After a quick breakfast, Flo shared the work he is doing with lions in Botswana around the Delta River. He discussed the amount of success they have had by using GPS collars to track lions to let the villages know when their livestock may be in danger. This has not only improved the lion population count but also how the villages perceive lions because they now have a way to protect their cattle.
Then we headed to see bushmen who are a part of the San tribes people. These tribes have been continuing to fall in numbers since the government first fenced off their land and restricted which animals they could hunt, changing their whole way of life.
We were led by our guide, Mathias, into their camp and were instantly amazed by the community. There were two men, four women, and three young children dressed in traditional attire and speaking a dialect of San that has around 80 different click noises. They are very enthusiastic people, covered in colorful beads and very happy to welcome us, make us laugh, and take photos with them. They showed us several of their natural medicines including the acacia tree, which can be used to treat tuberculosis. The roots of another plant they showed us can be used to treat body pain and rotten teeth. We were then challenged to light a fire with just two sticks and a knife over some dry grass. Needless to say, the tribesmen were a lot more successful than we were. Next they brought out a couple bow and arrows, showed us how they hunt, and let us try to shoot our leader Patʼs hat off a tree branch, and although some of us got close, nobody was accurate enough to hit the target. Finally, we went back to the camp and looked at the jewelry that they had made, and many of us bought some of their decorative bracelets and necklaces made from ostrich shell.
After meeting the San tribe we split up into two smaller groups—one went to learn about GPS collar tracking and the other went to learn and observe Flo and Larissa Slaney, the National Geographic experts on the trip, demonstrate and speak about their work with FIT (Footprint Identification Technique). The technology, using the hind left paw print of a cheetah, is able to determine the cheetahʼs age and gender and can identify individuals if they had been previously entered into the system as well as who they are related to. Larissa showed us how to identify which was the left hind and how to tell if they were female or male and told us the difference between feline and canine prints.
After a quick briefing on how to react around the animals, we were able to enter the enclosure where the cheetahs were being kept. In the enclosure there were four cheetahs, three of which had been raised in captivity their whole lives and were incredibly friendly and one that was quite timid. We reached a large sandpit and after taking many pictures we began to rake and prepare the area to get fresh tracks. Larissa lured Oddie, one of the cheetahs, with some meat to the sandpit. Despite a mild issue when all four cheetahs tried to get the bucket of meat we managed to get two clear left hind paw prints that we could use. Larissa showed us how to correctly measure and scan the print.
When our lunch break ended we went to meet the veterinarian. She gave us a presentation on anesthesia, the materials, different drugs, how to take care of a sedated animal, and the side effects. Then we drove up to another cheetah enclosure where we got to see her dart a cheetah, Tarra, and then we got to do a medical checkup on it by taking its temperature, respiration rate, and heart rate before moving it to a crate we had prepared in order to transport it to its new enclosure. On the way back to the house we managed to see two beautiful lions. We ended this incredible day by watching some amazing lion footage taken by Flo that he had been showing to villages and communities in Botswana. After such an exhausting day in the sun we all fell asleep in preparation for tomorrow’s adventures.