Wednesday, 23 April 2014

A fine balance.

Hello and welcome again to my blog, I hope you are all well and had a great Easter weekend. I've been pushed for time recently with my dissertation due in three weeks and so I've decided to publish this on my trip to South Africa last summer on Zimanga Private Game Reserve. I wrote this some time ago and saved it for when time is at a premium. As always I hope you like it and feel free to give feedback positive or negative, so long as it's constructive !

Life and death – A game of chance.
We knew the warthogs potential assailants were coming long before the blissfully unaware foraging pigs did, then again we had the advantage of a radio collared animal and  a telemetry tracking kit. Somewhere in the scrub planning their latest attack a pack of one of the most endangered large carnivores on the planet awaited their moment, still the warthogs seemed unaware of their presence for there could be no other explanation for their  seemingly blase attitude in the face of imminent danger.
Suddenly this serene scene of African wilderness erupted into chaos as the warthogs were at last alerted to the threat. They needed to be as well, for the African wild dogs were already gaining on them. One individual seemed to have been singled out and looked in trouble. Now the real life drama of the natural world was unfolding before myself and my fellow conservation volunteers eyes.  Should the wild dogs fail with the attack they would be disappointed but there would be another chance. Should the warthog make one false move, a slight stumble, a moments indecision and it would be game over. No second chances.
The strikingly coloured, highly intelligent dogs were clearly an efficient hunting unit, a seemingly telepathic understanding of their prey’s next move. The high speed chase seemed to be nearing its conclusion and the prey seemingly handed a dud card. In life’s ever present game of chance they looked to be even more desperate and even more doomed as dozens of razor sharp teeth converged ready to apply the coup de grace. And yet when hope seemed lost the warthog was handed a trump card, a burrow unseen to us and presumably the dogs offered it a lifeline.  It was evident then as it disappeared into its safe haven that against all the odds the most basic primal instinct of all, the will to live can sometimes trump  all.  
A little while later and it became clear again that when the dice roll s in your favour you must be prepared to accept the opportunity. The dogs unaware of the gift about to be presented to them ambled leisurely a short distance in front of the research vehicle. The playful antics of the younger pack members a wonderful sight indeed. In a second the whole dynamic of the pack changed, the pace of their travel upped and excited vocalisations  made it evident drama was about to once again unfold before us.
By the time we caught up with the pack the kill had been made. They had quite literally very nearly stumbled across their next meal. A female Impala had miscalculated the safety of It’s chosen sleeping place and upon it’s discovery had had nowhere to flee. Instantly surrounded and swiftly dispatched, a dud hand had certainly been handed to her, on the other hand the wild dogs would consider it an ace.

Spending time in the company of such incredible animals was an absolute  privilege.

A more ambitious and ultimately unsuccessful hunt.....
That is pretty much all for this time I hope you enjoyed  the  blog and thank you for  reading all the best, George. 

Twitter @ReallyWildWykes


Thursday, 10 April 2014

How not to enhance a reputation

Hello and welcome once more to my latest blog it has been a very busy period recently with coursework deadlines all being grouped into one tight bundle, stress levels have significantly risen. Despite this I' have managed to participate in a range of voluntary work over the last month which has proven to be a nice distraction more on this later on. The main focus of this edition however is my frustration in regards to the fact films continually portray certain animals in a negative light. I hope you enjoy the blog and as always feel free to give feedback. 

The Grey - a travesty for the Grey Wolf

Recently the film The Grey has been screened on British terrestrial television to start with I was intrigued as a result of regular advertising and a cast which consisted of big name actors including Liam Neeson. My curiosity quickly turned to frustration and then dismay however, as it became apparent from a very early stage that the plot of this film consisted of the survivors of plane crash being relentlessly hunted down by a pack of seemingly malignant wolves. It’s common knowledge that wolves have historically suffered as a result of miss trust and animosity as a result of human - animal conflict. So to watch part of a film where wolves are portrayed as something evil, taking revenge on anything which dares to cross their path is something really quite exasperating when so much miss trust still surrounds a species a victim largely of myth and misconception. I was relieved to find the film has suffered criticism as a result of this from environmentalists as a result of the portrayal of wolves, drives were put in place to boycott the film altogether. Perhaps the most disturbing fact in relation to the release date occurred only a short while after the species had in many American states have been taken off the Endangered Species Act.
Unfortunately however this is far from the first film to show a species already at risk from negative public perception in a damming light. Perhaps most notorious of all is Jaws and subsequent following films in the series. So damaging the impact on sharks as a result of these films that the author of the novel Peter Benchley would later be quoted as saying “knowing what I know now, I could never write that book today”. For more on this see The use of animals in films and wildlife news 07/12/2013. I get the distinct impression, that for as long as films of this genre continue to be a success, films like these will continue to be made which can only be seen as a travesty and a major set back for dedicated people who are passionately trying to change the reputation of much maligned species.

Voluntary work – Willow, writing and looking for cetaceans.

As a mentioned earlier, it has been a very busy month or so not just academically but also on the voluntary side of things as well. I recently attended a workshop on cliff top surveying for cetaceans run by the Cornwall Wildlife Trust and Seaquest Southwest which was a hugely enjoyable morning learning about the surveying methodology, as well as detailed information about the local areas marine "hot spots" and the wildlife we stand a chance of observing. So far I've managed to participate in a couple of these surveys and although no cetaceans  been observed personally, its been a pleasure to watch majestic gannets moving so gracefully low over the sea, fulmars jostling for position on rock faces with comedic effect and perhaps the fattest grey seal in Cornwall doing what some would call swimming I would be more inclined to call it floating lazily in the nearby harbor.
Meanwhile I've enjoying my role as Reserve Guardian for the RSPB at the local marsh, it’s a great feeling to be able to contribute towards ensuring the wildlife on the reserve is as well protected as possible whether that be through collecting litter or keeping an eye out for people behaving in a way unacceptable on a nature reserve. I also recently took part in a day of cutting back willow on the reserve being waist deep in marsh unsure of whether or not your next step may leave you completely submerged beneath its cold waters courtesy of a treacherous submerged stump may not be everyone’s idea of fun,  but getting stuck into some real hard graft while on a regular basis battling to keep your equilibrium personally was a fun, rewarding and worthwhile challenge. I've been told the adders have been sighted regularly recently, so I will be making an effort to try and see them for myself in the near future.
I have also recently joined the Cornwall Reptile and Amphibian Group (CRAG). I am very much looking forward to getting involved with a variety of exciting projects the group are going to be accomplishing. After discussion with the group, I volunteered to take on the project of writing a blog series on the groups behalf. You can read the first one and find details on who to contact should you wish to become a member by following the link below.

British birds- The Grey Heron

A visit to the marsh would not be complete without a sighting of one of these enormous birds surely one of Britain’s most iconic species. With a wingspan of just over one and a half meters, this enormous bird is an un believable  spectacle when it takes to the skies yet on land its hunting style means unless a careful eye is scanned across the reedbeds, this colossal bird can easily go unnoticed, waiting for an unwary victim to come within range.

Please take the time to read this

My good friend Mathew Button has recently had his book The Escape Committee published. I've attached links to his Facebook account and Amazon where you can purchase the book

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You can follow me on Twitter @ReallyWildWykes

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That’s all for this time once again thank you very much for reading, all the best,