Before this spring, it had been almost eight years since I had done black-footed ferret fieldwork! So I was excited to head back into the wild in March. After all, beyond helping a critically endangered species, there’s nothing like being out on the prairie in the middle of the night.
We have set up three camera traps to noninvasively monitor black rhino movements throughout the park, using them to collect fecal samples from known individuals. The camera traps were erected in areas based on rhino sightings by Addo Elephant National Park staff and tourists. We placed them at active scrapings, areas where black rhinos defecate and then scrape the feces with their hind legs to spread odors advertising their presence.
Today we headed to Knysa, a town about four hours west of Addo Elephant National Park, to meet with Angela Gaylard, region ecologist for SANparks. The meeting went well. We discussed the black rhino project and the issues and the preliminary results that we have had so far. Jordana and Elizabeth also discussed the preliminary results of their elephant project, which is investigating the effect of dominance rank on reproductive cyclicity.
Angela offered for us to stay at her house for the weekend. As Knysa is having its Oyster festival, we gladly accept.
We got up early and went to check some of the “camera traps” that Jordana had set up. 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.
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.