Tuesday, 26 February 2008

WE are losing Hayley!

Hayley has been directing at WildEarth right from our very first LIVE game drives in April 2007. She has decided to return to her family in the UK, where she will be pursuing her career in TV directing ... although probably not wildlife.
WE are all very sad to see her go, but WE do understand. She has been a rock to us all, through all the trials and tribulations of bringing you WildEarth, we have always known that Hayley would direct us out of any corner. Always calm, but firmly focused on the viewer experience, she will be sorely missed.
Hayley there will always be a place for you in our hearts and in the director's chair at 'control' ... its in your nature.
Maybe one day WE will all see Hayley back with us again. Good luck with your next adventure.

Hayley will be directing her final drive tomorrow afternoon (Wednesday 27Th February 2008).
... on a different note this afternoon's drive will be a bit ... uh ... out of the ordinary. Jan will be driving and Alex will be on camera ... expect the unexpected!!

Wild dogs and Mofazi Ingala on baboon kill

On the 25th of February Rex and Alex headed out, searching for the hidden sun under the thick African clouds and for what was hiding around the next corner!
Rexon wanted to go and see what was happening at the local waterhole and headed towards Gowrie main. Just onto Gowrie main- west of Shabam road the hidden sun broke through onto four wonderfully painted wild dogs. One male, a female and two youngsters, filled our WE camera lens and brought smiles to all our faces! Rex seems to think that it could be the same pack WE saw a couple of months ago on Phillimons cutline but we are not sure. We’re trying our best to find pictures of them so that WE can make a positive identification. (WE would appreciate any input from you on this ID. Remember that each dog has unique markings.)
As the excitement grew they headed north into a block where WE could not follow. Knowing this farm like the back of his hand and to a certain extent , having the ability to predict animal behaviour, Rexon had one more trick up his sleeve. He took us straight to the Vuyatela access road hoping that they would pop out there for some more viewing.
On the way there another story was unfolding...Baboons, more to the north, close to Sandy Patch were making a racket, tellling Rex and the other local game drives that there was something brewing in the west. Rex decided to go and investigate and headed straight to where the alarm calls were coming from. Heading west, the memory of the wild dogs was slowly fading, when suddenly, Rex’s hunch paid off and the pack of four reappeared right behind the vehicle and we got another glimpse of them.
Rex had to pull out of the sighting, shifting his attention to some thing else, and turned onto Aubrey's road where he found something rather interesting ... male lion tracks. Could this be why the baboons were making such a racket? It was a little bit far away and the tracks looked like the were a couple of hours old already, so back onto Vuyatella Access. Efraim, another guide, called in that he had just found a lioness who had just killed a young baboon- the very reason why Rex and Alex heard those alarm calls earlier. There was an opening and WE went to go and meet up with this lioness. The last remaining lion from the Sandy Patch Pride was enjoying her very recent kill as we arrived. Now, one could ask why a lion would prey on such a young baboon? There are a couple of theories : one, she could be old and therefore find it difficult to take down a larger prey. However, judging by the condition of this beautifull feline, this was not the case. Or could it be that she was hunting alone? No- lions hunting alone are more than capable of bringing down bigger antelope like impala or kudu- so thats not the reason, either. WE know that all predators are opportunistic feeders and will eat or catch almost anything that comes their way! I said earlier that there were male lion tracks found close to where this female was. She could have sensed the presence of another male lion, and for that exact reason, she tried to stay hidden. While hidden amongst the tall dry grass a young baboon, unaware of the lurking danger, most probably came too close and got taken by this lucky lioness.The tracks of the male lion Rex found earlier on Aubreys road, actually belonged to Dozi, our very popular and famous Kahuma Pride leader. Now what is he doing back here, staring the face of danger straight in the eye, with all the Mapogos almost always around? Rex said that he’s a bit naughty- he could be just checking out if the Mapogos are in the area. Dozi and the rest of the females and cubs mostly hang around far to the north in the Manyaleti. There could be another pride that we don’t know of that’s pushing them back to our area. So Dozi and his pride could be caught between two prides of different lions, and he is making sure that there is no immediate threat or danger in our area.
Written by Jan Harm Robbertse

Monday, 25 February 2008

Sue, the newest WE team member.

Some of you may have heard a new voice directing recently. Well that UK accent is Sue. Fresh from the British TV industry Sue is an accomplished director and producer, who has been known to pick up a camera from time to time. She trained at the world famous BBC as an editor and has spent the past 25 years working all over the world on projects from reality TV to an undercover expose of the Italian Mafia. Sue will be our producer as WE evolve from an Internet TV only channel into a multi platform channel with clients in the broadcast TV, IPTV, mobile TV and Internet environments. WE all hope to learn a lot from this dynamic British filmmaker ... its in our nature.
A big welcome to Sue from the whole WildEarth team.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Tank and Gowrie broken ... again!

WE managed to get the starter motor sorted out and now we have another problem. This time the distributor on the Tank has worn out one of its parts, and, you guessed it, they don't make them anymore. So James is on his way into Hoedspruit where he will manufacture a new part with the help of some very industrious engineering shops. The minute it is done he will drive back into Djuma and immediately get to work on installing the new part. WE will keep you posted on how it works out. Hopefully the 'Tank' will be back on the road soon.
In the meantime Gowrie camera has gone offline and Jan is struggling to figure out why. He thinks he has traced it to a cable fault at the camera tree and WE all suspect that it is thanks to our very amusing technicians ... the baboon teenagers that like to play with the camera and microphone in the afternoons.
WE all understand how frustrating it can be when the LIVE wildlife you love to watch is not there, but rest assured that a very dedicated team are hard at work to get WildEarth back to you as soon as possible ... it will always be in our nature.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

The 'Tank' needs help.

Yesterday evening, during Dinamossi's try out drive, the Tank's starter motor broke again. This has happened a few times before and is partly due to the constant stopping and starting and partly because the Tank is made up of a Chev engine, a Landrover Discovery gearbox and the rest is a Landrover Defender. Jan and James spent hours in the workshop last night trying to build one good starter motor out of all the parts WE have acumulated. But by midnight they new there was no hope.
WE have tracked a second hand starter motor down in Johannesburg and will be putting it on the next available flight down to the Sabi Sands, which is tomorrow afternoon. That will leave Jan and James just under one hour to install and test the new motor before the drive goes out tomorrow afternoon.
It also means that WE are going to have to miss this afternoon's drive and tomorrow morning's drive. But Rex will answer questions instead. This morning WE received 79 questions from all of you and Rex really enjoyed answering them. Ask away, and he will try and answer as many as possible.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Hunting with wild dogs!

On the afternoon of the 13th February Pieter heard Charles on the Djuma radio channel report two wild dogs heading for Quarantine from Philemons cut line. WE had just left the big grassy plain known as Quarantine where a large heard of Impala were graizing as they meandered to Gowrie waterhole.
A few minutes later WE were waiting at the south east corner of Quarantine, near the bush braai site, when Pieter and James spotted the first wild dog.
What a special sighting. These rare animals are highly threatened and as a result we all see fewer and fewer each year. A few years ago was the last time that wild dogs denned on Djuma Game Reserve, and since then, the packs that have been coming through have gotten a lot smaller.
At first the dogs looked over the grassy plain with its big Marula trees and just took in the lay of the land. Sniffing the air, the first of the two males to arrive, realised that dinner might be served. Like most of the Djuma animals, he came right up to the 'tank' and introduced himself, showing no fear ... and then he was off and the chase was on ...

Pieter and James did an amazing job of keeping up with the two wild dogs as they ran through the long grass making repeated attempts to run down an impala.


Wednesday, 13 February 2008

New leopard!!

The Beacon Mapimpane - Female....
Tuesday morning, a small 12 seconds after half past 5, Central African Time here in Djuma in the Sabi Sands, Pieter, our benchmark and fabulous presenter, opened our morning drive with, again no idea what was going to be around the next corner, as he threaded along the winding roads of Djuma.
After driving for little under an half and hour, Ephraim one of Djuma's guides called in a mufazi ingwe (female leopard), close to Sandy Patch. Pieter and Alex were still close to Tree House dam, about 10 minutes' drive away but were quickly heading west via Shabam road towards a possibility of spotting a spotted one! Charging through Philemons Dip, Somali and the rest of her stunning heard appeared, We spent a little time with them but were very eager to grasp a seat with the leopard.
The signal was a bit "choppy" as WE arrived on the scene, but as WE got the first glimpse of the female it stabilized. Almost simultaneously our (well I know my) Pieter's and Alex's hearts started beating a billion beats a second as we slowly grew accustomed to the overwhelming beauty of this young female leopard. She was relaxed, inquisitive, and entertaining to watch - almost playing with Pieter and Alex, just giving us a glimpse of her playfulness and her character filled, intriguing face. Pouncing through the thicket of the thlatin (bush) we moved ahead slowly, following her every move. She crossed Aubrey's road, a couple of hundred meters east of Sandy Patch. It was on this side of the road when Alex gave us an amazing close-up on her sunlit face, with the grass dancing in front of her. This confirmed it - she is definitely one of the most beautiful leopards WE have ever seen.
She didn’t stay for long, suddenly darting back over the road from where she came. A spotted hyena appeared, sniffing the surrounding area which she had crossed just a couple of minutes ago. Staying submerged, hiding from our game drive's eyes, luckily Alex saw her again, and WE sat with her for a while longer!
This sighting and the time spent with her will stay in our minds for a while and it was lovely seeing and being able to spend some time with her. Pieter called her the Beacon female, which is correct in a sense. Actually her mother’s name is The Beacon Female and the one we spent time with was the Beacon Young One, or in Shongwaan, “ Mapimpane “. It is said that her father is The Jordaans Male, but alas WE cannot be 100% sure of that. She also has a brother who apparently lives far north in Buffelshoek. He has not yet been given a name.
Yesterday morning, when on the vehicle with Pieter and Jan, WE spent some time with our all time favorite leopard, Karula. Again Ephraim found her on the Galago - Buffelshoek shortcut road. From about 300 meters down the road we got the first glimpse of her, but thanks to the lovely Djuma guides we were able to spend some more time with her. The bush was very thick and she was pretty much flat cat as we finally found a spot to watch her. After a couple of minutes we decided to leave her in peace and left, hoping to find her again during the afternoon drive. Unfortunately WE didn’t succeed in doing that, because she was doing what leopard do best, staying elusive. She was alone and with her cubs somewhere to the north in Buffelshoek. We thought that she might be in the area for a while. This morning while with the Beacon Young One, Charles found her not far off, just to the south of Sandy Patch. Pieter, still close by, went for gold and headed off to try and find her. On the search for the second leopard of the drive Pieter bumped into three white rhino- and during this time the battery's alarm lights started to flash and WE had to end the drive...But what a awesome drive it was. WE saw three of the big five and of course we met The Stunning Beacon Young One.
Written by Jan Harm Robbertse

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Where are WE ... now?


We have borrowed a map from Djuma with all the road and place names on Western Gowrie so you can figure out where the 'tank' is on the drives. The image above is a little small to be able to read, but if you click on it you'll get a bigger version.
It is amazing how many incredible sightings WE have seen on western Gowrie over the past 9 months. It is only about 800 hectares in total, which is about 2000 acres. As you will see from the map, most of Western Gowrie is the catchement area for the Mluwati. This river rarely flows, although WE did see it flowing for a while during this last rainy season.
Also a big thank you from Emily and I for your comments about the presenter try outs. You are helping to make a very difficult decision a little easier. I have added a clip of Angie's try out to the YouTube viewer below, so if you missed it LIVE, go and take a look and send us your thoughts. Remember to tell us your choices in order of preference.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Sorry to keep you hanging around.

Over the past few days a whole bunch of technical problems have presented themselves simultaneously. An uninterupted power supply failed, which is mainly why you have been seeing the sorry sign so often, the chargers have not been working properly, which is why WE have had battery problems, the main video switch in the final control is not working because its power supply failed (and they don't make them anymore), last night the starter motor on the 'Tank' broke, just before Piet did his try out and this morning the inverter on the 'Tank' burnt itself out. Now if it was just one or two problems WE would just laugh it off and carry on, but so many at once is a little tough.
Pieter has been diverted to Johannesburg where he will pick up a new UPS and Inverter, then on his way through Nelspruit tommorow he will collect the chargers, which are being recalibrated. In the meantime James and Jan think they can rebuild one good starter motor out of the two or three that WE have now (they don't make the starters that the Tank needs anymore). All of this means that WE are going to have to cancel this afternoons drive as well as both drives tomorrow. WE are very very sorry about this, but you can be certain that none of us will rest untill we get the drives back on the road ... its in our nature.

In the meantime WE would love to know what you think of different rangers that have tried out to be one of the new WildEarth presenters. So far we have had Andrew, Gerry, Omega, Patrick and Piet. We still need to see Angie and Chris ... and maybe a few more.
Here are some of the clips that you, our faithful viewers, have captured of the ranger try outs ...

Take a look and mail your order of preference, and any comments, to info@wildearth.tv
Thanks for the idea Aunty Lyn!
(Sorry I thought the idea was from Karen initially, but Emily set me straight. Sorry.)

Saturday, 2 February 2008

... and the try outs continue ...

WE are going to be seeing a few new faces in the next days. Starting with this afternoon when Patrick will be doing the second part of the drive. Patrick is from the small village of Dixie just outside the Sabi Sands reserve, which is also Rexon's and Texan's home. Patrick has been guiding for years at some of the top lodges in the area. WE all wish him good luck.
Tomorrow morning Rex will present the drive and in the afternoon Piet will be trying out. Piet is also from Dixie and has also worked at some of the best known lodges in the Sands. Piet has also spent many years guiding at Djuma, so tomorrow he'll be driving at home.
Pieter will be back for the afternoon drive on Monday, and the afternoon drive of Wednesday the 6th wil be presented by Angie, who has been guiding in the Waterberg for the past few years.
Enjoy ... its in your nature.