the lions still were not cooperating with someone of them walking into and out of the holding enclosure while others refused to move all together.  My favourite chariot shower up because our time at the breeding program was over and we needed to go back to camp for lunch.  I was fine with this because it meant I didn't need to shovel poo and I could more right into Behaviour Enrichment.

But no.  It was too good to be true!  While we were at lunch and soaking up more sun before our next activity, the handlers had managed to move the lions into their respective enclosures and so the volunteers from the morning and the others scheduled for BPG this afternoon were all shipped back up to the breeding program to shovel poo and fill water dishes.

The bright side, I got an awesome farmers tan shovelling poo.

Also why we were there, we found out that 7 of the females, all sharing an enclosure we going to get fe.  I was really excited because since I had been at Antelope Park, I had not been able to see the lions feed, which was one of the main attractions.  Before I arrived at Antelope Park, I had seen videos from other people where they were huddled close to a fence while lions cam hurdling and barreling towards them, snorting and growling the whole way until they reached a pile of meet.  I was thrilled because I would get to see this, and it would be this afternoon.  So they isolated the lioness' in their holding enclosure, we went in a shovelled away while a truck brought in a full cow carcass and deposited it on one side of the enclosure, opposite from the holding pen.

All of the volunteers were anxiously waiting for them to release the lions and preparing for the battle to see who would get the biggest piece of meat.  And then they open the enclosure gate and... nothing happened.  What we didn't know is that the females are not as aggressive when it comes to their food as the males are.  So a couple of the lioness' walked out and slowly made their way to the cow carcass looking for easy access for a piece of meat.  meanwhile, some of the other females walked out of the holding enclosure, enough to find a spot in the sun, laid down, and had a cat nap.

Guess this means the anticipation is building for the big male lion feed!

After spending the majority of my time at the breeding program, I was looking forward to an evening walk with my cheeky, yet very smart and beautiful elephants.  It is always refreshing to walk out in the grass and pick berries from trees for the elephants and walk in between them as they make their way along the fence line and back to their bomas.  They always remembered Alex and I because we always brought food for them in some shape or form, whether it be the apples and oranges we snuck away from breakfast or those that we bought at the market, and if we were really desperate, we picked berries on our way to meet the elephants.
After a peaceful walk with our giants, we went back for our debriefing meeting at the volunteer lounge.  Inevitable the power went out.  Although the power goes out a lot, most of the time it during the day and we do not notice.  However, this time was during our meeting, right before dinner, so it was already completely dark outside.  Luckily one volunteer had brought a head lamp  which she held in the direction of the volunteer accommodations   For those of you who don't know, head lamps provide enough light for one person, not nearly enough for 25 of us to get back to our rooms.  I began walking in the general direction of my room, alongside Alex, Katherine and Jenny.  We were spread out so that we could all reach other if we put out an arm but far enough apart that hopefully one of us would stumble into our door.  After finding out door, we got on all fours and crawled into our room searching for our respective beds and head lamps.

We did eventually find everything just in time for the power to return but we stowed them in our pockets for dinner, just in case.  It always an adventure out in Africa.  What normally takes 15 seconds to walk from the volunteer lounge to our room actually took 5 minutes and then more time to find an itty bitty head lamp.

And the darkness?  Consuming.  You cannot see anything except for stars and when the moon is not full, it offers little in the way of light to guide you.  You feel as if your in a black hole, with little house cats and potentially snakes creeping around your feet.  But have no fear, what you can't see, can't hurt you, right?

No comments:

Post a Comment