Saturday, 26 January 2008

1000 new seats on the Landy!

Well it has finally happened, WE have 1000 new video server 'slots' courtesy of OneNetPlace in Los Angeles, California. It has been 9 months since WildEarth began broadcasting on the Internet and the demand for our LIVE video stream from Djuma Game Reserve has been massive. So much demand that the Telkom Media server in Pretoria, South Africa, has usually rejected more than 1 million requests for the stream each day.
The link to the new US server is on the top right of this Blog under the title: 'United States Server 1000 slots'. If you live in South Africa you will probably get a better quality stream from the South Africa server.
WE are very excited about this development and hope that you will send this information to all those people that you think would love to watch African wildlife LIVE.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Presenters and power.

As I am sure you have all noticed, WE are trying out a few potential presenters at the moment. You have met Andrew and Omega, tomorrow morning you will meet Gerry and over the next days and weeks you will meet Chris, Piet, Angie and others. You see, WE are going to need two new presenters when the two new game drive vehicles arrive in April. There are also a lot of other interviews taking place behind the scenes for more directors, producers, editors, assistant directors, etc.

The whole country has been experiencing planned power cuts, called "load shedding". This is caused by the fact that South Africa does not have the generating capacity to meet the demand for electricity. This 'load shedding' is apparently going to happen for the next 4 to 8 years. Well these power cuts do cause the 'sorry screen' on your players and this is not acceptable. WE have a couple of UPSs as well as two generators and this will allow us to get better at dealing with the power outages, but there will still be problems for a while. However, WildEarth will be installing a state of the art power management system, which will deal completely with all power situations and will mean that you never loose a second of your valuable viewing time. But this will only be happening over the next few months and WE ask for your patience in the mean time.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Mapogo rampage!!

The faint roar of a distant lion could be heard at Gowrie waterhole, just as the sun started to fight through the heavy clouds early this morning. A new chapter in the history of a lion pride was about to unfold ... very violently!
The Mapogos were still in the area, and all were fearing for the lives of the Kahuma pride, it's new leader Dozi, his females and their 14 young cubs. The radio in the Final Control crackled as Pieter, with a soft-sad voice, anounced that: "The Mapogos had killed one of the Kahuma Pride's cubs!" One of the four older male cubs have fallen to the the Coallition of six. Pieter was heading north east on Gowrie cutline to show us the horrible scene! A couple of minutes later, just off Gowrie / Buffelshoek cutline, lay the carcass of a proud young male. Bathed in blood and covered with flies ... dead. This beautiful male lion cub fell to the Mapogos' rage, with bites to the throat and skull.
Yesterday morning other Djuma game drives found Dozi, not where he was supposed to be, protecting his females and cubs, but on the Buffelshoek boundary mating with one of the Styx lionesses.
Now the scent of this lioness in oestrus, must have lured the eager Mapogos closer and closer to Dozi, and the rest of the Kahuma pride, who had managed to bring down a female giraffe the night before, and were busy feeding. Then, picking up the scent of a fresh kill and the Kahuma females, the Mapogos changed direction. On arrival the powerful Mapogos must have run in, scattering our Kahumas in all directions. Then they would have split up to chase the cubs and lionesses. Now they had the giraffe carcass, chased the females away and killed a male cub. WE don't know if there were any other cubs killed, but 'really for sure', with the Mapogos; there is very little chance that any cubs got away!
We must wonder. What if Dozi was with the pride, instead of with the Styx lioness? Would this have changed the outcome? Dozi would have most probably also been killed? Can we compare the life of the cub and that of Dozi? Will Dozi be next anyway?
In any event Dozi has fled. With his tale between his legs, far into the Manyaleti. The females ran to the north as well, and will try to stay out of this area for as long as possible. Particularly if any cubs are still alive.
Pieter edged on towards his first sighting of the Mapogo males at the stolen meal, not far from the young cub carcass at Buffelshoek Gowrie cut line. On arrival, two males were still at the kill. Pieter almost immediately fell in love with the Mapogos' shear beauty and strength (this was the first time he had seen them). Pieter decided that one of them reminded him of Shaka; the legendary King of the Zulus. A fearsome, fearless and magnificent leader of the Zulu nation, many years ago.

Later WE found one of the other Mapogos slowly heading towards his brothers at the kill, and occasionally scent marking on his way ... Djuma is Mapogo territory now. This one on his own is known as "Mr T". A lean, mean, fighting machine. A bulk of pure muscle. He received his name from the old TV series: "The A-Team". One of the characters; "Mr T", had a Mohawk haircut. Just like this impressive lion appears to have.
It is hard to see anything positive in this morning's tragedy, but this is Nature. This is the way of lions with strong genes. One day this great Mapogo bloodline will run through the veins of many lions in the Sabi Sands. One day we will learn to love and, hopefully, understand this coalition of powerful brothers. For what they do, is only natural. The law of Nature will prevail. Only the fittest will survive.
Not long from now a great dynasty of lions will be born all over the Sabi Sands. Led and protected by an awesome coalition. Let this thought help us all to accept the loss of the Kahuma cub and many others.
This afternoon's drive promises to be very interesting when Pieter goes back to the giraffe carcass, and the area around, to see who else WE can find in this unfolding drama ... see you there!
Written by Jan Harm Robbertse

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

The Mapogos are back in town.

The Mapogos tend to spend most of their time in the southern parts of the Sabi Sands and enter Djuma from Chitwa or Hoffmans, crossing Cheetah cut line on to central road, then they pass around Gowrie waterhole area- and take Vuytela access road to Gowrie gate and cross into Simbambilli in the west and head back south from there. They are currently mating with one of the styx pride females. It is said that there are now 6 males in the Mapogo coalition ... again, that is true, but there is some speculation on who this other male might be. Some say that he is the brother who got killed by that croc in Mala Mala, other say he was a nomadic male who came from a different pride. All the guides in the area, are getting worried because the Mapogos are causing mayhem where ever they go! They have driven other lions out of the park and these lions have now started hunting cattle in the rural areas.
There are many stories of the Mapogos killing, attacking and taking over. These two videos were taken by Andre de Kock on his cell phone last winter at Arathusa of the Mapogos attacking the Tsalala pride and killing their cubs.

As many of you know our very own Kahuma pride were attacked and Blondie (one of the two male lions in control of the pride) was killed. The Kahumas fled into Manyaleti to the north with their 14 cubs and under the leadership of Dozie. This morning it was reported that their was an 'interaction' between some of the Kahuma females and the Mapogos on Djuma's northern border. Nobody was hurt, but clearly the Mapogos wish to mate with the Kahuma lionesses (along with every other lioness in the Sands), but because their cubs are still alive they are not receptive. It would appear that the Mapogos are not interested in travelling further north into the Manyaleti ... so for the moment the Kahuma cubs are safe, WE just don't get to see them.
There is little that can be done about these thugs. it has always been policy not to get involved in the natural progression of these things. However, there is now a lot of talk all over the Sands. Some have spoken of moving some of the Mapogos to another reserve or even shooting some of them. Everyone is angry, but decisions like this are highly unlikely and could only be taken by officials at the Kruger National Park, but it certainly shows the emotions these 6 big lions are bringing out.
On another note, Pieter is back and Hayley will be back from leave on the 17Th of this month. Drives will be going out at 05h30 (CAT) in the morning and 17h00 (CAT). Game drives are almost back to full length, thanks to James becoming a battery 'master'. I think I speak for all of us when I say: "A big thank you James, for all the effort you put in."

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Crew ... comings and goings.

Well Alex left yesterday on his first two week break since joining WildEarth. He has arrived in Cape Town and plans to make a trip into the Namibian desert on his own. James is back from his break and will be filling in for Alex on camera, until Pieter gets back tomorrow. So for the next week or so Pieter and Rexon will both present and do camera ... with a little help from James and Jan directing.
After this morning's drive James packed all 4 battery chargers into his car and made a bee line for Nelspruit, where Danie is standing by to make some alterations to the voltage that the chargers operate at. According to our calculations this should make a big difference to the duration of the drives. He will only get back just before this afternoon's drive, so WE won't have had time to test the new chargers, and as a result this afternoon's drive may be even shorter than usual. However, the repaired chargers will work through the night and tomorrow morning's drive should tell us whether or not our calculations are right. WE do, of course, know that the batteries have lost some of their capacity and will need replacement, but WE just want to see by how much first.
On another note, Maxx has written a comment requesting that WildEarth "come clean" in respect of the CDN (Content Distribution Network) that will allow more than 80 people to watch the stream simultaneously. He has suggested that many of you do not believe WE, because we began discussing the need for this CDN in May 2007 and still nothing has happened. We understand the frustration of not being able to get a 'slot' ... WE share it with you. However, I would like to explain exactly what is going on.
WildEarth is a content wholesaler. That is to say: WE license our 24 hour per day stream to broadcasters, currently Telkom Media, and they are responsible for distributing the stream to an audience and converting that distribution into revenue. Telkom Media is a relativley young broadcaster which will be coming of age in 2008. They do not yet have the billing systems, administrative systems, customer relationship systems, network, etc. in place yet, to provide a world class quality of service at a level that they would be comfortable taking your subscription money and have therefore elected to wait until they do. They are working hard to implement these, and other, systems, and I am assured that they will be of the absaloute highest standard.
Furthermore, WildEarth would also like to see some significant changes and upgrades to the content before you, our valued audience, are expected to begin paying for this service. WE are working on two brand new game drive vehicles, more waterholes, a much better final control, 100% power reliability in all circumstances and three times the crew.
Notwithstanding the apparant slow pace of these developments, if you stop to think about it you will realise that there is no way so many skilled and experienced people would go to so much effort to only broadcast to 80 people ... and loose a great deal of money in the process.
WE are only just beginning ... and you are the beta testers ... its in your nature ... and WE thank you for that.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Big Storm hits Djuma, but WE recover.

Yesterday evening, just after Rexon and Alex came upon Karula on Gowrie cutline, a huge storm hit Djuma. WE immediately executed our bad weather plan, which involves getting the game drive vehicle under cover, disconnecting all antennas, powering everything down and the final control shut down procedure. The storm carried on for hours. Monstrous lightning struck all around Vuyatela. We think that the staff village as well as the tower at Jurie and Pippa's house received direct hits. At about 01:00 AM the worst appeared to be over, so Jan began slowly bringing all the systems back on line. Gowrie waterhole camera would not restart and the Internet connection to the video server in Pretoria would not re-establish.
At first light Jan went to the Gowrie camera and began checking all systems. It didn't take long for him to realise that the UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply), buried underground near the camera had failed to restart. He has been forced to power the system directly, which is fine for a while, but WE will need to get this restored before the next big storm.
The Internet connection to the video server was still down. Now you can tell when this happens, because if you see the 'sorry' slide it means that the server cannot connect to the encoder at Djuma and usually that means there is a problem with the data line. WE reported the fault early this morning and within a few hours Telkom was able to trace and repair the problem.
So although WE took several direct hits ... nothing can stop a dynamic team, committed to broadcasting LIVE to you from the African bush ... its in our nature.