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Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Into Addo Elephant National Park
After breakfast we grab groceries and head up to Adoo Elephant National Park. AENP was started in 1931 to save the region’s 11 remaining elephants. It is 164,000 hectares and hopes to expand to 236,000 hectares in the near future, making it the third largest National Park in South Africa.
AENP has the “Big 5” (elephants, lions, leopards, buffalo and rhinos). The current elephant population size is 500. Since it’s fenced, AENP now faces new problems...how to accommodate all of the elephants! It also needs to study which impacts the elephants are having on the environment and other species (especially black rhinos).
We drive up through AENP on the way to our Wendies (wooden tents). Of course, we saw elephants!
After getting settled, we drove up through Nyathi, another section of AENP, to check our camera traps.
The camera traps are stationed at black rhino “latrines.” What is nice about black rhinos is that they defecate at certain locations, latrines, as a way to mark their territory. After they defecate, they scrape their hind legs, knocking around the feces and spreading the odor?making their presence known.
We are using camera traps to study the movements of the black rhinos and to collect feces from known individuals. So, we set up a camera trap on a rhino latrine and check it the following morning. We find the last picture of a rhino (all rhinos are ear-marked so we can identify individuals) to determine who left the sample during the night.
When we arrived, it was raining?rather, pouring?but we made it up the steep, muddy roads. It was well worth it. We didn’t have any photos of the black rhino on our camera traps, but had a beautiful rainbow to admire that ended with a great sunset. South Africa has the most spectacular sunsets and rainbows!
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