Monday, 31 August 2009

WE drives times and other stuff

WEll summer seems to be well on its way here on the Southern tip of Africa and WE have decided that it is high time to change the safari times. The sun is rising earlier and setting later so why waste the daylights hours. From Tuesday 1st september 2009 WE will be starting the Am safari at 6h00 CAT (4h00 GMT, 24hoo EST, 21hoo PST) and the PM safari at 15h30 CAT (13h30 GMT, 09.30 EST, 06.30 PST).
This is Jessica and Pats final week with WildEarth and so the final three shows of Slapp. They will feature on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 19h00 CAT. Once again WE will be slapping around some controversial subjects one of which will be the topical discussion on the killing of wolves in Yellowstone National Park. Seeing as it is their final week WE have decided to pit the boys against the girls in a fight to the death Ranger Race. Once again it will be the same rules as last time - the person who sees the most mammals wins. On Friday afternoon WE will have Jessica at the wheel with Lieschen on camera and they will go out in search of as many mammals as they can find. On Saturday afternoon Pieter Pretorius will be at the helm with Pat (Jess's husband) on camera and they will be trying to beat the girls score. Many of you may think that Pieter is at an advanatage because he is a guide but Jess has spent a huge amount of time in the bush filming wildlife and so will be a stong contender. It should be a great competition. I'm rooting for the girls! Jess and Pat will both go on a drive seperately this week to get a feel for the land. Jess will present on Wednesday afternoon (just a normal PM safari) and Pat will do camerawork on Thursday morning.
WE will be doing two night drives this week. One will be on Wednesday and one on Friday both at 19h30 CAT (17.30 GMT, 13.30 EST, 10h30 PST).
Finally as I am sure that you have noticed Peter Braat and Mark Weiner have gone on their well deserved break and Siphiwe is welcomed back with open arms - its always hard when she goes on leave.
Written by Emily Wallington

Saturday, 8 August 2009

The final laps of the Ranger Race.

Well Rex and Patrick have run their races. Rex got 14 (can't count the sunset) mammals and Patrick 16 mammals. However, as you all know Pieter and Marc are neck and neck. I have seen the petition to include the bat in Marc's count, but WE cannot allow it as it was not positively identified. I must admit I have thoroughly enjoyed this race so far. Not just the actual drives, the interaction and the competition, but also the debating and humor that has gone along with it. I am sure that this is going to become an institution over here at WE.
Anyway, here is Rex's official list:

  1. Human.
  2. Elephant
  3. Slender Mongoose
  4. Wild Dog
  5. Steenbok
  6. Impala
  7. Dwarf Mongoose
  8. Tree Squirrel
  9. Cape Buffalo
  10. Nyala
  11. Greater Kudu
  12. Giraffe
  13. Zebra
  14. Scrub Hare

... and Patrick's list:
  1. Steenbuck
  2. Human
  3. Impala
  4. Tree Squirell
  5. Dwarf Mongoose
  6. Warthog
  7. Grey Duiker
  8. African Elephant
  9. Greater Kudu
  10. Nyala
  11. Burchell's Zebra
  12. African Wild Dog
  13. Water Buck
  14. Vervet Monkey
  15. Blue Wildebeest
  16. Leopard
So now WE are going to have two more drives to break the tie between Pieter and Marc. First will be today when Pieter will do his final drive with Lieschen on camera and Marc directing, and then tomorrow Marc will present his final drive with Lieschen on camera while Pieter directs. 
All rules stay the same, so make sure that you support your rangers by positively identifying the mammals and sending them into finalcontrol@wildearth.tv
... may the best Ranger win!!!

Thursday, 6 August 2009

The Rangers Race!!

It all started off as an innocent idea to see which of the WEpresenters could spot the most mammals in a single 3 hour afternoon drive ... now it is a no holds barred fight to the death. :) WElcome to the WildEarth Ranger Race.
Well after the first two drives, Pieter and Marc, WE have a dead heat. Both Marc and Pieter have 18 mammals. Although there was some debate about Marc's dead Nyala and a UFM (Unidentified Flying Mammal) ... a bat that was not ID'ed to the species. Anyway, it has become necessary to 'evolve' our rules a little ... so here WE go:

  1. The highest number of positively identified living mammal species wins.
  2. Each ranger gets one afternoon safari of 3 hours. (If the safari starts late, time is to be added on at the end to make it exactly 3 hours.)
  3. A mammal only counts if it is positively identified by a viewer who mails the species (not latin name) identification to finalcontrol@wildearth.tv (e.g. Grey Duiker not just Duiker.)
  4. If the ranger verbally identifies the mammal before a viewer then that sighting (not mammal) is disqualified from the race.
  5. All mammals must be alive at the time of viewing.
  6. The director may 'cut in' mammals from other cams like the Gowrie waterhole and the dog den cam, and these mammals will count if correctly identified by a viewer.
  7. ... otherwise it's the Queensbury rules with no holds barred!!
Here are Pieter's official mammals for his race:
1. Human
2. Steenbok
3. Leopard
4. Dwarf Mongoose
5. Hippo
6. Tree Squirrel
7. Wild Dog
8. Impala
9. Waterbuck
10. Zebra
11. Elephant
12. Giraffe
13. Nyala
14. Vervet Monkey
15. Grey Duiker
16. Greater Kudu
17. Scrub Hare
18. Lesser Bushbaby


... and Marc's:

1. Zebra
2. Elephant
3. Leopard
4. Dwarf Mongoose.
5. Giraffe 
6.Spotted Hyena 
7. Human 
8. Hippo 
9. Vervet Monkey 
10. Tree Squirrel 
11. Steenbok 
12.Cape Buffalo 
13. Grey Duiker
14. Greater Kudu 
15. Impala  
16. Wild Dog  
17. Scrub Hare  
18:African wildcat


Good luck Rex (this afternoon) and Patrick (tomorrow afternoon)

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Wild Dog Den goes LIVE on WE

As many of you have already noticed: WE have a LIVE wild dog den!!!!
It went LIVE on the Djuma1 channel on Monday afternoon after the awesome cheetah kill just outside Vuyatela. The camera automatically switches into Infra Red at night and is controlled remotely from the WE final control in Djuma. The den is situated on the Blue Canyon Conservancy near Hoedspruit in the Limpopo province of South Africa. The camera is mounted on a trailer that is loaded with deep cycle batteries and covered in solar panels. The trailer is equipped with a high bandwidth digital microwave transceiver that connects to the WE network some 60 miles away. The bulk of the system was purchased by the Ingwe Leopard Project and will be available for viewing on both the ILP website (www.ingweleopard.org.za) and ResearchCam (www.reasearchcam.com). In addition you will be able to watch the dedicated channel at www.wildearth.tv (just scroll through the coverflow to the right of the stream) or watch when there is activity on the main WildEarth.TV channel, also at www.wildearth.tv. In addition to welcoming the wild dogs to the WEfamily, WE would also like to welcome the Ingwe Leopard Project and ResearchCam as our latest WEproducers. 
(If you know of any exciting wildlife cams, or companies that would like to become WEproducers, please mail us at info@wildearth.tv
Anyway, the trailer was carefully moved into position at the den on Friday last week, and although WE had video all weekend, we had no control over the cam. Pete then made a rapid trip to the den shortly after dawn on Monday morning with Tim Parker (ecologist at the Blue canyon Conservancy) while the dogs were out hunting, and managed to fix a bad connection ... and 'hey presto' it was all working 100%. 
Well actually there is still a bit of a hassle with the audio ... there is some interference on the cable between the pre-amp and the encoder inside the trailer, but at this stage WE have made the decision to leave it and not disturb the dogs. On that note, it is worth noting that this form of observation has the least possible disturbance to the dogs. WE can confirm that the IR light is invisible to the dogs, so they are in total darkness when WE are viewing them at night. They are aware when the camera moves, but this does not seem to bother them too much. They cannot hear us talking at all (I thought I better mention that) and Tim has made sure that nobody drives into the den at all. So all in all this is a much safer way to observe the dogs, not to mention a far more effective way of seeing their natural behavior. Already it has been amazing to learn that the puppies wake up every two hours or so through the night (remember that wild dogs are not nocturnal). Who knows what WE may learn about these highly endangered species as we watch this miracle unfold.
Here is a bit of a history on the pack that Tim sent through ...
A total of seven dogs were translocated to Balule near Hoedspruit, Limpopo, South Africa in 2005. Two females from Madikwe and five males from Marekele. They were initially 'bonded' as a pack in a holding boma for about three months - during which time three dogs were collared (two males and one female). The alpha female at the time was Venus, the older Madikwe female.  She had 8 pups on Drifters and moved to Mohlabetsi and then briefly to Impalabos, soon after their release from the boma in may 2005. From there they roamed into Olifants and there one of the collared males VHF signal was lost. His name was Lucky and the last sighting was up in the Olifants area being chased by a lioness! That was the last anyone saw or heard of him as well as one or two of the first yearlings (by then).  The remaining dogs roamed  as far as Timbavati and Phalaborwa when the researchers finally lost track of them. At one stage the younger Madikwe female (who was then collared) and a few other of the yearlings were seen roaming Balule again.  
At one stage the same alpha female (Venus?) had a den on Danies place (not sure where that is?) - we lost all the pups there and after that they dispersed and broke up.  A pack was heard of on Olifants with pups after that. The remaining dogs with collars: Stripe-Dot (original male form Marekele) has the cellphone collar. Clamp (the younger Madikwe female) has a VHF and Lucky, unseen for a while, also has a VHF collar.
WE are waiting on ID kits for all the original dogs and will share them the minute WE get them. This will help us build up a picture of exactly who is left in this pack. The first big question is: is the alpha female (who definitely has a collar) Venus or Clamp? And is the male with a collar the missing Lucky or the other collared original Marakele male Stripe-Dot? Thereafter WE will name each adult dog and build an ID kit for other researchers, as well as name and build photo ID kits for all the pups ... hopefully they all make it (although that is rarely the case).
If all goes according to plan, two volunteers (young brothers from Wales in England that have been working in Lydenburg for the ILP) will be arriving at Djuma within the next two or three days. They will sleep all day and man the dog den camera and new Gowrie waterhole camera all night. They will focus on answering your questions through the night and will also work on naming and IDing all dogs.
WE all hope you enjoy this cam as much as WE are, and please help us to promote it as much as possible ... both to benefit the conservation of this highly endangered species, but also to make it worthwhile for WE and ILP to do more exciting (but expensive) systems like this in the future.
Written by Graham Wallington