Lion Research Project
Matthew Bleekers, of Marco Polo Tent.
This week Michael Mandy, Kurt Pollen, Nick Williamson, Mr T and I set off on a trip to Bubye Conservancy where we helped with the ongoing lion research project. According to past research it is home to +-400 lion. We would be setting up baits during the day and observing the lions that come and feed at night. The Bubye Conservancy covers an enormous one million acres and is bursting at the seams with wildlife. It is the largest hunting conservancy in Africa, home to breath taking birds, majestic plains game and heart stopping predators. We left on Tuesday morning at 9:30 am. A drive that was supposed to be around five hours turned into a nine hour trek which involved us getting lost and having a rather long unexpected game drive. We also got chased by quite a stubborn elephant which in the end turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it chased us in the direction of our camp. If it wasn’t for that elephant we’d probably still be lost. We eventually arrived at our camp site at 6:30 pm. We were adamant that we had seen the entire million acres even before the first sunset.The work we would be doing had a day and a night shift. The day shift started at 6 am and ended at 4 pm. It involved the setting up of the baits that would attract the lions. We used zebra meat and chained it to a tree so that the lions would be forced to eat at the base of the tree. We set up infra-red cameras that would take pictures when they detected movement. They would help us record the number of lion that came to the bait. The mornings were freezing and being on the back of the land cruiser didn’t make it any better. It even brought one of us to tears. One of the jobs we had to do was make the bait area smell like zebra guts. We did this by dragging and flinging guts all over the bait area. Some guys enjoyed this job a bit more than others. Interestingly, Kurt Pollen would always go out of his way to cover himself in guts ?!The night shifts would start at 6pm and end around 4am. During this time we would wait at the bait sites in the vehicle. We would hang a speaker above the baits and play a loop of a distressed buffalo calf. We were amazed at how effective it was at bringing in the predators from far and wide. We played other loops through the speaker such as hyenas eating and lions roaring. Each loop would have a different effect. We would spend one hour at each bait then move to the next. It was sometimes quite nerve racking being so close to the lions but you soon got used to it and enjoy the amazing sightings. We would often fall asleep while waiting in the back of the land cruiser. One night we slept through a wild dog sighting….. The next day we were not very happy.The evening braais were accompanied by humorous stories from PHs (professional hunters) that we will remember for a long time. The sunsets were spectacular and that feeling of being in the bush surrounded by wildlife is truly special and unique to Africa. We got along really well with the people we met. The guys and I grew very fond of them and are extremely thankful that they made this experience for us such a memorable one. We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to do something as unique as this. It was truly one of the most exciting and interesting weeks of my life and I’m sure the other guys felt the same way.We left on Saturday morning and arrived back at Quest on time, having not got lost this time! Next week we are heading to Malilangwe game reserve, keen to get back to the bush after only half a day’s rest at Quest.