Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Changes a foot!

Unfortunately WE have to cancel this afternoons drive and most probably tomorrow mornings as well. You will be glad to hear that it is because we are moving all of our transmission equipment from the old 'Tank' to a new vehicle. It is not yet one of the brand new vehicles that we are planning but it is a necessary interim step. The new vehicle is a cute Landrover Defender and WE can assure you that it goes better than the 'Tank' (not that that is hard). So it is a chapter closed for the 'Tank'. WE are sure that everyone will be devastated to see it go!! Everybody here is very excited to be moving to a vehicle with power steering, more power and a little more reliability. She is a lot younger (9 years old) and has travelled southern Africa extensively.
Also, James is going to help us put a second camera up at Gowrie waterhole. Jurie, Pippa and WE figured that we might as well turn the fact that Gowrie dam is bone dry to some good purpose. So we are going to put a second camera at the pan and move the Infra red lights there as well. This will dramatically improve the day and night viewing at what is going to turn out to be a super busy stretch of water this winter.
Alex has left on leave today, Pieter gets back this evening and Sue leaves tomorrow.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

The first year

Picture by Sharon - Ft Worth, Texas.

Today is our first birthday and we would like to thank all of you who have sent in emails with your support. WE are very lucky to have such loyal and wonderful viewers. It has been an amazing year. WE have achieved and learnt a huge amount and there is still a long way to go.
In the mean time here is some news about the people who have made WildEarth possible over this year. WE would like to say a big thank you to our wonderful crew for their amazing hard work and passion.
Pieter Pretorius
Well, what can I say? Pieter was part of the trench digging crew way back in September 2006 when WildEarth was……well…a few trenches on Djuma Game Reserve. With the help of Nick and Helen he spent his days in the searing heat digging, lifting, painting and cursing. The erection of an 18 metre mast being a day that sticks out in all of our memories as one hell of a day. The mast was metres from being upright and one of the ropes got caught in a tree. Pieter tried his hardest to unpick the tangled rope but the mast ended up losing its balance and careering towards a termite mound much to the desperation of Pieter and his crew. He soon recovered and tried again, succeeding. This created the WildEarth Motto of ‘never give up’. As WildEarth grew, so did Pieter. He not only excelled in presenting but also became the WildEarth Camp Manager. The camp has never looked better and his obsession with all things wooden has seen him become the resident carpenter. If you ever need to know where Pieter is in between drives then first look in the workshop. He spends his days making chairs, loo seats, shelves, doors and desks. Pieter has many passions, but luckily for WildEarth the two that seem to be the most prevalent are photography and nature. His incredible knowledge of the bush beggars belief and he is a natural presenter due to his incredible passion. He has become increasingly popular with our viewers and has built himself a real following. He has definitely found his calling in life. WildEarth are very lucky to have him.

Rexon Ntimane
Rexon has been guiding at Djuma for many many years. He joined WildEarth in August last year and has since excelled at presenting. Despite English not being his first language Rex manages to communicate his unbelievable knowledge of the bush well. Having lived in these parts all his life you would think that the novelty would have worn off. Nothing could be further from the truth. His absolute passion for all things natural wins through every time. In December 2007 WildEarth took Rex away from the bush that he knows so well and moved him to Johannesburg. He stayed with us for one week and in that week he completed a voice and presenting course. He coped with the city very well and only got lost on the roads a few times. This course improved his language and talking abilities hugely and set him in good stead to be a great presenter. In the time that Rex has worked for us he has also completed a huge amount of Community work. He really believes in helping the people and doing what is best for the village of Dixie. We have always said that Rex would make an excellent politician. With his trademark hat, his happy smiley face and his uncanny ability to find big predators we thank Rex for being a great asset to WildEarth.

Jan harm Robbertse
As you saw posted on the blog in April 2007, Jan joined us in December 2006 fresh from an audio visual production management degree. He was employed as a camera man but has excelled in every possible field that there is in WildEarth………even cooking. He has been with WildEarth since before we went live to the public. He played a large part in managing the construction of the camp and sadly, being the youngest and newest member of the team at that point, spent a few months sleeping in what is known as the worst bedroom. This is because it is adjacent to the Final Control and you can often find yourself being woken in the night by the screech of nervous primates from the Gowrie waterhole. As he rose up the ranks he proved to us that he was worth his weight in gold. He educated himself about cars (specifically the tank) and became our resident mechanic. Many a night has been spent with his head under one of our cars desperately trying to fix it by the mornings drive, and usually succeeding. One night in particular he missed an exciting bush party to fit a new starter motor with the help of a friend from a nearby lodge. His directing skills have set a high standard for WildEarth and I think everyone will forever remember the introduction of what we fondly refer to as ‘a Jan-ism’. This is of course when he merges a picture from the waterhole with a picture from the vehicle and it looks like Pieter has a baboon sitting on his head! He really is a Jack of all trades!

Alex Sletton
Alex is our resident wild-child…literally! All the way from Norway he has certainly made a huge impression on WildEarth and the team. His bubbly personality, passion for snakes and penchant for the African ladies will certainly go down in WE history. His skills as a cameraman have come on leaps and bounds. He started out with a fantastic eye and a great passion for the subject and this has obviously gone a long way to making him the cameraman that he is today. Alex loves every drive that he does and always sees each one as a challenge and an adventure. His passion for snakes resulted in him travelling to Cape Town to do a snake handling course. The skills he learnt have already been put to use within the WE camp. When on leave Alex does not rest. He is an explorer at heart and often travels to the Congo to film the chimps and enjoy the jungle. The skill that is kept under wraps is his unbelievable ability to sing and play the guitar. He truly is an extraordinary musician and if he ever grew bored of the bush would certainly manage to grab himself a career in this field.

Sue Lloyd
Sue has been with us for two months and hearing her calm voice coupled with the English accent has been great. She has been a wonderful addition to the team and has helped hugely with her great knowledge of everything TV. Unfortunately she is leaving to go back to the UK at the end of this month and we are not sure when we will see her again. Good luck Sue, the door is always open at WildEarth.

Daniel Querido
Dan has just joined WildEarth and already he is proving to be a good team player. He has taken to LIVE filming very well and seems to be able to direct well and calmly (which is not always easy when things are going wrong all around). What we love about Dan is his ability to pick up many jobs. He is not only a cameraman and a Director but also a good writer for the blog.

Simpiwe Minisi
Well what can I say? Simpiwe is the WE zoomie but we prefer to refer to her as our ‘rock’. When the drive is over Simpiwe loyally takes her seat and spends all day and every day moving the camera around at Gowrie waterhole. Her zoomie skills have improved immensely and if there is an animal hiding somewhere in the depths of the undergrowth you can be sure that Simpiwe will find it! She has become a trustworthy member of the team who never complains and is always happy. We are hoping to get her on the message boards soon so that she can chat to you in real time.

Liesbeth Nglovu
Liesbeth is the resident WildEarth cleaner, clothes washer, cook, fire maker…….. the list is endless. The guys would not cope if she wasn’t around. She plays mother to the whole team. She really does look after us. Over the past year the camp has expanded and so have the numbers of staff. Liesbeth has continued to do her job without complaint and amazingly well. She holds the camp life together. Well done Liesbeth we love you and wouldn’t know what to do without you.

James Taylor
James is our technical genius but his camera skills are pretty good as well. He is not resident with WildEarth but pops in when something complicated needs sorting. He not only fixes and solves but is an incredibly nice person as well and the team love it when he is around. There is nothing better than sitting at the fire listening to one of his wacky stories. These stories usually involve the one great love in his life and that is big wave surfing. When not in the bush James resides in Cape Town where some of the largest waves in the world can be found. Recently he has been thrashing himself around in the ocean but he is due back in the bush tomorrow (Monday 28th April) evening for two weeks. Between James and Graham and lot should be achieved over the next few days – watch this space.

Emily and Graham
We started the business back in September 2006 and not only has it been an incredible journey since then but we are far from the end. Between September 2006 and April 2007 we sweated blood and tears to wrench two LIVE game drives a day from absolutely nothing! Finally we went LIVE and it was amazing…….just one problem! Only 80 people in the entire world could watch at a time. After a long time of relying on the famous ‘dump’ we finally increased our distribution thanks to One Net Place. We are proud of what we have achieved since those early days although it hasn’t always been plane sailing. Being woken up by Jan on the phone at 5.00am is never nice and its even worse when he utters those words that we have heard so often ‘the starter motor has broken’ or ‘the inverter has blown’ or 'the batteries are finished’. Running a bush based business from Johannesburg has not been easy, but Graham has perfected his skills in problem solving down a phone line. Finally we would like to thank our loyal and trusting viewers. You have given us the passion and drive to bring LIVE wildlife to you and we will continue to conquer whatever is thrown at us. Thank you for all of your support in our first year – it has been in your nature!

Nick and Helen
It has taken us a while to settle into a lifestyle that is as far removed from the African bush as one could imagine. From the village life of Djuma, to the city life of Vancouver, Canada is quite a change. It is nice to have all the treats that one misses in the bush at your finger tips. We've been hard at work, from sailing, to working in the mining industry to travelling down under and dreaming about travelling the rest of the world. We're still in touch with the Wildearth Team and also have had our old viewers from all over sending us greetings and happy wishes..which we appreciate. We are really thankful that we had the chance to be amongst the pioneers of Wildearth and will never forget the "early days" of digging trenches and hoisting masts! Canada is a beautiful place and we are now surrounded by a new array of wildlife...from skunks to raccoons to hobos! Everyday is a new adventure and we're enjoying the journey! Happy Birthday Wildearth! We miss you and hope to see you all soon. Love from Nick and Helen...the Canucks.

Robert Beugelink
From what WE can gather Robert is in Cape Town working as a camera man. When emailed about our birthday he said that he was doing various jobs but didn't really let us in more than that. I imagine he has had no problem getting work as he is very good on camera. He did,however, tell us a lot more about his new girlfriend Phillipa who seems to be lighting up his life right now. Well done Rob, you managed to score yourself a wife and settle down in the city,much more your cup of tea. WE miss you though and wish you all the best.

Hayley Brookes-Roux
Besides spending a few weeks with my family in SA relaxing at the coast I am now in London catching up with my family; living with sister & doing the odd bar job in clubs, whilst on the hunt for a job in media..(got a hopeful prospect with virgin media, in the pipeline), Great being back to see the family, but being in the concrete jungle sure is nothing like being out in the beautiful serene African bush, and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't miss WE.
Love from Hayley

Friday, 25 April 2008

Trouble on the Tank again.

Yesterday morning the inverter, that converts the battery power (12 volts DC) to 220 volts AC on the broadcast vehicle (the 'Tank'), began to smoke ... usually a very bad sign.
We immediately tracked a new one down in Nelspruit and WE went to collect it. Late last night the team installed the new one only to discover that it made 'strange' sounds. So I have made the decision to cancel today's drives (sorry) and I will leave Johannesburg tomorrow morning and get to Djuma in the afternoon. Immediately we will try and figure out what is going on and fix the problem, hopefully in time to have a drive on Sunday morning ... our birthday!!
Sorry about these cancelled drives, but WE just can't afford to blow up another inverter, I hope that you understand.
Graham Wallington.

Monday, 21 April 2008

WE's first birthday

On Sunday 27th April 2008 WildEarth will have been LIVE for exactly one year. It is also Freedom Day over here in SA and so WE think it is definitely an excuse to celebrate. Over the past year we have seen many of our beloved bush characters come and go along with numerous staff. Watch this Blog on Sunday for news, updates and pictures of staff past and present. Instead of the weekly video highlights we are asking for special historical and memorable videos made from clips that people have recorded over the past year. Please post them to You Tube so that we can link them to our blog and show people all the good times we have had since we started. Please let us know about these clips by posting the links in a comment below this post.
WE have finally opened our own shop. We will add more and more WildEarth products over the next few weeks. Please take a look, your comments would be appreciated.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

WE Film Makers

I have been surfing You Tube for WildEarth videos made by you, our viewers, and I realised that there are some budding wildlife filmmakers out there. I have been making wildlife films for over a decade and know how difficult it can be, but also how rewarding. I want all of you to get some credit for your work and so have decided to do a weekly highlights post on the WE Blog. I will pick a few of the best videos made each week and post them on the Blog. This will highlight your film making skills but also give all the WE viewers, who don't manage to watch the drives, an idea of what happened in that week. Please take my comments as constructive and hopefully we can all build a fantastic archive of WildEarth video.
For this first highlights post I have chosen a few vidoes from the last month - it sure has been an exciting month. From next week onwards I will do it weekly ... so get going on producing some great films. So far I would like to thank Banditt066, Sagresta, Bal24, Joycefuller, Slinggirl, WorldTeachers, ROL332, Alydradivine, Soberlady50, WVK11, mutluver, KeeKira, Clic2007, Fabby83 and Elektricat. If there is anyone else who has made a WildEarth video that I haven't mentioned please let me know who you are. Also you guys can help me by always putting WildEarth as one of your tags so that it is easier for me, and others, to find your WE videos. There is also a WildEarth group on You Tube, to which you can post your videos. Many thanks for your continued support of WE and I look forward to working with you on more great WE films ... its in our nature
By Emily Wallington


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kr_ilKqOocM (this video will not embed for some reason)

By WorldTeachers - March 14th 2008

This was a very fitting tribute to a lioness killed at the prime of her life. I really enjoyed the editing and the music absolutely made it. It made me feel emotional and melancholy. I also really liked the fact that we saw how the Mapagos did not come off unscathed as well. It made me realise that this is what happens in nature and no one is to really blame. It was a well thought out and well delivered piece of filmmaking. Well done.
Written by Emily Wallington

Baby Elephant Mock Charges


By JoyceFuller - 3rd April 2008

Babies are always a serious seller for me but when there is such great behaviour as well, it’s a real winner. I absolutely love this clip, well done Joycefuller. The tiny mock charge surprised Pieter but I think just added to his passion for these animals. It really was a very cute scene followed by some interesting facts about the baby from Pieter and good camera work from Alex. Great.

Written by Emily Wallington

African Wild Dog @ Kill


By Sagresta - 21st March 2008

For me seeing Wild Dogs is always a wonderful sighting. I have still not managed to ever see one in real life in the wild, can you believe it? I particularly like this one because it shows you the amazing speed at which a pack of Wild Dogs can devour a carcass. It really is a free for all. I thought the clip was nice because it showed the absolute ferocity of the dogs as they ate. The low level light gave a nice atmosphere as well. Thanks Sagresta, another great video.

Written by Emily Wallington

Leopard Karulas Cubs Pt.2


By Banditt066 - March 27th 2008

A big thank you to Banditt066 for catching this, what an amazing video. The interaction and behaviour between these two cubs was beautiful to watch. Firstly they are youngsters, which as I said earlier always sell. Secondly they are leopards which are one of the most beautiful and graceful of all animals. Thirdly they are Karulas cubs who we have known since they were born. It’s fantastic to have watched them grow up, it’s a real little piece of history. I really enjoyed this clip but if there was one thing I could say it would be to have started the clip about a minute later. For the first minute you could not really see what you were watching and it wasn’t until the one cub was out in the open that it really began for me. Otherwise I loved every minute, well done Banditt066.

Written by Emily Wallington

Pieter Finds Ellies


By sagresta - 3rd April 2008.

Fantastic piece of footage for many reasons.
The cameraman and presenter worked very well as a team. Everything that Pieter described was followed closely by Alex and vice versa. They told the story well together.
I liked the fact that there were lots of close ups. When watching TV on the internet it is important to have detailed shots.
The elephants came extremely close to the vehicle and it made me feel that Pieter was almost part of the herd. Their behaviour was fascinating as they seemed to be more curious than nervous.
Finally there was a tiny baby and babies sell. Anything with a youngster in can be guaranteed to be loved by many.
The only negative I have is that it should have finished at approximately 5 minutes. Once the elephants had left the vehicle and moved off the clip should have been stopped. Although the baby elephant doing a mock charge was also fantastic footage it would have been better to put it in a separate clip.

Written by Emily Wallington

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Pieter In Action

This is a video I found whilst looking for WildEarth videos on You Tube. Well done to banditt066 for an absolutely exceptional video, I found it hilarious. I am working on a WE highlights show from You Tube videos posted by viewers which will show you the best videos made each week. Please keep on putting WildEarth videos together and join the WildEarth group on You Tube.
Written by Emily Wallington

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

The heart of Dixie

The name Shangaan loosely translated means 'lost tribe'. A name coined when the Tsonga people split from the powerful Zulu Nation. However, one proud man, Rexon Ntimane, believes his people have found hope.
Dixie is a small rural village on the outskirts of the Sabie Sand Game Reserve in South Africa. Just 1km away from these humble dirt roads, leopards embrace the night and herds of buffalo roam the savanna. A small structure serves as a curio shop for the passing patrons of sculpture and craft. Chickens, cattle and goats loiter the roads. The usual rural African village seems different though.
There are no children in the streets running up to us to have their picture taken. They are all at Wisani Nursery School. Many of these kids are oblivious to the fact that the man visiting them is responsible for their being there, and perhaps even their future. Their innocent eyes are more focused on the porridge that is being dished up in their enamel bowls.
When Rexon first started his community work he was met with resistance. These people have seen individuals sell precious land for empty promises. Rexon managed to win the trust of the community and the elders.
This was not easy. Rexon explains that the Shangaan people are steeped in tradition and this often makes it difficult to initiate change.
The beauty lies between the lines. Here is man hanging on to traditions in a modern world. A man who seeks the approval from the elders but knows his generation is the the vehicle for change - all for the benefit of future generations. Nothing is black or white in the rainbow nation.
Rex is certainly forward thinking. He established the nursery school to free the mothers from their children so they could work. Most of them now work in the game lodges or tend vegetable gardens. 'My main aim is to build something the community can run because they are the future.' says Rexon as we head off to see his other labour of love.
'We hope construction will be finished by June. but we have to work hard'. Rex walks us through a small building that will later serve as the hub of the community. HIV counselling, art, ethnic education and even woman's soccer. Rex somehow finds time for these projects in between his hectic schedule with Wild Earth and his role as patriarch in his family.
It takes someone with imagination and courage to dedicate his life to the upliftment of his people and overcome immense odds to get things done. Rexon praises his father for being such an honourable man who taught him the history of his culture. The influence on his character seems obvious. Rexon is wise beyond the limitations of language. Self taught in written and spoken English.
The bush was his University. 'What's the difference between your upbringing and that of these lighties?' I ask.
'We grew up hunting small game in the area. Herding cattle. Collecting wood, making fences. A lot has changed. Our culture is diluted.' Rex hopes the youth will embrace their culture. He realises that the only way to succeed in that is to engage them in the community and pass down the knowledge that they too will pass on to their children. Rexon has hopes of his son becoming a lawyer. He firmly believes all his children should get a university degree. His stature within the community is now as firm as the foundations of the school building. 'I drive past here and sometimes my tears come off'. Seeing the faces of these kids in a safe, caring environment makes Rex feel proud of his work. Proud too of his community. The warmth of the Shangaan people is around every corner and the entire village benefit from the eco-tourism. Its evident that growing up near the African bush has shaped the beauty of these people. Their regard for wildlife has changed with the times but remains firmly ingrained in their nature.
Dixie is a place of hope that is slowly seeing change through the efforts of a man who seeks no reward. He is inspired by his heritage. The spirit of Africa to guides him on the path to uplifting his people and helping them live a life their ancestors would be proud of.
Written by Daniel Querido

(Note: The Wisani Nursery school was built with funds provided by the Buffelshoek Trust (www.buffelshoektrust.co.za). Djuma Game Reserve (www.djuma.com) is the largest contributor towards the monthly running costs of the creche.)

Monday, 14 April 2008

Starter motor breaks again!

It's happened again! The starter motor on the Tank has bust. The constant stopping and starting, coupled with advanced years, is just more than the old lady can stand. So WE unfortunately have to cancel the morning drive tomorrow. As you know, WE really do not like missing a drive, but there is only one broadcast vehicle ... and it needs a starter!
Jan and Rex will head into Hoedspruit tomorrow morning at dawn. They will take all the starter pieces, that we have accumulated, and try to find a bush mechanic brave enough for the challenge. If WE are lucky Rex and Jan will return victorious in time for the afternoon drive.
Don't worry, WE'll keep you up to date ... its in our nature.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Baboons on the tower!

Its been almost ten years since we first started broadcasting LIVE from Djuma Game Reserve. In all that time there has been a troupe of baboons that have lived on Gowrie around Vuyatela camp. I have always been amazed by the fact that they were so very well behaved. In the Kruger park there are many troupes that specialise in living off humans, either by stealing or begging. The same problems exist in many other parts of Africa. But these Gowrie baboons have been the exception.
WE all know that the younger ones like to play on the equipment down at Gowrie waterhole camera. They like to hang out at sunset, before they roost in the three nearby trees.
But something has changed. They have discovered the big mast at the back of Jurie and Pippa's home. The mast has been there for years and is now covered in all sorts of bits and pieces of old and new equipment. It has become a veritable museum of the many systems that have been tested and used in the journey of LIVE wildlife broadcasting over the past decade. Now its where the baboons roost.
If they could just sneak up there after dark and quietly sleep all night and then disappear before dawn, everybody would be none the wiser. However, that is not what has been happening for the past few nights. Oh no, the new tenants have a passion for chewing cables in their sleep and like to swing on cables to breaking point while enjoying the magnificent dawn view.
WE have lost our Internet connection twice and seen some degradation in our game drive signal. Our plan is to properly fence off the bottom of the mast so not even a baboon can break in. This might take a few days, so bear with us as WE are outsmarted by our friends ... its in their nature.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

A puff adder invades final control!

Monday evening, and the thunder clouds were gathering over the Sabi Sands. That evening, Pieter was presenting and Alex was on camera. Back at Final Control, Jan was directing, and I was watching the drive, and sitting next to the mixing desk. After about half an hour, it became obvious that the drive would have to be cancelled, when huge rolling drums of thunder filled the evening sky and the dusk was spiked with flashes of lightning. Jan called Pieter and Alex back to camp, as the rain started to fall, and darkness descended. The tank, our tough shooting vehicle usually puts up with all the punishment we throw at it, but the bolts of lightning and torrential rain put our crew in danger, and the on board equipment also under threat.
At Final Control, the lights went out, and the backup batteries automatically kicked in with their constant “ beep beep “. Still no lights, though; the power is reserved for the essential equipment. Even in Final Control, the equipment has to be shut down and unplugged, because a lightning strike could cause tremendous damage with the metres and metres of cables, the monitors, switching gear and computers. So we power down. Or rather Jan does.
Jan is very skilled at this task. We are in the middle of the bush and it amazes me that we have any form of electricity at all, let alone produce a live programme from this remote location. Jan tries to locate the main power sockets under the control desk. I try to help him by shining my rather pathetic torch beam in the general direction of all those coiled cables which are at our feet, and tucked away under the desk. I fail. Jan knows his way around these cables like a prospector knows where to look for gold. I switch off my torch, quietly.
Pieter and Alex run back into the Final Control room bringing all the camera equipment with them. The Tank was safely under shelter, and so are all the crew. Well, so we thought.
The thunder eases off at around eight o’clock. The lights came on again and of course, the power has to be plugged in again. Again, Jan dives under the desk to plug what he’s just un-plugged, ready to transmit pictures. It’s very dark under the desk. Along with the very familiar cables is a very unfamiliar face, the face of a puff adder rearing up to have a good look at the disturbance. The disturbance, that is Jan, jumps up and away from the snake quicker than a bolt of greased lightning. The half-metre long puff adder stays put.
Well, if you’ve got a snake, who you gonna call? That’s right, Jan called Alex, who was busy making a delicious supper in the kitchen. Alex is our snake expert. He’s even been on snake-handling courses, so he is possibly over - qualified in the art of coaxing stray puff-adders out from under desks.
Alex went into snake wrangling mode in the blink of an eye. And brought his snake stick with him. No, I didn’t know what that was, either ( it’s a curved stick to gently catch snakes with ).Under the desk he went, with several people holding their breath behind him. With incredible skill and patience he gently, softly even, coaxed the snake out using the stick. Quick as a flash, he picks it up by the tail, and then moves his hand to firmly grip it by the head. It is now safe from us and we are safe from it, held in this special grip.
The snake is released onto Quarantine, none the worse for its adventure. Alex is very good at snake handling.
“ Well, we were very lucky that he was a bit cold, otherwise he would have been a bit quicker, “ was Alex’s comment on the evening’s extra mural activities.

Written by Sue Lloyd

What its like to join WE.

My senses hightened to every sight, sound and movement as I staked claim to my new territory. Finally the job I had been stalking had begun. I had arrived at Djuma to work for WildEarth. My excitement was subdued by the stillness of dusk. As night crept in, I was welcomed by the crew and the sound of lions who brought me into the reality of the bush - this was Mapogo territory.
It snuck up on me like a leopard in the night. Before I knew it, I was sitting perched on the camera saddle. 'We're LIVE in 5,4, ...' . The silent countdown was a clear wakeup call. We were LIVE and I felt ALIVE. I quickly realised the difference between this and my previous film work. I was not creating art, I was filming it.
Nature is so ingrained in me that when living in a city I constantly seek it out. Whether it be in the ocean, the parks or the wild areas between roads. I constantly seek a bond like an artist looking for inspiration. I can't remember the last time I saw a male lion but I surely won't forget the way he posed for his royal photograph. It was over in a flash. I just hope through technology WE can deliver what it feels like to stare into nature's heart. Seeing these massive rhinos browsing added to my feeling small in this cosmic mosaic. Yet I felt larger than life delivering the image of the African bush to people who most care about it. Lets celebrate technology and lets celebrate Africa. The welcomes received from all the viewers, the crew and the animals helped me settle in and make me feel like this new start is the beginning of a great journey. I look forward to tonight, tomorrow and a great future with all at WE.
Written by Dan Querido

Thursday, 10 April 2008

New WE director.

With qualifications in film making from all over South Africa this seriously creative guy spent the early years of his life larking around in Kruger Park with his family. This is where his love for animals and nature was born. After recovering from a childhood dream of being a soccer star he moved quickly into the photographic space. Since then he has studied all parts of film making and become a highly accomplished editor. With his fantastic eye and his brilliant story telling abilities WE think that he will be an excellent Director and an integral part of the team. Welcome Dan.

WE hear them ROAR!

There are some moments in the bush that constantly thrill and enchant me, surprise and soothe me. The moment when you suddenly see a leopard, the moment you see the first burnt orange and yellow of autumn on the leaves, or have a perfect late summers day and realise only a few are left before winter. And then there are moments that are forever there in your heart, like the skies reflection on a silent waterhole.
One of many of these singular, beautiful and powerful moments was a few weeks ago when I got out of the tank close to a lioness. The lioness was dead from a night of violence involving the Mapogo males and some dead cubs. As I walked up to her perfectly still and serene carcass my primal being shouted ‘what if she’s not dead!’ The reflection in her glazed eye showed the harsh truth of pure untamed wild nature.
This instantly takes me back to two places, separated by only a short amount of time, back in December. The first one was just after we had seen the first little carcass of a Kuhuma cub lying dead and discarded in the trampled grass. A few minutes later James and I stopped and looked at some yellow thatch grass swaying in what seemed a cold summer’s wind. Reflecting on the start of our morning and wondering about these lions, these strong kings of wild places. The ‘Mapogo’s’……….I’d never seen them before, maybe I would see them today.
The grass soothed away our anger at the cub’s death and helped us accept the savage but honest spirit of this land. This brings me to the first moment, as clear now as then, when I saw my first Mapogo male. What a lion! We drove off road for long, not knowing how far the bush would stretch until we saw them. I knew we’d see them. Ephraim, who’d also found the cub, had tracked the violence back to a giraffe carcass, killed a day before by the Kuhuma females. Driving slowly, emotions and excitement were high with the possibility of meeting the current threat and future fathers of the Kuhuma cubs. ‘Lion’, don’t know if I said it or just heard it in my heart or felt it in my stomach. Mapogo! Shaka! Big, beautiful, instantly recognised as one of those we will remember as ‘warrior’, ‘iconic’ or ‘legend’. I saw him looking at me. Then his brother, whom I’ve come to think of as Leonides. These were lions! Now the days are growing shorter, cooler, the nights colder, longer. Winter is waiting close, grass grows brown and brittle, yellow leaves disappear like water in the mud. The impalas will start their rut so that more will be born next summer. Some more lion cubs will pass and new ones will flourish. Before the grass grows green again, before the woodland kingfishers return, before we know it, there will be more little lions born from warriors, born from the Mapogo’s, who to me will always be Spartans when I think of them.I leave today, I will miss Djuma, I will miss the lowveld. Just last night, what a memory, finding the lion and lioness in the grass in the dark. Mating Mapogo’s!! Enjoy the wildlife, the moment and WildEarth ... it's in our nature.
Written by Pieter Pretorius

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Things that go bump in the night!

This morning I woke up to the thinning darkness of night. I'd heard lions roar somewhere far away, around four. Outside was cool with the smell of rain.
I am in Africa. Say the word out loud "Africa", feel it.
Around five thirty, I stop at the Moolman's house to switch on some equipment. The baboons are making a racket, getting down from the trees above. I notice the gate, open, at a peculiar angle. The gate tells me that one of my favourite creatures have been here ... is maybe still here! I don't hear him, can't feel him, but the leaves he ate are there, the impressions of his feet on the rain wet soil. It's still dark, the grey whisper of day now not that far away.
I walk through the garden, hoping I might see him, but he's gone ... maybe we'll meet him on the game drive later, maybe you'll meet him.
Loxodonta Africana, each elephant an individual, same as you and I are human. When next you see one, please don't just see a bulky beast, a wild animal. Look at the beauty in their movement, the fun in their play. See their tender touch, the mother and her young calf, the wandering bull. Sense their calm, intuit their intelligence and feel their fierce and massive power.
If you can, look into their eyes, it is all there. Look with an open heart, allow yourself to let them look back into you. Elephants are alive, right now, at this moment, the same as you or me.
Soon I will be in Damaraland. One of my favourite places on earth. The northwestern rock desserts of Namibia, remote, wild and breathtakingly beautiful. A place where magic is still truly alive, reality as fragile and powerful as myth.
I will disappear there, along with springbuck and oryx, black rhino, cheetah and lion.
I will breathe the desert and listen to it's endless quiet thunder in my heart. I will see more sunsets than humans, and, if I'm lucky, I will see elephant. Desert elephants!
I will be alive in my own dream, and will tell you if I saw them when I get back.
Enjoy the wildlife, the passion and WildEarth!

Written by Pieter Pretorius

Monday, 7 April 2008

lions, lions, lions.

On Saturday afternoon I was presenting the drive and Alex was on camera. We were heading towards Guarrie pan when Alex spotted a vulture. Then we saw two more, and then three more. Immediately we knew something was up.
As we watched a stunning sunset, we speculated about the possibility that lions could be around. Sure enough around the next corner, two lionesses on a fresh kudu kill. The spiral horns told us straight away that it was a bull. It must have been killed around lunch time.The bush was very thick, but a great sighting all the same. One lioness looked like she has broken or damaged her jaw. Her right bottom canine tooth is protruding out next to her lip. On Sunday morning, I decided to open the drive with the lionesses. On Sunday afternoon, the radio chatter told me that lions are sleeping. So WE started around Buffelshoek dam, saw the hippo and a 'new' crocodile lying out on the bank. Great to see a croc again, WE don't get a lot of them in our area generally. Next we head off to the lions, and about 600m from the dam, surprise, they cross the road in front of us, going to the water. Well of course we get there ahead of them. The croc ran back into the water next to us, hippo starts yawning, a blood red sunset and two lionesses drinking right in front of us! Well it just doesn't get a lot better than that. Another day at the office.
This morning we heard hyaena's during the night and we went back to the kill to find lots of vultures and hyena tracks. The two lionesses and the whole carcass had disappeared.
Written by Pieter Pretorius.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Drive time change ... winter is coming!

From this afternoon WE are changing our drive times. Our morning drive will now start at 06h00 CAT (Central African Time) and our afternoon drive will depart at 16h30 CAT. These times are exactly the same as Djuma Game Reserve drive times.
The Mapogos (all five of them) arrived back on Djuma from the south this morning ... the excitement continues. There have been a lot of rhino hanging around at Gowrie waterhole recently, in spite of the fact that it has almost entirely dried up. Still no sign of elephant, almost 5 weeks now since the last big grey ghost. Karula was seen up at the gate yesterday.
Sue gets back on Thursday, Rex is on leave, Pieter goes on leave at the end of next week.