After 21 hours of flying, Dr. Elizabeth Freeman and I made it to Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape of South Africa. Because we were still one hour from Addo Elephant National Park (Addo) and it was 10 p.m., we decided to spend the night at the Lemon Tree Lane B&B. Even though we had little sleep on the plane, we still had difficulty falling asleep because it was only 3 p.m. Central Time.
The next morning, after breakfast, Field Technician Jordana Meyer picked us up from the B&B and we all met with Dr. David Zimmermann, who is a wildlife veterinarian working for South Africa National Parks. We discussed some of the logistics of our black rhino project and the direction that conservation will go in the future, particularly the role of Ecohealth and global warming.
Jennifer Garrison, a student from Clemson University, was with Dave. She is doing a summer internship with him investigating the role of genetics in sarcoidosis in zebra. Jennifer knows some of my professors from my days at Clemson, and I asked her to say hello to them for me. It’s such a small world.
After lunch, we picked up some supplies and headed to Addo Elephant National Park. Addo was started to save the 11 remaining elephants in 1931. It is 164,000 hectares and hopes to expand to 236,000 hectares in the near future, which will make it the third-largest National Park in South Africa. Addo has the Big Five (elephants, lions, leopards, buffalo and rhinos).
The current elephant population size is 500 individuals. Since the park is fenced, Addo now faces new problems...how to accommodate all of the elephants. It also has to determine what impacts the elephants are having on the environment and the other species (especially black rhinos).
We got settled in our Wendies, which are wooden tents, and started setting up the “camera traps” that both Elizabeth and I brought for Jordana to try out on the rhinos.